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Experience Radar: Gaming Festival Shines A Light On Love, And Touring Art Extravaganza Launches In Vegas

At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each week, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the experiential stories that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.

Welcome to Experience Radar, where we’re embracing the thrill of the open road paper map in hand, hopping aboard the Hogwarts Express in Toyko, and taking a boat to a restaurant in Norway to eat moose.

1. Are You Part Of The Luddite Club?

Headline and above image: ILUMINA by Pablo González Vargas, TRANSFIX, Resorts World Las Vegas, US; Photography by Anna Shvets, Russia

With the noise created by social media becoming deafening and doomscrolling a sad reality, it was only a matter of time before the backlash began. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, anti-tech counter-trends that champion the benefits of disconnecting are emerging as a refreshingly analogue antidote to our wired times. Gen Z spend over seven hours a day staring at screens, but a counter movement that prioritises tactile, real-world experiences has been bubbling under as they seek to protect their mental health from overexposure to tech.

One such group is The Luddite Club, a New York-based collective that meets weekly in the Big Apple to indulge in analogue pursuits like drawing and reading, and advocates for “self-liberation from social media and technology”. The trend is also taking hold among older consumers who yearn for a return to simpler times. Two of the biggest map producers in the US and UK have seen a surge in sales of paper maps over the last two years as people seek to disengage from their screens and recapture the sense of adventure that a paper map and the open road bring. 

2. Gaming Festival Shines A Light On Love

Now Play This at Somerset House. Photograpghy by Ben Peter Catchpole, UK

London’s leading festival of experimental games, Now Play This, returns to Somerset House this April as part of the city-wide London Games Festival, showcasing the latest in independent game design from across the globe. This year’s festival explores one of humanity’s most universal experiences through the lens of playful art: love. From family, friendship and romance to self-care, consent and grief, different forms of love will be explored through games, installations, activities and workshops. Taking place over nine days in April, the big-hearted festival explores how we can treat each other in more loving ways.

Highlights include a feminist dating simulator designed by Angela Washko; a workshop exploring the ideas of universal care through games hosted by the authors of The Care Manifesto; and a chance to walk through different homes and witness everyday moments of love between families that have been captured through 3D scanning in Finnish artist Timo Wright’s documentary Everyday Vrealities. Dotted around the space will be cushions made by artist Valentina Karga from recycled materials for festivalgoers to lounge on, providing a calm space that helps to foster deeper connections between gamers.

3. Diageo Debuts Wellbeing Floor At Soho HQ

Photography by Anastasia Shuraeva, Russia

Keen to provide an enriching employee experience that prioritises both the physical and mental health of its team, drinks giant Diageo – owners of big hitters including Baileys and Guinnesshas incorporated a ‘wellbeing floor’ into its new Soho HQ. The floor boasts a studio that runs health and wellness sessions including mindfulness, meditation and light exercise classes. There’s also a massage therapist on hand and even a schedule for breast examinations. While the intentions are good, Management Today reports that the challenge lies in getting staff members to make the most of the facilities on offer during the day.

“We’ve put together a wellbeing philosophy at Diageo and divided that into four areas. There’s social wellbeing, mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing and financial wellbeing, in order to equip individuals with the tools and support to take control of these areas for themselves,” Diageo’s chief HR officer, Louise Prashad, told MT. The corporate wellness industry is big business. According to Market Research Future, the market was valued at $57.3bn in the US in 2021, and is expected to reach $109.4 billion by 2030. On the back of the “Great Resignation” firms are seeking to attract and retain talented employees through comprehensive healthcare support that covers physical and mental wellbeing.  

4. Harry Potter Experience Heads To Tokyo

Platform 934 at Warner Bros, Studio Tour, Tokyo, Japan

Japan-based Harry Potter fans rejoice! Hogwarts is coming to Tokyo, as Warner Bros. seeks to expand one of the most successful franchises in history. As reported by CNN, the Harry Potter Studio Tour will launch in Tokyo in June. The Japan tour marks the first outing outside of the UK for the Harry Potter experience, which offers fans of the films and books the chance to wander through the sets of Diagon Alley and Platform 9 3/4 and marvel at original props and costumes from the films. Japan was chosen for the location due to it being one of the world’s most important markets for the boy wizard, with Warner Bros. hoping it will serve as a gateway to the Asia Pacific region.

“That was one of the easiest decisions for us. After the United States and the UK, Japan is the third best area for Harry Potter fandom,” revealed Jeff Nagler, president of worldwide studio operations at Warner Bros. The firm sees the Asia Pacific region as a “largely untapped opportunity”, and is keen to connect with Harry Potter fans in China, South Korea and Australia. Since opening in London in 2012, the studio has welcomed over 17 million visitors. Last month, Warner Bros. launched a Hogwarts Legacy video game that allows users to cast spells, brew potions, and explore a 19th century version of Hogwarts.

5. Tundra-To-Table Dining Trend Takes Off

KOKS at Ilimanaq Lodge. Photography by Lisa Burns, Greenland

We’ve had farm-to-fork and nose-to-tail, and now the latest dining trend looks set to be tundra-to-table as travellers go to extreme lengths for their food fix. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, chefs from northernmost communities are reviving the forgotten food of the Arctic circle. This ‘New Arctic Kitchen’ movement brings together chefs from Arctic and Subarctic regions, including Canada, The Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Åland Islands in Finland to share Arctic food cultures and exchange knowledge. Becoming even more remote, two Michelin-starred venue Koks has relocated from its Faroe Island location to a small village called Ilimanaq in Greenland’s Arctic Circle for the summer.

Getting to the restaurant requires an hour-long boat ride through a maze of icebergs. The menu shines a light on local delicacies, and includes reindeer tartare, braised musk ox and mattak, an Inuit delicacy made with whale skin and blubber. Faviken in Sweden was an earlier pioneer of hyper-local dining that required guests to embark on a pilgrimage to a hunting lodge in Jämtland 800km north of Stockholm. With diners seeking ever more thrilling and unusual experiences, the journey to get to these hard-to-find locations is becoming part of the fun of it all. In Norway, Kvitnes Gård can only be reached by boat and feasting on moose and minke whale there requires an overnight stay.

6. Touring Art Experience Launches In Vegas

AXION by Christopher Bauder & KiNK. Photography by Ralph Larmann, TRANSFIX, Resorts World Las Vegas, US

Transfix, billed as the ‘world’s largest touring immersive art experience’, will kick off its global run on the Las Vegas strip in April. Featuring over 50 mind-bending interactive installations from contemporary artists, the show will take place at Resorts World Las Vegas inside a 200,000 square-foot multi-level space. The artworks range from shape-shifting kinetics, trippy tunnels, and mind-bending video installations to large-scale fire-breathing sculptures sonic landscapes. Among the artists on show are: Christopher Bauder, Marco Cochrane, Foldhaus Collective and Kate Raudenbush.

Co-founded by Michael Blatter and Tom Stinchfield, Transfix aims to build future art experiences that foster a global creative economy, build a strong community, and support artists of all backgrounds. Taking two hours, the experience includes 10 artist-designed speakeasies. When the Vegas run comes to an end in September, the show will hit the road, with plans to tour major US cities and other international art hubs. “Our aim is to elevate and redefine ‘immersive.’ Interacting with art at this large of a scale can change the world by illuminating one mind at a time. If we can inspire our guests to restore their childlike wonder and curiosity, then we’ve done our jobs well,” Stinchfield said.

7. Manchester Becomes Experiential Hub

DNA VR, UK

Manchester is having a bit of a moment when it comes to immersive entertainment. March sees the launch of DNA VR in the city, a new VR playground packed with escape rooms spanning horror, fantasy and music. From surviving a zombie apocalypse and soaring over the pyramids in Egypt, to fighting off dragons and saving the world from intergalactic disaster, DNA VR caters to all gamers, no matter how niche their desires. Boasting 70 options, visitors can fly solo in their VR pod or dive into a VR session as part of a group.

Also set to launch at Old Granada Studios in Manchester this year is Chaos Karts – the UK’s first live action video game experience combining racing with augmented reality. Revving up in September, the live action video game karting experience plunges players into a virtual world where they have to fight it out against their friends and family to win points and races in a video game setting. Engineered by The Ents Inc, who were behind The Crystal Maze and Tomb Raider experiences, players can burn rubber around an array of tracks in the digitally projected world. Harnessing the latest tech, the karts will produce real life sensations and reactions to heighten the immersive driving experience.

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