If It Ain’t Broke, Remix It: “Nostalgia Games” Get A Reboot

In our busy adult lives, we could all do with a bit of escapism from time to time. It’s why toy brands from Lego to Play-Doh are starting to cater to big kids as well as little ones, and it’s also why we’re seeing a surge in “adult playgrounds”: spaces designed to surface our curiosity and sense of wonder.

“There’s an argument that adults are more in need of playgrounds than children, given that children are able to turn almost anything into an exciting game or experience while adults generally feel emotionally trapped and restricted when attempting to connect with their inner childlike perspective of the world.”

Grant Dudson

While some of these adult playgrounds might take the shape of ambitious, unchartered new worlds – think of Meow Wolf’s surreal, sci-fi installations, for example – others are looking to the past for inspiration. After all, what better place to escape to than your own memories – and more specifically, to the tried-and-tested classic games of yesteryear?

The concept behind these “nostalgia games” is simple: find an old game, update it with new technology, surround it with some great F&B, and watch the millennials roll in. The trend has been on the rise for a few years now, with crazy golf (Swingers, Puttshack), darts (Flight Club), table football (Kick), board games (The Uncommons, Draughts) and ping-pong (Bounce) all getting the reboot. 

But with the global social gaming market valued at $17.4bn in 2019 – and estimated to reach $57.4bn by 2027 according to a report by Coherent Market Insights – it’s clear that our appetite for a more inspiring night out than just the pub can offer isn’t going anywhere. Puttshack, for example, just raised $150m of investment from Black Rock to expand its mini golfing concept.

If we take a quick spin through the STORIES framework in my book Time and How To Spend It, these kind of nostalgia games score high on Story, Offline, Relationships and Intensity, giving us a better opportunity to bond, better memories to recount, and more bang for our buck.

This wider competitive socialising movement takes many forms, from game show remakes (see The Crystal Maze Live Experience or the upcoming Gameshow Studios) to video games brought to life (see Chaos Karts or the Tomb Raider Live Experience). But when it comes to classic games being given a 21st-century spin, these are 7 of our favourites.

1. Swingers 

Swingers, London

One of the OGs of the scene, Swingers’ winning combination of crazy golf, creative cocktails and street food has been upping Londoners’ first-date game since 2014, evolving from a warehouse pop-up to two permanent locations in Oxford Circus and the City of London. It now has a further two outposts in Washington DC and New York City, with more reportedly on the way.

2. Flight Club

Fight Club, London

Following in the footsteps of Swingers, Flight Club started life in London as an upscale version of that most classic of pub games: darts. Unlike the sticky board you’ll find pinned up in your local boozer, Flight Club’s dart-throwing lanes feature automatic digital scoring and the ability to order yuzu guacamole with your game. A Las Vegas branch is due to open in the States this autumn.

3. Hijingo Bingo

Hijingo Bingo, London

No longer the preserve of the shell-suited, bingo has been given an upgrade with the likes of Hijingo Bingo, “a multi-sensory bingo experience combining live entertainment with stadium-grade lighting, groundbreaking sonic effects and mind-blowing motion graphics.” Accessed through a cocktail bar and with an upcoming Halloween edition promising “dystopian horror bingo fun”, your nana won’t know what’s hit her. Hijingo is owned by State of Play Hospitality, who also operate Flight Club and the ping-pong bar AceBounce.

4. METRIX

METRIX, London

The brainchild of sport technology company (and WXO Member) WallJAM, METRIX is the first official UEFA Champions League experiential venue in Europe at Westfield in White City, featuring tech-inspired football experiences for players of all ages. Smart panel technology underpins the experience, with a range of physical and virtual game zones focused on control, technique, speed and accuracy. Harnessing the latest in AR gaming tech, the fully integrated digital experience enables players to see how they fare against all competitors through a universal scoring system.

5. Fairgame

Fairgame, London

This just-opened “first-of-its-kind immersive fairground experience” is an adults-only playground where stressed City workers can cut loose after a long day in the office. Featuring fairground favourites like whack-a-mole and duck shoot, players wear RFID wristbands, allowing them to log their scores, track their performance and battle it out for a giant pink teddy. Fairgame is the brainchild of Gymbox founder Richard Hilton, who secured £5m in funding for the venture.

6. Monopoly Lifesized

Monopoly Lifesized, London

This is an immersive, on-your-feet version of the family favourite, played on a 15m x 15m life-sized Monopoly board. Players compete against the clock in a series of tasks that take place in various challenge rooms for a chance to buy properties in the capital’s plushest districts, solving murder mysteries, code-breaking and staging heists along the way.

7. Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club

Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, Brooklyn

A nightclub where the thudding beats come from pucks being slammed as well as the bassline, Royal Palms reinvents the cosy game of Shuffleboard for a younger generation, with customers playing into the early hours of the morning. According to founder Jonathan Schnapp, “It’s like trying to like be the anti-nightclub in a way. Never so crowded, never so expensive, never door stress, never cover charges, never any of these things that make it so we don’t want to go out anymore.”

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