We chose London as the location for the first World Experience Summit not only because it’s our home, but because it’s one of the most exciting experiential destinations in the world.
As well as giving us the opportunity to host the Summit in one of London’s most successful immersive experiments, Phantom Peak, it also meant that we could offer the 220 experience experts who gathered from all over the globe an opportunity to experience the best of the city’s launches firsthand.
Here are the 16 experiences that we sent our community of experience designers, creators, producers, operators and investors to investigate, with our work-in-progress Experience Certification in hand. We’d like to thank each and every one of them for hosting us and for showcasing just why London is such a catalyst for experience investment.
Launched in 2018, “punk experience” Alcotraz is the original immersive entertainment experience to combine cocktails with storytelling and gameplay, “locking up” inmates six at a time and involving them on a secret bootlegging mission. The team have since launched Avora and Moonshine Saloon, two more experiences on our Summit hitlist.
Claiming to be the “world’s first carbon-neutral immersive experience”, Avora immerses guests in an Avatar-esque world where they’re given the choice of working for a malevolent mogul or rebelling against him. Along the way they create their own cocktail from freshly foraged ingredients. Manned by actors, it lasts 1 hour 45 minutes and includes three cocktails.
Part of the competitive socializing trend led by pioneers such as Swingers and Flight Club, Clays combines “thrilling interactive clay target action on mammoth 4K screens” with great food and drink. You can book for teams of 2-20 people.
A prototype of the groundbreaking eyes-closed experience introduced by Jennifer Crook and the team at Collective Act last year and now booking to the general public through November 2023, the experience involves flashing LED lights, a soundtrack created by Jon Hopkins and a custom-built environment to induce visual hallucinations that are deeply personal to each participant. Read our full review here, and learn how Crook developed the project here.
“As we know, experiences are always created inside of our guests, learners, etc. But what is so beautiful in the Dreamachine is that each visitor, and certainly also the same visitor on another day, creates different images in front of their (closed) eyes. The music and the light, together with relaxation before the actual experience, creates a dreamlike, almost hallucinatory state. Without doing anything physically, it takes you into a state of flow where you lose track of time. What is also powerful in the experience is the onboarding and off-boarding. When you enter, you really feel you are going to experience something special. And when you join the circle for sharing feedback and drawings, it is where the second magic experience takes place: realising how different everybody’s images actually were, and how difficult it is to express them in words.”
“I loved the time we had to reflect with each other. I wonder how we could get our clients’ customers to reflect more. We need more of that these days.”
A “first-of-its-kind immersive fairground experience” for adults. The brainchild of Gymbox founder Richard Hilton, who is keen to capitalise on the competitive socializing trend, at this adults-only playground stressed City workers can cut loose after a long day in the office. Featuring fairground favourites like whack-a-mole and duck shoot, players don RFID wristbands, allowing them to log their scores and track their performance.
This explosive event at Tower Vaults inside the iconic Tower of London tells the story of Guy Fawkes’ infamous 1605 plot to blow up parliament. Putting the audience at the centre, the 360-degree performing space delivers a fully immersive experience blending live and virtual actors. Theatregoers can don VR headsets and take a boat trip down the Thames to explore the Houses of Parliament and Tower of London as the events of Fawkes’ story on the fateful night of 5 November are re-enacted.
“It was a decent mix of technology (VR / Projection) and live acting. I really enjoyed the storytelling of the second section, which was choreographed with some surrounding projections for dramatic effect. The story seemed to not really be impacted by the actions of the participants, though. And the ending was a bit of an awkward VR summary / time travel kind of bit. Overall a pretty fun multi-room experience.”
“Really enjoyed it! The structure and timing of the experience were well designed. I found that their mix of both live and VR action was well executed. I really appreciated the modular structure that allowed for arrival/integration flexibility at the beginning. The main detail that I found slightly disappointing was the fact that our choice had no bearing on the ending.”
“Storytelling could be improved. Felt some real opportunities were missed, even though their format was very much a divide between actors and audience. There was a missed opportunity to create some consequences with the choice to side with the Catholics or Protestants. And I have real problems with the final narrative phrase, with Guy Fawkes having a personal struggle with how history would view him. Just a weird choice.”
A growing global phenomenon with locations in the UK, US, Germany and the UAE. As the name implies, the games take place in a series of small rooms and don’t require any bulky VR gear to get stuck into, just a light visor. Making use of cutting-edge motion tracking, projection mapping, touch screen and surround sound tech, once inside, you can choose from a selection of games suitable for different age groups, from Angry Birds to Squid Game.
“A waiting area where you cannot see the gameboxes would have created more anticipation and curiosity. Referring to liminality would have also improved the creation of a game bubble that you enter-exit. I find it difficult to define it as an immersive experience, as there was no narrative or story and I never had the feeling of “stepping into another world”. Using role play here could be a way of improving immersion.”
“The use of relatively simple interactive elements made it accessible and enjoyable for everyone involved. The concept of using a box with projections, tactile surfaces, and a movement tracker in the head of the participants allowed for a wide variety of game dynamics to be created. One of the standout aspects of this experience was the competitive socializing it facilitated. By incorporating interactive elements and game dynamics, it fostered a sense of friendly competition among the participants. Furthermore, the inclusion of recognizable intellectual properties in the games added an extra level of familiarity and appeal. Another positive aspect of this experience was the absence of the “ick” factor typically associated with virtual reality (VR) headsets. In this case, the use of projections and tactile surfaces allowed for a free-roam gaming experience without the need for a VR headset.”
8. Jury Duty
An award-winning, crime-solving game that started on Zoom as a virtual experience, but which is now live in London. Players are invited to join other players at a central London office location to take part in a new form of jury service. Live actors greet them and will assist, but not guide, their deliberations. Players are presented with physical evidence, sworn statements, and a computer database relating to a fictional crime. They then interrogate a Defendant several times, and are encouraged to cross-reference with the evidence.When the time is up, players are asked to vote on their verdict.
A real-life version of property board game Monopoly, Monopoly Lifesized 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. The immersive game takes 80 minutes, with a choice of four versions: luxury, classic, city and junior.
10. Moonshine Saloon
Another immersive cocktail experience from the team behind Alcotraz and Avora, but this time with a Wild West twist. Participants/outlaws can “rub shoulders with the locals, try their luck at cards or dice games and enjoy a barrel load of illicit drinks.”
“It involved everyone. The storyline was clear/established, yet felt it was being co-created. There were props and the venue suited itself to the theme. I enjoyed the subtle addition of modern music being played on the vintage saloon piano. Drinks (appropriately) were served throughout and were prepared well and with presentation. The experience gave me an opportunity to get to know folks in my group in a manner quite different from a typical evening out (and I mean that in a good way).”
11. Phantom Peak
An immersive steampunk experience from the mind of Nick Moran that combines theme park, escape room, dining and immersive theatre elements to create a miniature Western town in a rather unprepossessing part of London’s Surrey Quays, overseen by the jovial JONACO oil company. However, everything is not as it seems, with several mystery trails to complete. Read our full review here.
The latest blockbuster immersive production from legendary theatre company Punchdrunk, which weaves elements from the story of Troy together with dance, performance and incredible sets across a gargantuan London warehouse.
“Story, story, story!!! Please touch me emotionally!!! And sorry to say but this is not immersive. Immersive to me means that you are fully integrated into this experience world, but the masks, the silence and the passiveness create such a distance that you never feel immersed but always be reminded of the fact that you are “just” part of the audience watching. It doesn’t matter if you’re coming as a group or not – inside you’re on your own. Also, there’s a lack of a variety of emotions. It seems that scenes repeat the same emotions (murder, seduction, revenge, murder, seduction, grief, and so on…), so story-wise it felt flat after a while and I got actually a bit bored of the performance and more interested in exploring the set itself. It’s obvious that there are very very talented people involved in this – that’s why I find it especially sad that the storytelling and audience experience did not resonate with me.”
13. Saint Jude
An audio interactive experience from the team at Swamp Motel, created in collaboration with a tech firm called Charisma.ai, whose website says they “Power Real-time Digital Humans”. Saint Jude is a medical facility where the audience-participants are volunteers. They’re here to talk with people who’ve got stuck in a coma. Read our full review here.
A multi-room, immersive escape experience based on the horror series of films of the same name, created in collaboration with Lionsgate, Twisted Pictures, and The Path Entertainment Group. Combining the thrill of escape rooms with the theatricality of immersive experiences, SAW: Escape Experience London sets out to “test your mind, your mettle, and your moral choices.”
Camden’s Stables Market is transformed into a treacherous jungle complete with crumbling tombs and sinking ships for the Tomb Raider Live Experience, where visitors are whisked into a fantasy narrative joining archaeologist Lara Croft on a series of adrenaline-fuelled missions. The project is the brainchild of Tom Lionetti-Maguire, the man behind The Crystal Maze Live Experience.
An immersive adaptation of Jeff Wayne’s musical masterpiece that allows participants to experience a Martian invasion in London, with 24 interactive scenes, live actors, virtual reality and of course, an iconic soundtrack.
The World Experience Summit 2024 is set to take place in an as yet undisclosed location – stay tuned for more details.