Immersive gaming experiences took a hit during the pandemic as venues shut down, but expect them to come roaring back as people seek greater connections and the industry grows.
That's what a bullish panel of leaders in the field said this week in an intimate gathering hosted by dot.LA at the immersive Two Bit Circus in downtown L.A. this week.
"We got sick and tired of doing the Zoom call," said Jane Chung Hoffacker, co-founder and CEO of Incredible Dream Studios, a studio focused on translating tabletop games for online gamers. "So much about being in person now is so valuable."
She said while locked down at home, people gained connections with their neighbors and it deepened their appreciation for moments. Now that pandemic's peak appears to be behind us, where is immersive gaming headed?
"Being in person right now is so valuable," she said. The sentiment translates to people playing board games or stepping into escape rooms as opposed to sitting in front of a screen alone playing video games, which exploded during the pandemic.
COVID paused business for some in Southern California's burgeoning immersive community, said panelist Tommy Honton, designer of the escape room Stash House and co-creator of The Museum of Selfies. But there was a silver lining.
"Designers and companies that never would have gotten any attention have gotten a chance to shine," he said. Immersive creators went online and shared a hybrid virtual version of their games, attracting investors who might not otherwise have been exposed to them.
And Southern California, where a deep talent pool of engineers and storytellers has fueled the industry, is especially well poised to flourish as the pandemic recedes.
"There's a deep well of great storytellers and... great creators here," said Brent Bushnell, panelist and co-founder of the experimental entertainment company Two Bit Circus. He's looking toward that well as he starts to create experiences for the Olympics and the Super Bowl.