It’s not a new concept but rather the young, techy sibling of pub quizzes, darts, pool and board games at the pub. It’s also a concept that brings you to moving limbs to avoid lasers, throwing axes or running away from zombies, and has shown sharp growth in the latter half of the 2010s.
In the words of Sarah Moor of Place Marketing back in 2016, it’s ‘just one component of a wider experience revolution sweeping across the leisure sector’. We’ve seen dreams come to life at the theatre (Somnai), detected friends as replicants (Secret Cinema), drunk Vera Lynns (Cahoots), been attended to one-on-one by poets (The Poetry Brothel), witnessed The Royal Ballet dance feet away from our faces (Dreamers Ever Leave You) and had our real-time emotional experience to music turned into the evening’s lighting (Six Lethargies).
Why now? Well, smartphones shipped worldwide were 173 million in 2009 and 1.46 billion in 2017 – and frankly, our access to constant unlimited information may be testing our sanity. Facebook’s former Vice President for User Growth Chamath Palihapitiya went as far as to state that: ‘the short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works… (and) eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.’ Turning back to Sarah Moor, ‘now more than ever we seek physical experiences and human engagement. The rise in immersive experiences and ‘social competitiveness’ directly respond to this longing, which is exactly why they are at the heart of the experience revolution’.
They ride on a trend for nostalgia, engender empathy and cooperation and, finally, they’re inclusive, working across ages and demographics. While many have questioned whether it’s just a fad, it’s the individual experiences that will come and go. Overall, competitive socialising covers a broad range of activities that make us happy and healthy; it’s here to stay.