COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions have wreaked havoc on the hospitality and entertainment industries, but for the Co-Founder of Trapt Bar and Escape Rooms and Arcadium Adventures, Gabrielle Lim, a little creativity and some truly experimental thinking have allowed her to turn this challenge into an opportunity.
We’ve all dealt with lockdown in different ways, whether it’s been a shift to study or work from home, a new passion for baking, binges on Netflix or the purchase of a puppy. We’ve all become well acquainted with Zoom, but there’s no denying, it’s hard to stay entertained and find ways to connect with friends and family remotely. For Bachelor of Commerce alum Gabrielle Lim, connection is something she’s considered a lot. It was one of the driving factors in founding Trapt Bar & Escape Rooms.
“Our whole business was really built on the premise of bringing people together physically and a belief that there is still an important need to come together socially instead of relying only on digital connection. So that has been a really interesting existential question in thinking about our business now, since it was initially brought about to counteract a reliance on digital connection.” She says.
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“We actually decided to shut down before the restrictions came into place. We had some consultation with our staff and decided that was the best way for us to go, but as part of that, we started looking at how we could adapt. We sat down and said ‘okay, so connecting people is the core part of our business, how can we continue playing a role in connecting people’. We didn’t want to just put a game straight online and remove that spatial and human element.”
The result was a kind of hybrid game, wherein Gabrielle and the team took one of their existing games, Alchemy, and adapted it. There’s an interactive site players engage with while connecting with each other over Zoom. Meanwhile, the team from Trapt are interacting with the escape room in real time, so players get to experience the magical, wizarding world of Alchemy vicariously.
“There were definitely some operational considerations. We had to stop and take a look at what the skillsets of our staff were. We’re very lucky to actually have a number of actors on the team. That helped us think about what the interactions with the customers would be, and what kind of experience they might want.”
The new experience and platform have also opened up some opportunities for the business, even as restrictions continue to lift.
“One of the things that’s been interesting for us is that we’ve had an influx of players from overseas, which of course was never an option before. We’ve had some players from across time zones playing together. I think even once we reopen the space, I’d like to continue the virtual game, and look at ways we can have people playing in the escape rooms with other players joining in online. This would make it a much more inclusive and accessible game, if you want to play with friends and family overseas, or, have players who might be at risk, and not able to participate physically. There’s still so much that’s unknown as we all move forward after COVID-19, I think creating options for everyone to connect with each other safely will be an important part of that.”