Case Study: The Locus Papers
UVA’s University Programs Council contacted us to create an event for the grand opening of 1515, their newest student center on The Corner.
Locus Industries, a multinational conglomerate, held a recruitment exam targeting students at the university who were about to graduate. During an orientation video, a mysterious stranger hacked in to alert the recruits of Locus’ misdeeds, and set them on a mission to discover and deliver incriminating documents to a special agent somewhere on site.
The task began as the students sat for the exam. The proctor was distracted by a phone call, and while he was out of the room, the students pieced together clues within the exam booklet to discover where the files were located. Sneaking into the proper location before the proctor returned, they had to break into a locked safe and hack into a Locus employee’s computer to retrieve and print out the documents.
Once that was done, the students had to get away from the Locus testing grounds without being caught. If successful, they had to navigate a crowded public place to locate the special agent, deliver their findings, and then disperse back into the crowd as though nothing had ever happened.
When we design our custom experiences, we look for ways to incorporate existing elements of the space into the story. We were given the entire top floor of the 1515 building to use for this event and we chose two rooms that complemented our ideas. We used a lounge with a TV to display the orientation video and a classroom with desks and a chalkboard wall for administering the exam. We chose a study room to serve as the Locus Industries Department of Archives. To bring this space to life, we brought in a van load of set design materials including furniture, filing cabinets, books, papers, computers, and other props to create a heavily used office environment.
Actors were brought in to play the parts of the exam proctor and the secret agent. The proctor, a white coated employee of Locus Industries, was a very busy person who had to split his time between the exam and archival work. The secret agent was disguised as a maintenance person who blended into the background and secretly navigated the building’s hallways and common areas. We also had a member of our staff on hand to sign in and escort groups to the orientation room.
For this event, we knew that group members would likely know each other, so we wanted to create a range of puzzles that involved everyone. The initial puzzle in the exam room required everyone to gather their own individual clues together to find the way forward. When groups reached the Archives Room, it became imperative for them to split up in order to focus on multiple tasks at once before coming back together to print out the documents and find the secret agent.
Since this was a grand opening event, we wanted to have our players explore the building throughout their adventure. Groups met in the lobby, then were escorted upstairs for the majority of the event. Once they obtained the secret documents, they had to find their way to the bottom floor and search for the secret agent. We also used certain elements of the building and surrounding area that were permanent, to further familiarize the groups with the new building.
Behind the scenes
Each group had 30 minutes to complete their adventure, and we were aware of the logistical challenges that we faced to keep groups moving smoothly within this time frame. We strategically positioned our staff and actors so that they could help maintain event flow by offering suggestions or creatively delaying the action. By keeping in constant communication with each other, we managed to keep the event on target, running 100 students through the experience over a period of five hours.
Of course, no event can be complete without a few issues. We experienced a hesitation with the orientation audio and video playback as well as some other minor hiccups at the event’s start. We were able to quickly find solutions and make adjustments so that everything was smoothed out and all players completed their missions successfully.
As our name implies, creating an immersive experience is our primary goal. We crafted an atmosphere where some groups were afraid to make any noise in case the proctor returned. Some bold groups tried to create distractions so that teammates could slip by unnoticed. We even had one group attempt to deliver their materials to an actual building facilities employee. With that in mind, we consider this event to be a great success. Timing worked out well, the puzzles were entertaining and engaging, the set up looked good, and above all the players had a great time.