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In the media

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"Caught Up In The Interact"

The interactive entertainment industry is taking off as clients are learning participation is the key to successful event recreation.

Somewhere back in the 80's, the tide started turning on event entertainment. Clients were tired of watching their guests sit behind tables, and guests were tired of watching the same staged entertainment from their seats.What was missing was fundamental involvement, and the challenge for event planners and entertainment professionals was to find a way to make events a participative experience for guests, rather than something that just happened to them.

Companies like Napa,California-based Total Rebound were some of the first to answer the demand, however accidentally in some cases. For Total Rebound, the path to interactive entertainment turned off the main business road the company was following. Beginning in the '80s as the first OSHA-approved provider of bungee jumping, the company enjoyed booming business during the summer for just this one achvity. Total Rebound's president,John Wilkinson, watched the fearless jumpers line up to take the plunge, and he scratched his head, wondenng how he could get them to spend more money while they waited.

The solution was the company's first interactive game, the Orbotron, three steel rings that spin independently of each other. A person strapped in the middle provides the speed 'We figured we'd charge a few bucks and let them [the bungee jumpers] get on the Orbotron while they were in line," Wilkinson says. But what he didn't see coming was the Orbotron business taking on a life of its own. When bungee season ended, the demand for the Orbotron was increasing, and Wilkinson found himself putting a brochure together for its rental. Total Rebound's interactive entertainment business snowballed from there until there were no more bungee jumps, only a warehouse of interactive games being rented on a regular basis, inspired by the success of the Orbotron.

Today, the inside of Total Rebound's ware house reflects a change in business philosophy as well as inventory. Stocking such interactive games as sumo wrestling, a 20-foot rock climbing wall, a 15-foot trampoline with a trapeze, the human slingshot and the Velcro drag race, the designers of these amusements have taken one question with them to the drawing board: How can the most people be involved and get the highest level of enjoyment from the game at the same time? The answer for Wilkinson is that, with these kinds of games, observation equals involvement. "When you have two people sumo wrestling, it's funny the twentieth time you see it because it's always different," Wilkinson says. "The games have a high spectatqr level. Even if people don't want to play, they'll enjoy watching it." Rental companies that stock these games have to do little in marketing. Most of the time, all it involves is showcasing the games themselves.

Wilkinson also agrees that "Safety is important for both the operator and the rider because the attendant can be just as endangered as the participant,", which is why Total Rebound chooses only games that have been proven safe. "You just don't want to risk dampening a party with a serious injury," he concludes.

"I've never been to an event where everyone showed up who was supposed to," says Wilkinson. Total Rebound, he adds, goes a great distance in service to succeed where other companies fail. "We're able to respond immediately to technical difficulties, and that's one of the advantages of being bigger and _ having backup equipment," Wilkinson asserts. "We try to take care of problems before clients even find out about them. We're just trying to make a difference." As the interactive industry blooms, creativity and service will likely define the companies with the most staying power. Now that event goers are out from behind the tables, the real performers will be the industry professionals doing handstands to keep guests involved by introducing them to new experiences.


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