As part of MIF 2017, the Centenary Building in Salford plays host to Party Skills for the End of the World. This hands-on immersive experience showcased survival crafts in a post-apocalyptic setting. There was a greenhouse brimming with herbs, vegetables grown in wine glasses and old beakers, sessions on making lava lamps, and blow darts. Participants were also shown how to make martinis, dance and play the guitar (these are party skills after all).
The style of performance feels reminiscent of a new wave of interactive experiences that are growing in popularity. The first European escape rooms appeared in Budapest in 2011, a city which now has over 60 game-operating companies. These ideas have since spread widely throughout Europe, although the thrill of solving fiendish puzzles to a time limit with a team of friends has always been a winning formula. The Crystal Maze recently re-launched after a Kickstarter appeal and both Manchester and London now have live Crystal Maze experiences. They even share something in common with the classic murder-mystery night, where participants try to discover who killed the host while enjoying drinks and a hearty meal. These events are run by actors who stay strictly in character, speaking to participants to drop subtle hints about motives and give alibis. Pop-up cinemas like The Secret Cinema and The Jameson Cult Film Club also use atmospheric venues and live actors to enhance the experience of watching a film.
Research from Cornell psychology professor Thomas Gilovich found that people generally value experience-based purchases over material ones. Positive anticipation is associated with experiences, and even when an experience doesn’t go as planned it can often still provide a funny story. Experiences are a move away from material goods and consumption. Given that in the UK alone we use an estimated 275,000 tonnes of plastic every year, such a move would undoubtedly benefit the environment as much as our general happiness. There are only so many gadgets that we need, many of which have already been amalgamated into smartphones. A radio, camera, music player and map can now all be contained within a small portable device. Of course, there are material costs involved in creating and hosting activities. Party Skills for the End of the World used a large amount of oranges, curved needles, paper hats, print-outs and craft props.
Possessions are only as valuable as the positive experience that they give you, and living or working in cluttered spaces has been linked to increased stress. So, next time you have the choice between buying a new gimmick or choosing a new experience, something that challenges or excites you, choose the experience. You can never lose an experience or break it or upgrade it, you will always have the memory and that’s where its true value lies. (TP)
- Tom Patterson
Links relevant to this diagnosis:
Does that object ‘spark joy’? The Japanese Art of Decluttering - Washington Post
Buy Experiences, Not Things - The Atlantic
Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Guardian