Special Events

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: PLAY TIME FOR GAMES

The hottest event games going blend real action with special effects for a total interactive entertainment experience.

SCREEN DREAMS

Pressed by his wife to come up with original entertainment for their son's bar mitzvah, former New York casting director Lee Rappaport hit on the idea of taping kids doing commercial auditions. Today, Rappaport's Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Funnymercials has branched out into music videos, sports announcing and other on-screen fun, and counts Howard Stern, Joan Lunden and AOL Time Warner among clients.

The premise of Funnymercials is simple: Give celebrants a script and a few props, yell “Action!” and the fun will come naturally. A “green screen” behind participants creates the feel of a real commercial and enhances the fun for observers, who can see images on the screen that the “actors” can't, Rappaport says.

POP QUIZ

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Creative Imagineering offers a game show system that consists of “player positions” — the microphone-equipped podiums where contestants typically stand on television game shows — a background display and corresponding software. The system allows players to answer questions that can be customized to meet a client's specific needs, according to company president Dean Lichtenwalner.

While features such as lighted displays and customized sound effects make his company's games feel like the real thing, Lichtenwalner says, “The most important thing is that they get the message across.” With a corporate product launch, for example, he explains, “They'll do their PowerPoint presentations and have handouts, etc., and that's all good, but the game show then creates a situation where they can reinforce all that knowledge in a really fun and interesting way.”

SPORTS REPORT

With a rental inventory of more than 200 interactive games, Skip Smith, president of Pacheco, Calif.-based Plan-It Interactive, has something for just about every occasion. These days, he says, sports-themed games such as the Rock Wall and Iron Man Obstacle Course are among his hottest rentals.

Topping the sports game list is the company's new VR Golf, which Smith calls “a golfer's dream come true.” The game lets participants hit an actual ball at a screen that then shows an image of the ball continuing down the fairway of a world-famous golf course. “The ball flies, rolls or bounces down the fairway, and if it hits a tree, you hear the thump and watch it fall to the ground,” Smith says. “If it lands in the water, you wince at the splash.”

RIDE ON

Bardonia, N.Y.-based Amusitronix has staked its claim in the game world by doing “whatever it takes to make [games] more realistic,” according to president Mike Goldstein.

The company's NASCAR simulator — a big hit, Goldstein says — combines several technological elements to produce an authentic racing feel. A driver wearing virtual reality goggles sits inside the 10-foot-long life-like car and maneuvers a gas pedal, triggering a hydraulic system above the car's wheels. Observers get to join in the fun by watching the road spin by on a large monitor behind the car, he adds.

Goldstein says that his company can easily customize virtual reality games for corporate clients. “Now, at a fraction of the cost it used to be, we're able to include corporate logos and pictures,” he says, adding that Amusitronix can “even design a game environment specifically for an event and for a corporation.”

RESOURCES: Amusitronix, 845/627-1137; Creative Imagineering, 954/316-6001; Funnymercials, 856/751-1776; Plan-It Interactive, 888/90-GAMES


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