Cyberdrome – A primer

For those wanting to understand the Cyberdrome phenomenon, and why it has become something I return to time and again here, a bit of background is needed.

Firstly, let me refer to Chris Dickson’s excellent site Exit Games, and his interview of the key names, as well as his primer for UKGameshows.com. As you can see, the Live Experiences in London and Manchester weren’t the first attempts to make a working maze for the masses.

For those who don’t fancy going through those two, let me explain the experience in very simple terms. You form a party and are given an access card that identifies you from any other group in the facility. The computer network gives you a time and location to go and find one of the hidden game systems inside one of the ‘zones’ (you move from zone to zone repeatedly here) and log in to play a game (either practical obstacles or, more likely, on a trackball and button setup) to earn crystals. As in the main show, these ultimately give time in the dome, where gold tokens are earned by hitting the lit buttons in the dome, with silver tokens awarded every time an unlit button is pressed. It’s that simple, but the effect in person is one of a high intensity experience, with very little illusion shattering if all the games are functioning.

However, this experience was also the downfall of the concept – being so large and complex, the profit margins were smaller than the more traditional arcades/Laser arenas, and as such many closed down to be replaced by other tenants. Sites in Japan and Dubai lasted longer, free of such space pressures (indeed, the Japanese version was successful despite the parent show never airing there), but the last location to close its doors was in the now abandoned Canaston Bowl in Pembrokeshire, allied to the Oakwood Theme Park. This ultimately closed in June 2010, 15 years after opening, following the revocation of the Crystal Maze license. At the time it was suggested that the age and reliability of the PC based technology was a factor. The centre itself closed in 2011 without ever replacing the shuttered attraction, and to this day the site lies dormant.

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