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Entros: A strand of Interplay DNA

When we describe the origins of Interplay, one word that can create a stir is the word “Entros”.  One commonality among most of us at Interplay is an intersection with Entros. So much so, that one of our Interplay Elements is Es: Entros. When searching for Entros on Google, the “searches related to Entros” at the bottom reveals four intriguing possibilities: entros virus; entros bacteria; entrol cabal; and entros restaurant.

entros chairWhen Entros was first invented by Andy Forrest and Stephen Brown in 1992 in Seattle, the thought was that Entros might spread like a (positive, intelligent, friendly) social smile-inducing virus. But it most closely resembled the it most the “restaurant” definition (and numerous other definitions such as “Creative Nightlife with Grill”). But the core entros restaurant definition doesn’t even come close, even though at the center of the massive warehouse space contained a free-form restaurant with sublime food and drink, gracefully served by waiters that went the extra mile while attempting to explain what was going on in the surrounding rooms.  What Entros was is indeed hard to define: a subtle social-mixing bowl full of people-powered installations, custom-built games, and hands-workshops – all gently led by an eclectic array of personable “Guides” who explained, coached, cajoled, and sometimes yelled in German accents while snapping pointers dangerously close to sometimes amused guests.

The latter behavior – and the entire Guide philosophy that Interplay embraces to this day – will be the subject of another post. Suffice it to say that Entros was a place where interactive meant real, live, human, person to person interaction, not person to screen to screen to person as is so familiar today. This live human-game-Entros-magic-mix is still sorely missed, even years later.

Entros was an experience designers dream and nightmare: invent never-seen-before seen games, installations, and workshops on a record pace with shoestring budgets, build them, staff them, and attempt to explain them to a usually interested but slightly inebriated public. This “what do we want people to experience – how do we do we create this experience – how do we explain it to the public in 60 seconds” Experience Factory inspired us continue creating experiences that translate complex ideas to a wide array of people and mindsets. Our Entros experience informs every specific client experience, summed up in this question: How we can make learning more effective – and simultaneously enjoyable?

While Entros opened a facility in San Francisco, it struggled to define itself – as did some reviewers – and the Seattle and SFO experience “showrooms” (and corporate client branch) closed in the late 90’s. The power of this experience is still so strong that something happens when we mention Entros during an Interplay presentation. And those of you reading who experienced Entros are doing it right now – thinking… “THAT place”.

In a room of people who hear the E-word, the person who experienced the Intelligent Amusement Park elicits a sudden flicker of excitement and an “I loved that place!” comment – followed by a struggle to explain exactly what Entros was to curious colleagues. This light-up-the-room Entros electricity is forever fused into our Interplay DNA, as we strive to guide people through complex, intelligence-testing and socially stretching experiences that leaves them smarter. With a smile.

 
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