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Driving Experiences Through Immersive Game Design

Driving Experiences Through Immersive Game Design
Design & Architecture

PSFK takes a look at ESI, a design firm that strives to create immersive experiences through gaming

Jiwon Kim
  • 20 july 2016

This past weekend, Come Out and Play was one of the top events happening in New York City. The events comprised of free outdoor games that let anyone have fun with new people for free. PSFK got a chance to visit the masterminds behind these games, ESI Design, and get a closer look at the firm’s recent work—and to play some games.

The firm is located in a beautiful open space that overlooks the New York City skyline. Unsurprisingly, there is another location dedicated to ESI’s gaming component, ESC, that was started by Edwin Schlossberg, Founder and Principal of ESI. His love of games has led the firm to produce some interesting projects.

One of the firm’s most important works is the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, which is included in our Innovation Debrief: Boston report because it serves as one of the most innovative present-day education hubs. The institute exposes young people to the inner workings of the Senate and the overall legislative process that drives the United States government. How this is accomplished is through a dynamic simulation of the Senate:

All participants choose to be a delegate from different parties and states, then work and argue to pass a bill. ESI was able to create a learning experience by creating an immersive game for visitors to get a realistic grasp of all aspects of the Senate. Schlossberg explains, “It is a play environment but a simulation of an existing social format which allows for young people to discover this experience.”

It is a way to inspire civic participation via games.

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Above anything else, ESI helps its clients sell an experience, not just a product or service. When I stepped into their game room, I was taken aback by the technology, and the excitement exhibited by the employees. The ESC Game Theater provides a space where the gaming experience is taken to another level. There is a giant video screen with open spaces, lighting, music and other forms of technology that make every game truly engaging and exciting. Up to thirty players can play one of many games that includes games like Robot Basketball. All of these games also have MCs excitedly narrating each game and bringing teams together. The point is to have fun but they also encourage learning through play with other people. Schlossberg states, “the pattern of social engagement is a key component of the aspiration of designs. The games are designed to make people smarter and work better together. Entertainment is between you and someone else.”  

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The overall goal of ESI is to take a subset of the world and transform it into an experiment so people can play inside it. Gameplay is a key component of their work because that is where the firm gathers the best data and observations. Schlossberg elaborates:

“Whenever you’re working in an environment that has a lot of people in it, the idea of thinking of it as a game experience helps us design the experience so it’s heuristic and exciting for people to learn and play with. Instead of thinking of it from a visual, software perspective, we think about it as an experience.”

ESI Design

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