Melbourne firm brings video games to life
You burst into the abandoned hospital, machine gun raised, heart pounding.
Zombies jump from the shadows and drop from the ceiling.
It sounds like a bad dream - or a good video game - but this is real life.
Well, kind of.
In Real Life (IRL) Shooter is a Melbourne startup who bring the shoot-em-up video game experience to the real world.
They build complex, movie-quality sets, then fill them with flashing lights, sound effects and hundreds of actors dressed as baddies.
Over the course of an hour, teams fight their way through, just as they would in a video game. They complete objectives, accumulate points, and, of course, blow away the bad guys.
But co-founder Drew Hobbs insists it's "not just a mindless shooter".
"There's a narrative, there's a roleplay element, there's a whole lot more going on than just running around a scary environment shooting zombies.
"However, you do get get to run around a scary environment shooting zombies."
IRL Shooter's debut event, Patient Zero, took place in Melbourne late last year after a campaign on crowdfunding site Pozible blew past an initial goal of A$10,000 to reach in excess of A$240,000.
About 6,200 people attended, including Amy Robertson, 38, a "female gamer and proud", who says she's been playing video games for 25 years.
"It was a surreal experience," she says.
"To play out that fantasy that you've been playing on the couch and watching on movies for so many years was phenomenal."
Hobbs, himself a long-time gamer, says IRL Shooter is the "the next logical step in narrative entertainment".
Video games are becoming more realistic by the day as computing power increases but an in-the-flesh experience will always best them, he says.
"No matter how good the graphics, no matter how good the game, it's still a controller and it's still a screen and you're still on the couch - and you can always press pause.
"No matter how good it gets, when it gets scary, its still not a real person running at you, screaming.
"What people want now is something they'll really remember."
Despite the strong debut in Melbourne, the company is struggling to get a Sydney follow-up off the ground.
With 44 days of a new Pozible campaign remaining, they've raised A$90,000 of their A$1 million target, and Hobbs says the campaign has slowed.
The Melbourne event raised about A$1 million in crowdfunding and ticket sales but cost "a bit more than that" to put on.
A 7000 square-metre deconstructable set that can ship easily between sites should help keep costs down going forward, Hobbs says, but everything depends on getting the Sydney event off the ground.
If it fails, the team may look to go overseas.
The company has also invested in a few extras, including an optional sidearm and an electric belt that delivers a real shock when you get too close to a zombie.
"We just want to scare the pants off people."
❏ Tickets are available from the pozible.com campaign page from A$175 (NZ$188).