Activate Games opening second Winnipeg location


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It’s game on in Transcona.

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It’s game on in Transcona.

Activate Games, a Winnipeg-based interactive gaming company that’s found international success, is opening its second Winnipeg location this month.

The first site launched in Westwood in 2019. Since then, Activate has brought its lasers, hoops and rock climbing walls across Canada and into the United States.

Activate Games, a Winnipeg-based interactive gaming company that’s found international success, is opening its second Winnipeg location this month. (Supplied)

It’s chosen 10-1150 Nairn Ave. for its biggest facility.

“It was just finding the right spot,” David Plumridge, Activate Games’ brand trainer, said of opening the 20,000 sq. ft. centre. “We wanted… another location where it started.”

Each Activate facility houses a cluster of gaming rooms. In one room, players might climb rocks, only touching a certain colour. In another space, people may jump through a floor-is-lava style grid.

The Transcona hub will have 13 rooms, including a new circular one with buttons covering the walls.

Each room has several games, with no game lasting more than three minutes. In Transcona’s circular room, users can pick a 90-second game where they search for button colours amid a rainbow of buttons.

Activate boomed during the pandemic, Plumridge said.

“There was a lot of ease of self-isolation for us,” he said. “You would go in (to Activate) with your inner circle, and you wouldn’t really be interacting with anybody else.”

Technology tracked which buttons and tiles were being pressed, making it easier to clean after each group.

Meantime, the owners, Adam and Megan Schmidt, were updating their equipment and creating new rooms and games.

“People swarmed in,” Plumridge said. “I think people were really wanting something new and exciting to do.”

In four years, Activate Games has opened 10 facilities. It unveiled four last year, with the latest launching in Calgary.

The MegaGrid, a 16 by 32 sq. ft. floor with tiles that change colour and create a floor-is-lava experience, has gone viral online. Videos of the room have gotten more than 500 million views, according to Activate.

Thomaz Albuquerque found the company online. Now, the Brazilian wants Activate in Curitiba or São Paulo.

“I think it’s an innovative game that brings people together — something we missed due to Covid consequences of the last few years,” Albuquerque said in an Instagram message.

He searched for companies like Activate in Brazil but said he couldn’t find any.

“We hear (people) say, ‘This is exactly like that room we saw on TikTok,’” Plumridge said.

Activate has expanded to around 120 employees in Canada. Each location sees roughly 10,000 customers a month, Plumridge added.

“It’s something we knew was going to succeed,” said Mike Green, Tourism Winnipeg’s creative communications manager.

He recalled interviewing Adam when the company opened in 2019. Then, the former pilot was designing games on a piece of paper.

Green believed Activate could become a global phenomenon.

“It’s like being in your own video game,” he said. “Every city has escape rooms and what have you, but this was an original concept here in Winnipeg that didn’t exist anywhere else.”

The Schmidts also founded The Real Escape, Winnipeg’s first escape room business.

Tourism Winnipeg refers people to Activate if they’re looking for an interactive experience, Green said.

“The original St. James one is quite busy,” he added. “(This) opens it up to more people.”

A $25 ticket nets 75 minutes of play. The Transcona location will open by the end of March, Plumridge said.

People across the globe are asking Activate to come to them. The company’s recent social media posts have elicited comments from Los Angeles, Paris and the United Kingdom.

“No one will come to Abbotsford… so I ask for Vancouver,” said Jeremy Betts.

Betts, who lives in Abbotsford, commented on a recent online post by Activate Games. He and his family “are big fans” of full-body games requiring timing and athleticism, he said via an Instagram message.

Activate is concentrating on growing in Canada, according to Plumridge. The games are constantly being updated, he added.

Roughly a dozen people will staff the Transcona location.

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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