“You have to decide.”
It had all come down to this moment. I couldn’t play both sides off against each other any more. The finale was coming, like it or not. And if I kept dithering, I might miss out completely.
My hand shook as I texted my decision. As I sealed my fate.
What is The Lucky Ones?
I still don’t know what to describe The Lucky Ones as. Is it immersive gaming? Is it immersive theatre? Is it an escape room that follows you around? Is it a way of living your life for a month? Whatever it is, it’s awesome.
Overall, what you get is one significant live touchpoint per week. Whether this is going to a location, meeting someone, completing a task – there’s one BIG thing each week. These were the most exciting parts of the experience, where the world came alive.
Interspersed were multiple remote touchpoints: texts, emails, posted letters, that sort of thing. This is what changed it from a part-time activity to a fully immersive experience. You never knew when you would be receiving something new into your inbox, and it kept me in a constant state of anticipation.
You’d receive about two or three remote touchpoints per week, although that really varied, and the more you texted back, the more texts you received. It’s definitely an activity where you get out what you put in.
There are definitely elements of both gaming and theatre integral to The Lucky Ones. Personally, I’d say that the theatre elements were the most impressive, while as a serious gamer the gaming elements weren’t as challenging as they could have been.
But it’s hard to balance an experience like that without breaking it for some participants. Unlike escape rooms, everyone needs to get out of each live interaction in a roughly similar way, otherwise the entire experience will diverge too quickly for the organisers to keep a handle on it.
I set off at a run.
Pelting down the street, I peer behind me. She’s still there, but the gap is widening. Her stride was long and determined.
I dart down an alleyway and around a corner. I stay there until I feel safe. A car pulls up, asks if I’m okay. I reassure them that I’m just playing a game, although my heart is still pounding and my eyes flicking back and forth.
Weaving through the back passages, I make it to a crowded street. My anonymity keeps me safe, but it does the same for her – I realise I’ve already forgotten what she looks like. A girl smiles at me, and I take off running again. Down an alley, through a shop, out a side door, across a street. I’m breathless and giddy and terrified and excited. I find somewhere out of sight, and stay there until I feel safe. It takes a long time.
The Premise of the Lucky Ones
Without revealing too much, The Lucky Ones centred around your relationship with two entities: Capital Experience, a lifestyle company that aimed to improve your life in small ways and keep you happy, and your Relationship Manager Lucy, an employee of Capital Experience.
It was kept vague throughout the experience exactly how Capital Experience did its job. They seemed to know uncanny things about you. Some clearly came from your social media profiles, or from the questionnaire that you fill out at the start of the event, but some seemed to come from nowhere.
And Lucy was your personal representative. She communicated by letter, by text, by email, and she wanted you to be happy. The relationship I developed with her was one of the strangest relationships I’ve ever had, and having the opportunity to talk to the girl who was “my Lucy” at the end of the experience was actually something of a relief.
They’re not the only people in the game. There’s Max and Adam and Joslin. There’s that girl with the straight hair that I never got to speak to, and all the employees of Capital Experience… they created a world far larger than the small Riptide team working on the production.
And not wanting to spoiler too much, but here’s how The Lucky Ones started for me…
I check the postbox, expecting nothing like the previous day. The snow is still falling thick over the city, and it feels like its snuffed out all movement of people or goods.
But I’m wrong. A large rectangular package lies inside the postbox, and I can barely wait to get it upstairs.
I open it slowly. Red flowers, beautiful red carnations. My favourite colour. Did they know that? It’s not hard to work it out from my Facebook and Instagram, I conclude.
The note inside is signed L, with a kiss. The handwriting looks like a woman’s. Already, I can feel this experience is going to be more about the questions than about the answers.
The Worst Parts of The Lucky Ones
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. It’s brand spanking new, and that means there’s teething problems. Just like with a megagame, you can’t possibly playtest it properly, and there were small snags in elements of the game and plot.
I also think they rushed through the early parts of the plot a little too quickly. We were introduced quite suddenly to this world, then introduced to a secret world beneath it when we hadn’t been given a chance to get used to the basics. All along it was incredibly vague what Capital Experience actually did. A bit more clarity here would have helped massively, and some more groundwork before introducing us to the proper plot.
This also had the effect that the final choice was a little too vague. My decision was made more on gut feeling rather than hard facts one way or the other. On the one hand, making the situation too cut-and-dry would potentially have railroaded participants more, but I think there was more of a middle ground than what we did have.
And as mentioned, for serious gamers there’s a lack of proper gaming elements. You’re not particularly rewarded for figuring things out ahead of the curve.
However, all that being said… Riptide have run a feedback session and heard all of these criticisms. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing how they’re planning on making some changes for the next run, and I feel confident that all these issues will be improved on before the next The Lucky Ones.
Desperate for more information, I head to Twitter and enter the search term “#TheLuckyOnes”. My screen fills with results, but none of them are useful. It seems there’s a play in New York with the same name.
My second search hits jackpot. My eyes scan over the tweets and land on one in particular. It’s someone’s welcome pack. But it’s not the same as mine. Where my envelope was filled with Lindor, my favourite chocolate, this guy has a Bounty bar.
“How did they know?”
The Best Parts of The Lucky Ones
Don’t be concerned that this section is smaller than the worst parts. It’s easy to be critical, because those are the parts Riptide are planning on changing. Unfortunately, the more I tell you about the good parts, the worse it will be for you. Put simply, the best parts were the elements of surprise.
The live touchpoints were definitely the most thrilling. Whether it was receiving something at a pre-appointed time and place, going to a stranger’s flat, or picking something up from a specific shop in Leeds City Centre, each interaction was unique. It just… isn’t what you’d normally do. It takes you out of your box and plunges you into a world where, yes, you are that person from the movie who just does stuff. It’s really hard to put into words, but it makes you into a protagonist.
The experience was incredibly multimedia. From the physical feel of the letters – high quality paper from Capital Experience, quirky postcards and black envelopes from the other entities in the game – to the use of music and sound. And the staging of the live elements also paid attention to all the senses, from touch to smell to sound. And from now on, victory will always taste like a gin and tonic.
Overall the characterisation of the protagonist (that is, the protagonist that isn’t you) was fantastic. She was at the same time a confidant and a creep, a friend and an adversary. They did a really good job of making her both a corporate stooge and a free spirit.
“I’m Lucy. Your Relationship Manager.”
When I first received a text from her, I had no idea what path she’d end up leading me down. It was an entirely corporate message. But Lucy wasn’t a corporate girl. She was a free spirit – that was always clear, even before I heard her voice, even when she was speaking on behalf of Capital Experience.
Becoming One of The Lucky Ones
Signing up for any totally new type of activity is always a little daunting – especially when part of that activity relies on ambiguity. Jumping into the unknown is scary; paying out money for the unknown is risky.
I was lucky to be invited to try the Lucky Ones – if I hadn’t enjoyed it, the worst result would have been an uncomfortable conversation with the organisers about why I couldn’t promote the experience in good faith.
The value of the experience was much higher than the £40 they charged, and I think the feedback from the participants agreed with this universally. Consider that you could pay £12 for a non-immersive movie, £20 for a one-hour escape room, or over £50 for a great theatre production, and balance that against an entire month’s worth of entertainment. If they raise the prices for the next run, I can near enough guarantee it will still be a bargain.
We clink our glasses together and return to perusing the menu. The girl across from me is my best friend, and she’s not one of the Lucky Ones. It’s nice to be eating a meal together, catching up properly, but she knows there’s an ulterior motive. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those texts…
“Order anything you want. It’s on me.”
How to be a Lucky One
Here are my top tips if you take part in a future production of The Lucky Ones.
1. Throw yourself into it
Honestly, with this kind of game, the more you put in, the more you get back from it. That’s not to say you can’t participate unless you have endless time – Riptide are great at flexing around your availability – just that you shouldn’t expect them to do all the work.
2. Don’t talk to other participants.
In the FAQs for the Lucky Ones, Riptide say you can share your experiences with a friend if you both buy tickets, but honestly I think that might have watered down the experience for me. I was lucky enough to meet tons of awesome new people through the Lucky Ones, but I felt a lot better talking to them after it was over. However I do know that plenty of participants were watching my Instagram stories, and some of them got a lot out of seeing how I reacted, and the bits and pieces I scraped together from seeing other people posting on social media definitely added to the experience, but I think it’s better one way.
3. Let your mind go haywire.
Honestly, some of the most enjoyable parts of The Lucky Ones were the bits where I fabricated things completely for myself. The nature of the experience meant that I was constantly unsure what would happen next, and when I read far too much into a casual Instagram post or random happenstance, I managed to generate my own entertainment for the whole day.
4. Take it seriously.
Honestly, if you’re just going to half-ass it and not try to immerse yourself in the world, you probably won’t enjoy it that much. It’s not perfect yet – it requires some suspension of disbelief, and you’ll enjoy it much more if you roll with it.
5. Don’t trust Lucy.
6. Sign up.
There’s no time like the present. I have no idea what changes Riptide have in store for the Lucky Ones. I only hope they change it enough for me to be able to take part again. If not… I’ll be looking out for your stories on Instagram.Y
You can sign up for the next run of The Lucky Ones here – even if you’re not based in Leeds.
“The chair is for you.”
I have no idea what to expect, as he opens the door before me. I see a long, thin room, that’s illuminated at the far end.
The walk down the room seems to last forever. Out of the windows I see a spectacular view, but my heart is too high in my throat for me to appreciate it.
A man stands next to the orange chair and wordlessly motions for me to sit. I do so, and he disappears around the corner out of sight. I try to calm my nerves, and then the music changes. I recognise the song. I feel myself begin to calm, when the man returns…
I was invited to take part in the Lucky Ones free of charge, but all opinions of being lucky are my own. Here’s my full disclaimer.