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Electric Playhouse offers interactive entertainment and dining experiences

 Two men play an interactive game at the new Electric Playhouse.

Two men play an interactive game at the new Electric Playhouse.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Wildlife traveling along the tabletops, lights following footsteps, digital objects controlled by hand movements and bursts of color dancing on the floor and walls greet visitors to the newly created Electric Playhouse entertainment venue.

The West Side recreation spot the creators are calling an “interactive projection gaming complex” will officially open its doors to the public Feb. 1. It will feature two dining areas, a full bar with local beers and interactive gaming spaces.

The Electric Playhouse will offer a full bar for its adult visitors.

CEO and founder John-Mark Collins, who has a background in hospitality, software engineering, and art, said the idea grew from his interest in making software more interactive.

“I wanted to get people off the small screen and being more social,” he said. “I wanted to take something that is familiar, technology, and augment it.”

A dining table with virtual plates awaits guests and real plates with food. Images on the walls and the tabletop change throughout the meal.(Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

The space uses projectors and motion sensors to track someone’s location in the room and the movement of their body. From this starting point, Collins built games around movement of the entire body or certain limbs. The whole room becomes part of the gaming experience.

The new Electric Playhouse will offer gourmet dinners. Here is a braised beef short rib.

One game entails throwing a ball at a projected image on the wall while another one has participants standing on a dot and trying to stay on it as it moves. As the game progresses, the dot moves faster and closer to other participants and their dots. Many of the games will pit players against one another. There is a game similar to air hockey where participants have to kick a dot around on the floor and make it into their goal. A room at the back will have mirrors on all the walls, the ceiling and the floor and will feature images from various artists. The first few months will be two artists who specialize in fractals. One of the spaces will sometimes be used for a DJ on the weekends.

The lobby at the Electric Playhouse welcomes visitors to the new interactive gaming and dining center.

“What we want people to understand is that this is not the stuff with goggles,” he said. “You walk in and you are unencumbered. You are not confined to a screen and you don’t have to put on awkward equipment.”

Collins said he hopes to have at least 30 games before the grand opening and they will continue to develop more.

Attendees can enjoy the café from the lobby or inside the gaming area. It has a bright spotfull bar and offers a selection of salad, burgers, sandwiches and pizza. Private bookings are available for the three dinning rooms, which seat 24 people each. The walls and long, rectangular dinning tables change from one digital image to another, which in real life would be the equivalent of changing tablecloths but this is done with the touch of a button. Moving across the table are digital images of different wildlife including butterflies and sea life that appears to be swimming through water.

Marketing Director John Feins said that one of the unique things about the playhouse is that it can continuously have new offerings and cater to the requests of those who book private parties because it’s all digitally based.

“Say you were having a Roaring ’20s party,” Feins said. “We could harken images from that time for the dinner and the night.”

The company has given the public a taste of what’s to come since December by booking private parties and offering sneak previews session. General admission will cost between $11 and $18. They will also offer special dining events that include a gourmet dinner and watch parties for football games and New Mexico United.

“It’s really about getting people to be social and active together,” Collins said. “This is meant to be a group activity.”

Feins said the aim is to be a place for every generation of the family and community. The bar and dining might appeal to adults having a special night out while the gaming offers something not only for adults but for children too.

“You don’t have to be a techie or an athlete to have a good time,” he said. “I love games and sports but I’m not an electronic gamer but this would appeal to me. It really is an all-ages, all types of people playhouse.”

The playhouse is located near the intersection of Coors and Interstate 40 at 5201 Ouray Road NW in a building that was once a Staples store. Beginning Feb. 1, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and on Sundays, and 10 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. They are closed Monday. Entrance fees are based on age and give attendees unlimited play time for now. Feins said during busier times throughout the year, they may have to do sessions to accommodate the crowds.

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