After opening her first business (the wildly popular Escape Hunt) in 2014, Giovanna Shakhovskoy caught the entrepreneurship bug. Two short years later she and her business partners started a second business, Directors of the Extraordinary, which seeks to shake up the gamification of entertainment and education even further.
Those aware of the Escape Hunt concept will be familiar with the immersive, augmented reality-style of entertainment it promises. Directors of the Extraordinary takes this immersive gamification one step further, pushing the boundaries of entertainment and audience engagement. They create captivating experiences for training, team building, education, and entertainment by combining elements of storytelling, gaming, theatre and technology.
You may have heard of their most recent endeavour, Containment, wherein they turned the New Farm Powerhouse into an immersive zombie apocalypse experience for people game enough to suspend their disbelief. It integrated live adventure gaming, immersive theatre, technology, and world creation to create an engrossing night of entertainment that turned the real world into something more.
In a more corporate space, Directors of the Extraordinary once worked with QUT’s Health faculty to create an augmented reality simulation that assisted in training pharmaceutical entrepreneurs. Rather than learning concepts and ideas by rote, the entrepreneurs were able to really experience the process of exploring an idea and taking a product to market. Using a fictional marketplace, they enabled entrepreneurs to interact with big pharmaceutical companies, pitching fictional products and receiving feedback in real time.
Giovanna joined EO Accelerator at the beginning of this year, and has found the real life, hands-on nature of EO to be immensely helpful. Having attended other business forums in the past, she found the content was too high-level, without really delving into the nitty gritty, to see the real-life applications.
“It was just so refreshing being given the practical tools,” Giovanna said. “What does this actually mean; what can you actually do?
“Being prompted to make decisions and think critically in that way was really refreshing and very helpful.”
Giovanna says the EO value she most identifies with is “Boldly Go”, and it’s easy to see why. Directors of the Extraordinary are truly taking risks, disrupting the public’s understanding and expectations of entertainment. Their goal is to reimagine what entertainment experiences can be, and deliver solutions that are really compelling and truly immersive.
“We’re really at the forefront of what’s being called ‘gamification’,” she says. “We’re genuinely creating a new marketplace, especially in the public entertainment space.” For Giovanna, one of the most valuable parts of the EO Accelerator program is being surrounded by people who challenge your thinking. “I can see the repercussions of what that has meant for us as a company…and the wins we’ve had along the way.”
While this has created opportunities for Giovanna and the Directors of the Extraordinary, she admits that such challenges may not be everyone’s cup of tea. She says the key to taking that feedback and running with it is “having a genuine openness to new information, to new people, and to have your thinking really challenged. If you can come to it with that attitude, the reward is definitely there.”