More initiatives of the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft
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More initiatives of the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft

Three Questions to: Elbphilharmonie concert hall about their online escape game

Hamburg's famous Elbphilharmonie concert hall recently released its first game - yes, you've read that correctly: Together with the Hamburg-based digital agency Pop Rocket Labs, they've developed an online escape game in which players must save a classical concert by solving puzzles. We've talked to Julika von Werder from the Elbphilharmonie's marketing team about the background of this project.

Julika von Werder from the Elbphilharmonie's marketing team talked to us about the development of their online escape game | Photo: Daniel Dittus

The Elbphilharmonie with its unique architecture and prominent location right at the water front of the Elbe river has quickly become one of Hamburg's best-known landmarks. Its multi-faceted concert program encompasses classical, jazz, international and popular music as well as many music education offers and draws in several hundred thousand concert goers and visitors per season, Hamburg residents and tourists alike.

All the more it came as a surprise to us when earlier this year a message appeared on our Gamecity Hamburg Discord server where more than 1,000 game devs from Hamburg and beyond connect to each other: The Elbphilharmonie Music Education department was looking for support in developing an online game. The basic idea: The player's help is needed so that a concert doesn't have to be called off due to some chaotic events unfolding behind the stage. Now, a few month later, the idea has become reality: The Elbphilharmonie produced a fully playable online escape game together with the Hamburg-based digital agency Pop Rocket Labs. And the summary sounds quite engaging: "A damaged instrument, an artist who has gone astray, technology that refuses to work – all that just a few hours before the concert is due to start! Can you help Nuria, the project leader, to save the concert?"

The Elbphilharmonie is not only a phenomenal concert venue, but also one of Hamburg's best-known landmarks | Photo: Thies Rätzke

The game is available for free in German and English: https://escapegame.elbphilharmonie.de/. It can be played either alone or as a group and takes about 45 minutes. All you need to play is a laptop or tablet device, headphones and an internet connection. Also, there's a nice bonus for everyone who manages to solve all the puzzles: A 20% discount code to experience a real concert in the Elbphilharmonie.

Julika von Werder from the Elbphilharmonie's marketing team told us about the background of this project and her experiences working on this rather unusual project:

A concert hall developing an online escape game - that might be a surprising combination for many. What was the motivation for the Elbphilharmonie to tackle this project?

The idea first came up during the Covid lockdown in Hamburg and Germany. During that time, the whole cultural scene was thinking about new digital formats. But we actually really started working on the idea after the lockdown - with the goal of making the Elbphilharmonie more tangible and showing how exciting the preparations for live concerts are. For concerts to take place here every evening, a lot of people are needed backstage who work together efficiently, react with flexibility, and often find spontaneous solutions. With the game, we want to give people that are new to the Elbphilharmonie as well as fans a peek behind the scenes. Because we know that you don't have to love classical music to be enthusiastic about the Elbphilharmonie.

You implemented your online escape game together with the Hamburg-based digital agency Pop Rocket Labs. Was it interesting for you to see how (game) developers work and to collaborate in such an interdisciplinary way?

Absolutely! Working with our colleagues from Pop Rocket was totally exciting for us and we really enjoyed it. Of course, a lot of times, we met in video conferences to discuss things like individual designs and puzzle mechanics, but on the way to the digital game we also produced some things together on site: For example, once we all have been around in the concert house together to take photos in which certain clues for one of the puzzles are hidden.

And yes, the input from other disciplines is always very interesting. We were pleased to see the creative and new ways in which the Pop Rocket team was thinking about our story and the individual puzzles and developed the ideas further. In the end, the result was better than we would have imagined in our first briefing.

Music plays a prominent role in many games, too, and soundtracks are often elaborately produced with orchestras. Do you have any concert recommendations that might appeal to gamers in particular?

There are many possibilities ... Especially if you just want to experience this great orchestral sound in real life, you have the chance to do so several times a week at the Elbphilharmonie. But there are also film music projects: On January 15, for example, you can hear the soundtrack from "Star Wars" live in the beautiful Laeiszhalle. And in June, electro artist Hannah Peel will be our guest in the Elbphilharmonie, who has already composed several acclaimed film scores - including for the "Game Of Thrones" documentary "Game Of Thrones: The Last Watch". We also regularly present silent films with live music as part of our Summer Festival.

Play the online escape game here: https://escapegame.elbphilharmonie.de/.

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