New concessions klaxon!

New concessions klaxon!

We've updated our concessions list to include: Students, 16 and Under, Emergency Services, Education, Carers and Social Workers, and Military. Check out this blog to find out more.


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Decision Time

Many hands make heavy work.

For big decisions, like hiring, it's worth involving as many people as we can and taking as much time as we need. For those, we have to optimise. But for a lot of others, we should be satisficing instead - the most important thing is that we make a decision that's not obviously stupid, and we make it right now.  

So here's how we do it:

0) Setup. We're probably in the context of a Quest, which means that we have a Guide already appointed. Otherwise we pick one (usually Gwyn or Amy if available). 

1) Introduction. The Guide defines the problem to be solved, and defines the maximum amount of time available to solve it. "What are we doing with Shadow scheduling? We can potentially extend, or add another season, or both, or neither. We have until 12:50". 

2) Discussion. The Guide keeps this moving. If other discussions come up ("wait, are we extending Undercover as well?"), the Guide makes the decision to Switch ("Right, this is urgent, we're switching to dealing with this weekend's Undercover") or Queue ("We'll resolve Shadow, then talk about Undercover"). The guide tries to terminate the discussion early as soon as it looks like there might be consensus, possibly using Fist Of Five.

3A) Consensus. Everyone agrees, or the people who disagree agree to be overruled ("I think you're probably wrong, but I'm not sure enough to make an issue of it").

3B) Tiebreaker; time has expired and there is no consensus. Gwyn puts the CEO hat on (this is an actual hat). Each side restates their position and reasoning. The CEO makes an instant decision. Discussion of this issue ends until we have new data (which, if the CEO decided wrongly, might be quite soon). 

4) Document. The Guide writes down the decision and the reasons (so that, when we've forgotten, we don't have to repeat this process).

 


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

How We Audition

Though both need actors, immersive games are very different to theatre. In auditions, we're evaluating people on three axes:

a) Character Fit

We have a sense of the character in our heads already. For example, in Shadow Over Southwark, Lord Mayhew's brief is:

"Genuine action hero. Decisive, capable, charismatic, and fearless. The kind of person you'd follow into battle. Proxy for the players.

Ideally 35+, tall, muscular. Any gender.

Mayhew loves London and all the people of London - rich, poor, and in between -  and s/he will defend them to the death. He’s Henry V rallying the troops (he knows it too, he will happily quote some Shakespeare), total Alpha, can wither someone from a distance with a stare. He is a protector and will put everyone ahead of himself, but will sacrifice a friend for the greater good. He once faced off a whale in the Arctic circle, huddled with a pride of lions during a cold night in Kenya, and has a lover in every Borough because he also possesses Bond-like charm. He needs, nay, deserves, a catchphrase. Will flirt with all players."

Can this actor realistically portray this character, both physically and in terms of personality?

b) Skill

Regardless of the particular role, is this actor skilled? Can they project, speak clearly, move well, respond to direction, and handle improvisation?

c) Professionalism

Can we rely on this person? Do they arrive on time (or tell us if they can't), know their lines (or tell us if they don't), and work well with the often-stressed stage manager? Do they remember details? Can they handle the pressure?


Where we're different to theatre is that we will absolutely sacrifice (A) in order to get (C) and (B). The most important thing about an immersive game is this: it has to work. Being out in the real world with players who have genuine agency already introduces so much uncertainty into the system that there's no room for any more. We are building a relatively small, tight, trusted crew of people who can handle anything that we throw at them, and that goes for our actors as well as our infrastructure team.

In our general hiring, we start with a Job Spec like everyone else - but once we find amazing people, we absolutely mutate the spec to fit what they can, and want, to do. The same goes for actors - we find first-rate people and build roles around them. 

And if that means we have to rewrite the script, so be it.


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Magic Process Dust

[A followup to Squishy Human Fails At Task]

Once you get the team used to "people don't fail, processes fail", you're still only halfway there.

The next thing that happens, with the best will in the world, is that people report failures and add the sentence "we'll change the process so that this doesn't happen again", as a sort of get-out-of-jail-free-card.

But it's not a card. It's a rock hammer. Process change is the tool, but you still have to do the work.

And, like in debugging code, if you don't know why something failed, you yet don't know why its replacement will also fail - but you're doomed to find out. 

So, though it might seem that I'm being unnecessarily precise, even finicky, I'm actually just trying to get the answers to four questions:

1) What was the old process?
2) Was it followed? (If not, what makes us think that the new process will be?)
3) In what way did it fail?
4) How does this new process address that way?

Anything else is just Magic Process Dust.


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Self-Destruct Sequence Activated

How do you get people out of the office?

I'm sure it happens at other companies too. Everyone agrees it's time to go home but nobody is actually walking out the door. Little unclosed loops keep popping up - "oh, before we go, what about ... ?" or "I have a great idea! We should make a ... "

It's all great stuff but we need to be gone. All of this stuff can wait until tomorrow. It'll be just as exciting then and nobody will be late for dinner.

Yesterday I tried something new: I thumped an invisible Big Red Button on the wall and announced: "I have just activated the office self-destruct system. Anyone still here in thirty seconds will be blown to bits. Thirty. Twenty-nine. Twenty-eight. ..."

I kept the countdown going, and it worked. We all made it out, windows closed, lights off, door locked and into the corridor with eight seconds to go.

I'm now seriously thinking about building an actual Big Red Button that does exactly this. Might be useful for lunchtime, too.

 

 


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Squishy Human Fails At Task

(part of an ongoing series on Fire Hazard's internal systems and culture)

People don't fail. Systems fail.

Actually, that's not quite right. People fail all the time. They fail so often and so consistently that it's not fair, or even useful, to call it failure. When I left my lunch in the fridge and cycled to work, I failed. When I didn't notice that one of the checkpoints had code R128 but the sticker said R129, I failed. When I didn't realise that we'd double-booked a crewman and we ended up running one person down, I failed.

But acknowledging inevitability doesn't mean acceptance. Fire Hazard maintains a relentlessly high standard - and we really care about everything we do, so every time we drop the ball, even in minor ways that players might not even notice, it hurts. 

As a policy, saying "I will make fewer mistakes", or, worse "You! Make fewer mistakes!" doesn't work. We're all working really hard, and promising to work harder or check more carefully means nothing. That dial's already at 11, and has nowhere further to go.

Humans are wonderful, creative, adaptable creatures. But even the best are also squishy, forgetful, and prone to mistakes. We have to deal with that. 

 

That's where the robots come in. Fire Hazard makes a three-pronged attack on human frailty:

1) AUTOMATE

Save the humans for the jobs humans are actually good at. Automate the rest. Our internal systems do as much of the heavy lifting as possible, from crew scheduling to generating stickers, player IDs, and even missions. Any task that can be automated should be; relentless, dead-eyed metal monsters never forget, never tire, never get distracted. 

2) SYSTEMATISE

If we can't automate a task away completely, we build a system around it, like a powered exoskeleton for the human to wear. It could be as simple as a checklist on the door, or as complex as the auto-generated warning messages in our stage management system. The systems' job is to prevent failures, but also to catch failures before they propagate. Planes don't crash when something goes wrong; planes crash when three things go wrong.

3) INVESTIGATE

"We don't tolerate screwups" is a very different statement to "we don't tolerate people who screw up". Every incident or near-miss triggers an investigation. It could be as simple as a two-minute cross-desk conversation ("Wait, how did that just happen?") or as involved as a whole-team-hour, but one way or another we need to know how the ball was dropped, and what robots or systems will stop it from getting dropped again.

The crucial bit is that we don't care who dropped the ball. And not in a touchy-feely "it's all OK, we're all friends" way, but in a hard-edged, rational, "that is not relevant information" way. Squishy Human Fails At Task is not news. Bad System Fails To Protect Us From The Consequences, that's news.

In the short term, this process means that seemingly inconsequential screwups slow us down ("Sure, the briefing was a bit late. It's out now, players are fine, why are we having a meeting about this?"). In the medium and long term, it's why we have a reputation for steadfast quality in an industry that doesn't - and why we don't have to remember to send the briefings ever again.

Because, now, steely-eyed machines send them for us. 

 

 

(Image from Titanfall)

Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Midnight Recce

Heatwave? Can't sleep? Haven't managed to go for a run today? Good time for a zone recce!

We haven't even built the zone for Shadow Over Southwark yet and I'm pretty sure it's going to be our best ever. Unlike last year's event, this one takes place entirely in the woods. 

It'll also be the first Citydash game where we're requiring players to bring torches. (Well, lanterns, oddly-glowing orbs, and night-vision gear also accepted). Most of the zone is covered by street lighting to some extent - but think dim yellow glows with long, oddly-shaped shadows, not fluroescent-day-bright. 

And note that I say "most". You could play Shadow and stay entirely in the lit area, and there'd be plenty to do. But if you want to win it, or you're up for a more intense experience, there are a few pitch-black trails. In a few days, Amy will write about what might be waiting for you there..

 


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Introducing: Elizabeth

 Photo by Beth Dooner

Photo by Beth Dooner

Hi! I'm Elizabeth (aka Ziz) and I am one of the new hires on the Fire Hazard team. I have been here for about a month and I felt it was time I introduce myself and talk about what I have been doing for Fire Hazard. 

I am a Masters of Fine Arts student at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. My focus is on live games and audience agency. My favorite book at the moment is Gareth White's "Audience Participation in Theatre: Aesthetics of the Invitation." My dissertation is well on the way and I am happy to have found work in my field of study.

At Fire Hazard I have had two main tasks so far: Restarting Test Fire and Updating Raiders.


Test Fire Reboot

Test Fire happened for the first time in a year on Sunday and a great time was had by all! The afternoon started with everyone grabbing drinks and a few plays of "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes."

After which we had a couple talks with discussions by Gwyn and myself. Gwyn discussed how not to go insane while running a small games company. I talked about my dissertation work and we collectively pondered whether or not we have free will. Another topic was whether players need to be able to "die" or "lose" for a game to be a game. It got quite philosophical by the end.

There was a quick playtest of a new Citydash game. Gwyn is actively looking for ways to adjust Citydash to make it a slower, sneaky game with almost dumb movie or video games guards. I got to play one of the guards and was surprised at how easy it was to get into a patrolling gait and follow a strict path for about thirty minutes.

We ran out of time at the venue but people followed us to a nearby pub to talk about monsters for Shadow Over Southwark. I am already scared. 

One change for next time is that we all go bouldering afterwards!

I am looking forward to continuing heading up this project. If you have any thoughts about whether it is necessary for players to die, or maybe what is the scariest monster, or what games we should play next time, drop me an email! It will be great to keep the conversation going.


Upgrading Raiders

The other project has been doing a full upgrade to Raiders of the Lost Archive. A new plot treatment with exciting new puzzles and encounters. I can't talk too much about it right now as it is still in progress, but it is very exciting! 

I have been spending a lot of time with my new friend, the Kodak Carousel Slide Projector. I have also just submitted an order for 35mm slides. 

What I can share with you is that I am having a great time as Miss Rackharrow, the stern but intelligent secretary of The Wingback Society.

Well this is Ziz, signing off for now. Please do tell me of your existential agency crises or philosophical thoughts on death in games or favorite kinds of archaeological puzzles! As always my email is elizabeth@fire-hazard.net.

--Elizabeth


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Advice to Undercover Players

An Undercover player just emailed me for advice on what skills to be practicing. Here at BIRD, we're already impressed - preparation is key to a successful mission. So if you're playing Undercover, here's what to think about:

The key skill is remaining undetected. You might want to think about how you'd change your appearance quickly (on the assumption that someone who has a photo taken ten minutes ago is looking for you), or how you'd linger in an area without appearing to be loitering. Also look for clever hiding places for small dead-drop envelopes and think about how you could place or retrieve things without being spotted. Finally, if you had just a photo of someone and had to find them and follow them, how would you do it?

Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

I'm On Offence

In a world of infinite to-do items, you need some way of categorising them to make sure that no area of the business is being neglected.

In a past life, we used to structure work into Strategy, Operations, and Infrastructure. That's a useful way of thinking about things, but we're a games company, and those aren't fun words. We need something else.

So we call it Offence and Defence.

 

On Defence, you're trying to stop things from going bad - or in some cases, stop them from getting worse. Defence tasks are incoming missiles with their own deadlines; for each one, your only options are to shoot it down or soak the damage. 

If you don't do enough defence, you die quickly and spectacularly.

For Fire Hazard, defence tasks include things like "prepare the Undercover game on Saturday" - it has to happen, the deadline is fixed, and if we don't do it, we're going to end up with a smoking hole in the ground. Or "pay the VAT bill". Or even longer-term projects like "the rota is getting thin; run a recruiting round".

We've had plenty of moments when the entire company is on defence at once. But if you do that for too long, you'll win every battle and lose the war.

 

Offence projects are optional; they don't come with their own deadlines, and nothing particularly bad will happen if you don't do them. They're attempts to strengthen the business, or to grow or capture new territory - anything from "let's make the Raiders plot better" to "we should be running regular games in Edinburgh". 

The tricky bit is that, where Defence projects are a matter of choosing a too-small subset of a too-large pool of obvious threats, Offence ones are creative. There are a thousand things we could do to make a dent, and a thousand ways of doing any of them.

It gets harder: you can fire something off and not know, for months or ever, if it was a hit. Probably half of our Offence work is wasted, but we don't know which half. And sometimes it's a boss fight without a health bar - we can see that we're doing a lot of damage, but we can't tell if we're winning.

But if you don't do enough offence, you die slowly, through stagnation and irrelevance. 

 

The exciting thing is that, with a full-time crew of 5, Fire Hazard finally has plenty of defenders. I often get to start the week with "You guys have got this. I'm going on offence."

Let's get 'em.


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

How We Work: Energy

"ENERGY: Move fast. Be big, loud, dramatic and decisive. Avoid delays. Keep the energy high."

We move fast, all the time, for two reasons:

1) We have to. Arts and entertainment companies exist right on the edges of financial feasibility. We don't work long hours, so to cover salaries we have to work, consistently, with incredible speed and efficiency. And for the company to remain relevant, we have to constantly produce new things. 

2) It's really, really fun. One of the reasons we're doing this, not corporate jobs, is because making dramatic things happen on a timescale of hours rather than months is awesome.

This affects how we work. We have a concept called momentum: how quickly a big project is moving. It's doubly important because "an object at rest will remain at rest ... an object in motion continues in motion". With a project, or company, where everyone is used to moving quickly, it's much easier to continue to move quickly.

Everyone finds their own ways of building and maintaining momentum. Here are some of mine:

Put The Big Rocks In First

Faced with one big project and a thousand tiny things to do, the temptation is to do the thousand things first - to clear the decks so that you can focus. 

This doesn't work. By the time you've cleared them, there'll be another five hundred. Though you're ticking off tasks, it's a false sense of productivity, and the big project is losing momentum.

If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all.

If at least some of the thousand things can genuinely wait for a day, put some blocks of time in your calendar where you only work on the big project. I try to do this twice a week, usually wearing headphones to avoid distractions.

Don't Wait

This one is unusual; an experimental Fire Hazard policy that I haven't seen anywhere else. I'm serious about giving it a shot because I think it's potentially very powerful, but we might end up changing it.

Work is full of dependencies. Normally this looks like: "To do X, I need Y. Only Bob can do Y. I'll wait until Bob gets around to his bit."

No. Don't wait. If Bob is available - which is likely, if we're all in the office or on slack - get him to do Y right now. But if he's not:

  •  Find a way to do Y yourself, or 
  •  Find a way to do X without Y, or
  •  Find a different X that doesn't need Y, or
  •  Find someone else who can do Y, or 
  •  Abandon X and do something else.

Do this even if the new version is not quite as good, or even if it take you slightly longer to do Y than it would have taken Bob. It's worth it, both in the short term (preserving momentum) and in the long term (you've just learned how to do Y better).

Can We Do It Today?

This one is about changing expectations. I've worked for, and with, larger companies where the expectation is that if we're doing something, we'll do it on the timescale of weeks. "I'll get back to you on that" means "I definitely will, but it might be a few days, and I expect to hear from you a few days after that". 

All it takes to change this is a question, asked routinely either of yourself or of anyone you're working with: "Can we do this today? If not: what would we need to change so that we can?"

Often the answer is "oh, hell no", but it's worth continuing to ask the question.

Reject, Don't Queue

This is another dramatic departure from normal corporate 'yes' culture. Larger companies are made of specialists; only Bob is really good at X, so if you need X done, you have to ask Bob to do it. Bob won't say no (because everyone wants to help out), but if he's really busy, it'll go on his list and he'll get to it when he gets to it. Because Bob is an optimist, he'll probably tell you that he'll get to it soon, but he might not, and meanwhile, the project stalls.

We're a bit different. We're a very small, cross-skilled team (most of us could, at a pinch, do any job in the company, or could learn to do it quickly). Plus we have many different things we could work on, and it's more important that things are happening quickly than that any particular things are happening. 

So, as Bob, asked to do X, you should respond by either:

  • Doing X. Yeah, now! Let's go!
  • Putting X in a very short queue ("just finishing this, will be about an hour").
  • Advising that the queue is long and unknown ("I don't have an ETA for this")

This will often trigger Don't Wait on the person requesting X. It also helps to expose when people get overloaded - instead of ever-growing queues, we get active job rejections, so we can rebalance the workload.

If X is non-urgent, non-critical, and the end of a task chain (ie there is no Y that depends on X), then we might still opt to put it onto the end of a long, unknown queue and forget about it.

Named Person

We don't have fiefdoms; we all work on everything. But if Everyone is responsible for something then nobody is (the bystander effect). So each project has a named person who is responsible, not necessarily for doing it, but for making sure that somebody is - that it keeps momentum, and that we don't forget about it.

Death or Glory

Low-momentum projects not only achieve nothing, but they drain the energy out of other projects around them, by getting us all used to moving slowly. If we start a project, Death or Glory are the options: a project that cannot be progressed quickly should be terminated.

(Not necessarily permanently, and not necessarily destructively; we stash all the work-in-progress in a way that we could pick it up again in the future if things change).

We do not submit to the sunk-cost fallacy.

We're serious about this. It has recently happened to:

  • Dockhead (a potential office location; the landlords were consistently slow in responding so we abandoned the project and moved elsewhere, even after masses of prep work)
  • The Alliance (a new game in development; paused by Gwyn after realising that we just didn't have the resources to progress it quickly)

TARGET SELECTION

Working here, by and large, should be fun. But still: don't work on the thing that will be the most fun to work on. Work on the thing that most needs doing right now. 

(Save the really fun thing for when you've Gotten Something Done and need a break)

Focus Fire

As a company, we want to work on the smallest number of projects simultaneously that we can. It's both more fun, and more productive, to ship something every couple of days than to deliver a huge pile of work ... sometime ... a month or two from now. 

The smallest number is not, unfortunately, one. This would be inefficient due to:

  • External delays. If we're waiting on someone else and can't go around them, then with only a single project, we'd have nothing else to work on and would be forced to idle.
  • Tripping over each other. 

We'll adjust this, but my current feeling is that the right number is one to two projects per person. Anything else stays on the Ideas pile until you've shipped one of your existing ones.

Dependencies First (and In Parallel)

Most projects come with external delays. Even after applying Don't Wait, some of these will remain. 

For example, Project Test Fire includes, among other things:

  • A) Check speaker availability 
  • B) Find out ideal dates/places from the members (via mailing list survey)
  • C) Find a venue
  • D) Choose a date
  • E) Organise everything

The trick is to plan out the project in advance, thinking through where the delays are likely to be - and then to make sure that they happen:

  • First, and
  • All at the same time.

Task E above is the largest, but A, B, and C all come with delays. The opening salvo should be to start the clock running on A, B and C all at once (and this is a relatively quick thing to do).

Whenever you're not working, you especially want the clock to be running on the delays (so the project is still moving). So if the lasercutting you need is going to take three days, and you know that you're going to be away for three days, arrange things so that you get that order in first.

Generally anything that involves talking to or working with people outside the company should happen at the start of the project. It's often a good idea to burn extra work-hours to save clock-hours - ie to structure the work in such a way that's actually less efficient, but faster.

For example, don't contact Venue 1, wait for them to respond, then contact Venue 2 if the answer is no - contact them all and go with the best (or first!) response. Get a quote for the lasercutting even if we don't, yet, know if we're going to need it.

 

 

This is a starting point. We'll keep changing how we work, since we're a tiny startup in an uncertain world and we don't even know what we'll be doing in six months. But whatever it is, we'll be doing it quickly.

 


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

The Best Kept Secret

A while back we launched our Concession tickets on the site so stealthily that it seems like not even all our crew know about them!

Anyway: if you're a student / artist / on a low income / under 16 / in a big group or anything else (yup, we have an "other" category) and need concession pricing, you can get into our earlybird games for a £15.

We also have community events like Camp Fire and Test Fire that run at cost, and occasional charity games.

We're also doing £5 tix for local residents as well (credit to Secret Cinema for the awesome idea).

Building a fun, positive and sustainable community for immersive games is what we care about, and we want everyone to be included. I'd love to hear comments, thoughts and ideas! 

Update: Local Residents tix are live!

- Gwyn (founder, ticket-system-designer and occasional crew-non-informer)


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Playing In London

The most important thing for us is that everyone is having fun - players, crew, passers-by, onlookers, and the general public. It's why we do this.

We've run Citydash several hundred times in a dozen different cities now, and had a huge amount of positive feedback from the public, as well as players. It's great to see people getting involved, pointing out players to the crew (or the other way around), shouting out hints, distracting the patrols or even helping with the search.

We encourage all our players and crew to be sensitive to what's happening around them. All of our crew have the tools and responsibility to take any area out of the game for any reason, including "I don't think this is fun for everybody".

We're always on the lookout for interesting, beautiful, and overlooked spaces to bring this kind of energy to. We do very occasionally get this wrong - some of the Hammersmith checkpoints were on streets and gardens that form part of a large, open, but nevertheless private, estate. For that game they weren't immediately deactivated on the day either by the crew member in that zone, or by the stage manager. I don't yet know why. 

As far as we know nobody was negatively affected - it was a bright, sunny Saturday and our players are a fun, easygoing bunch - but I really would like to hear if anyone was! I'm sorry about this, and we'll sort it out.

We completely redesigned the Hammersmith zone for the following week's game, as well as updating our internal zone-setup guidelines to watch out for this kind of thing. I sent the new map over to the council, the residents' assoc and the local police, to make doubly sure.

Also: Yup, the hivis is easy for people to spot, but it isn't the greatest idea. We've ditched it. (The 'security' caps were gone already). It's bright-orange "game" tshirts now!

Meanwhile, I'm chatting to the local residents' association about running a (free, obviously) private event for them. We'll do our best to make things right. 

(And I've updated the site to make our concession tix more obvious. It's important that this is for everyone).

As always, please do get in touch with comments/concerns/ideas! We really care about getting this right - it's important that everything we do is fun for everyone.

- Gwyn (founder, occasional player-chaser and zone-designer) 


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Spy Training: The Intercept

The hardest mission in Undercover London is the intercept. You'll be given a photo of your target and some coordinates. Find them, follow them, wait for them to make a drop off, and then steal it. Obviously, don't get made - or you may find yourself collecting a decoy.

Since November, 1429 intercepts have been attempted, and 275 of them have been successful. If you can pull this off, you're well on the way to enrolment in BI(RD).

Ingenuity, creativity, and your own personal style of spycraft count for a great deal, particularly in this hardest of missions, but here are some suggestions from our senior spies:

* Look different. Even if your target is not aware that you have been assigned to intercept them, if they have seen you before, they will be suspicious. Change your appearance often, especially if you encountered your target at an earlier Rendezvous.

* Split up. If you're operating in a pair, you can observe twice as much territory. Be aware, though, that solo loiterers tend to draw more attention than pairs.

* Watch for diversions. A strong Dropoff tactic is to have one half of the team pretend to drop fake documents, drawing the Intercept away. 

* Don't rush it. A confirmed visual on your target is exciting, but keep your cool, and don't move in on the package until they're well clear.

Think you can beat the odds and pull off an Intercept? We're waiting for you


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Always Watching: Celebrating 1000 New Recruits

London is full of spies.

We started running Undercover, our real-world spy game, last November, and since then we've had more than 1000 players!

In this image, we blow all of their cover, at once. This montage is made up of the recruitment photos taken at your first rendezvous.

Not that we expect that this will cause any difficulty. The heart of good spy work, and strong Undercover play, is disguise. We've had people switch jackets, switch wigs, stash an entirely new outfit in a locker nearby before the game, and even shave (!). So while you might spot an agent in that image, you're unlikely to spot them in the field.

Or perhaps you can. If you'd like to find out if you have what it takes to be a covert operative, Undercover runs every weekend in Leicester Square - get your tickets here

 

A high-resolution image for analysis is available here

 


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Forward in Time (Run)

(no spoilers here)

It's immediately clear that this is something different.

In the 'time travel lab' that serves as reception, our guide won't drop character for asecond, even while he confiscates our phones and runs us through a safety briefing. We have a mission, the names of some characters who will be important - framing for the challenges ahead. Then there's a video briefing, delivered in a darkened room with huge screens at each end, and the clock starts.

We run into the first room of three and, without revealing too much, we're all immediately impressed. This isn't a room, it's a set, a coherent space that just happens to contain puzzles, rather than a playroom of puzzles that happens to have some set dressing. There's heavy use of technology, and it all works, which is much harder to achieve than it seems.

Each room varies, but the puzzle space is typically broad rather than deep, with enough things to work on simultaneously that every member of the team is busy. This lets everyone find their place, with some more story-oriented members of our team getting up to speed on the backstory (via the classic 'audio log' mechanic imported from computer games) while I scrabbled to re-wire a power supply.

We're being watched, and our voices monitored, throughout. This takes some getting used to. But it means that hints are presented on screens in-character as needed, avoiding the immersion-breaking of the usual CB-radio-to-the-crew. And they're done cleverly, with a light touch - on a hard puzzle that we made steady progress on, we were left alone for 15 minutes, but when we missed a key object in a cursory search, it was pointed out to us quickly.

As a part of Fire Hazard, I believe that game mechanics matter far more than aesthetics, and I'm often disappointed to see them sacrificed in the name of 'immersive experience'. Not here. The mechanics are tight, the product of (as I learned later) countless rounds of testing and tweaking.

This is the leap forwards in time that I've been waiting for. There are a lot of escape rooms out there, but Time Run is leading the next wave - Escape Room 2.0, if you will - by adding story, tech, and higher production values to a successful formula, without letting the gameplay slip.

Active entertainment is more popular than ever, with a Crystal Maze reboot in the pipeline, Slingshot doing something with biometrics, and Fire Hazard building new high-energy, physically active games.

I can't wait to see what happens next.


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Tradecraft - Secrets of the Spies

DETECTING SURVEILLANCE

"Knowing whether you are being followed or watched is a basic element in any espionage activity. There's no point being a spy if your opposition follows your moves and know what you're up to. You would then become an instrument of the opposition, subject to manipulation."

  • Be observant without staring or rubbernecking.

  • Pay attention to faces and clothes, particularly shirts, coats and shoes.

  • Design a Surveillance Detection Route (SDR) that is both logical and will force the opposition to show themselves.

  • Know in advance what you will do if you confirm surveillance.

  • Remember: 'Once is coincidence, twice is enemy action.'"

DISGUISE

"Good spies like to go unnoticed, know what the opposition is doing, be able to switch identities, have good comms with agents, and be prepared for all eventualities, including emergencies. What tools or gadgets will help with that?

Let's start with disguises: They run the gamut from wigs and moustaches to full-blown face masks. But also includes glasses and different clothes (try a cleric's collar). In short, whatever it takes for the opposition, which already knows what you look like, not to recognise you.

The number one rule with disguises: Do not choose one that attracts attention. Don't wear that clerical collar to a nude beach! Don't wear sunglasses in the rain! And don't wear a cheap moustache past an Immigration inspector!

The simpler the disguise the better. You'd be surprised how a simple pair of glasses can change your appearance. Or how much just combing your hair a different way creates a new you. Combine both and you've altered your facial appearance quite a bit.

Now for the body: Carry a brief-bag with a jacket and pair of shoes inside. Change in the restroom; anyone watching would probably not recognise you coming out."

SIGNALS

"Two principals about signals:

  1. KISS. For "keep it simple, stupid." The simpler and easier a comms plan, the easier to execute it.

  2. Signals must appear natural. A tossed orange peel near a newspaper vending machine is always better than a red flag in your window!

So, your tools: Chalk, bottles caps, orange peels — and tacks for sticking on telephone poles. Have these tools with you before you travel; don't wait to buy them when you need them."

GOT ALL THAT? THEN LET'S DO THIS!

Our Undercover experience will let you try out your tradecraft for real. We're running weekly in London and also in Adelaide! Get your tickets now.

Excerpts are from Basic Spy Tradecraft by Edward Lee Howard. Image credits.


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Tradecraft - Secrets of the Spies

Detecting Surveillance

"Knowing whether you are being followed or watched is a basic element in any espionage activity. There's no point being a spy if your opposition follows your moves and know what you're up to. You would then become an instrument of the opposition, subject to manipulation."

  • Be observant without staring or rubbernecking.
  • Pay attention to faces and clothes, particularly shirts, coats and shoes.
  • Design a Surveillance Detection Route (SDR) that is both logical and will force the opposition to show themselves.
  • Know in advance what you will do if you confirm surveillance.
  • Remember: 'Once is coincidence, twice is enemy action.'

Disguise

"Good spies like to go unnoticed, know what the opposition is doing, be able to switch identities, have good commo with agents, and be prepared for all eventualities, including emergencies. What tools or gadgets will help with that?

Let's start with disguises: They run the gamut from wigs and mustaches to full-blown face masks. But also includes glasses and different clothes (try a cleric's collar). In short, whatever it takes for the opposition, which already knows what you look like, not to recognize you.

The number one rule with disguises: Do not choose one that attracts attention. Don't wear that clerical collar to a nude beach! Don't wear sunglasses in the rain! And don't wear a cheap mustache past an Immigration inspector!

The simpler the disguise the better. You'd be surprised how a simple pair of glasses can change your appearance. Or how much just combing your hair a different way creates a new you. Combine both and you've altered your facial appearance quite a bit.

Now for the body: Carry a brief-bag with a jacket and pair of shoes inside. Change in the restroom; anyone watching would probably not recognize you coming out."

Signals

"Two principals about signals:

  1. KISS. For "keep it simple, stupid." The simpler and easier a commo plan, the easier to execute it.
  2. Signals must appear natural. A tossed orange peel near a newspaper vending machine is always better than a red flag in your window!

So, your tools: Chalk, bottles caps, orange peels — and tacks for sticking on telephone poles. Have these tools with you before you travel; don't wait to buy them when you need them."

Got all that? Then let's do this!

Our Undercover experience will let you try out your tradecraft for real. We're running weekly in London! Get your tickets now.

Excerpts are from Basic Spy Tradecraft by Edward Lee Howard. Image credits.


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Finding My Tribe

Why am I even doing this?

I'm waist-deep in gravelly mud that somehow manages to be sticky, slippery, and sharp, all at the same time. I flop onto a ledge like a seal emerging from the sea, roll gracelessly to my knees, stagger over the wall of earth and bum-slide into the muddy trench on the other side. That's five down and what looks like another twenty to go.

My usual answer is "I'm doing this because everyone else is". But there's no one else here. It starts to feel pointless.

My backup answer is "because I said I would", and that gets me through. But not quickly. I've entered the last wave of Nuclear Rush - the only wave that didn't sell out - alone, and for long periods I'm the only runner I can see.

I'm surprised by how much difference that makes. Far from speeding me up - I have an unobstructed run at every obstacle, with none of the momentum-sapping queues at other races - it's actually slowing me down. Even at the very end, my final approach is more of a hero-walk (imaginary explosions bringing down the course behind me) than a triumphant finishing sprint.

I've done some serious races. I like to imagine that I'm tough, independent, rugged. That's one of the reasons I do these things at all. But it's just not true. As it turns out, physical performance depends not only on the obvious creatine and glucose, nor even the slightly less obvious psychological factors, but on social factors as well.

Maybe that's only news to me. I've always thought of running as a solo sport. I love the isolation of long-distance training - the experience of being three hours into a four hour loop, headphone batteries long dead, the last familiar landmark miles away, and nothing but footsteps and thoughts for company.

But I do get the start-line buzz, that incredible energy of being surrounded by hundreds of people who are - I've finally realised - my tribe. Ultimately, they might call it a "race", but we don't run to beat each other.

We run to be with each other.


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!

Nuclear Rush: The Hard Way Down

They call it the Death Slide, and I'm standing at the top. In fact, I've been standing there for some time.

I need to get moving. But - jesus - the slide is almost vertical for the first few metres of its 20-metre drop, before curving sharply and launching racers out into a lake.

I'm standing in silence, considering my options. There's no pressure from the marshall at the top. Nuclear are serious when they say "It's your race". In some other events, I reckon they'd have pushed me by now.

She does mention, delicately, that there's a big group coming up and I probably want to go before they get there. Two more runners appear and immediately slide down as I watch.

There's nothing stopping me from turning around and climbing back down, but I haven't come this far to do 95% of a race. When the next pair of runners arrive, the marshall counts down from three, and I go with them. For some reason it's easier that way.

It's over in a second. We hit with a splash, and are met immediately by two serious-looking guys in drysuits. "Everyone OK? All swimmers?"

I'm already calm, almost fully recovered. It's not the falling, it's the jumping.

"I'm fine. Heights are my problem, not swimming."

If I was expecting criticism, I don't get it. The medics are focused, already watching over the next racers.

But I don't get off as easily as I thought. Later, I scramble up onto another high platform and stop dead. There's no way down except a slippery vertical pole, a metre away from the edge. The waiting marshall sees my Spartan Beast t-shirt and assumes that I'm much better at this than I actually am.

"You know what you're doing?"

"Falling to my death, apparently."

He adjusts instantly, patiently talking me through the process of leaning out to the pole and wrapping my legs around it. Another marshall waits at the bottom, ready to catch me, but I don't need it. The physics are easy; it's just the psychology that's hard.

It happens twice more, with a tall, mud-slick, tilted wall that threatens me with a spine-cracking backwards fall. The marshall gives me a boost up, then - more importantly - helps me figure out how to climb down. And just before the finish, there's a weird, angled pole-slide that looks far more dangerous than it actually is.

This is important because, each time that you fight your fears and win, you get slightly stronger.

(If you lose, they get stronger. Better not to fight than to lose.)

Nuclear Rush gave me four scary encounters with heights in a single race, each with warm, patient and extremely competent support. The next time I face the Death Slide I'll still be scared of it. But I won't be scared for quite as long.


Hey there, we're Fire Hazard!

We make high-energy games in the real world, because life should be exciting. Anyone can play. If you're looking for an adventure, come to one of our games!