Entrepreneurial gaming

Date Published: 03.06.2020

Wadham entrepreneur Christopher Stylianou’s immersive gaming experience was gaining momentum in London earlier this year when lockdown hit.

Chris Stylianou

Having taken the plunge to give up the security of his career in banking in order to build his business, Chris (MPhys Physics, 2006) decided to approach the new COVID-19 normal as an opportunity to create a brand new product, built upon the same player-driven story principles, but designed within the constraints of the lockdown and optimised for players sitting at home with a computer and a monitor.

Agent Venture, an online immersive escape game, where the players function as the support team for a secret agent on a covert operation to infiltrate the office tower of an evil corporation, is the result. And its popularity has brought exciting opportunities for Chris and his four strong team. Chris started his professional career in banking, but it was more by chance than by choice. He graduated in 2010, when recession was in full swing and graduate jobs in short supply, landing a job on the accounting graduate scheme at Barclays. “I always intended to get out after I qualified as an accountant but the banking world always seems to generate incentives for you to stick around for ‘just a bit longer’. I knew that I was not going to get anywhere in business without taking risks.” 

I knew that I was not going to get anywhere in business without taking risks.

“When I had the idea for The Adventure Is Real, I’d had enough of attempting to climb the corporate ladder and wanted to focus on that. I lined up a contracting role that I could do during the day to then spend the rest of my time working on the business.”

“I’d had lots of entrepreneurial ideas but I never did anything with them because I did not have the skills. After a while I realised it is impossible to get going if you wait until you have the skill set. Make it happen and when gaps appear, find someone to help.”

For The Adventure Is Real Chris hired someone who was an actor, designer and experienced games master, and together they created everything. “We took a room in an old warehouse in Hackney Wick and turned it into an actual dungeon, stone walls, old bookcases, spell books, suits of armour, racks of weapons. We launched in October 2019 and quickly started gaining momentum in sales and engagement. By February 2020, we had grown to a team of five, including three actors. When lockdown hit, social distancing made it impossible to operate the business, but Chris was not going to be defeated.  “We generated a range of ideas and eventually settled on what became Agent Venture, our online immersive escape game where the players function as the support team for a secret agent executing a daring heist.” Using existing platforms, like Zoom and Google Drive supported by custom built websites that players can access, and involving actors to work with participants, Agent Venture has become a sell-out success.  Teaming up with DesignMyNight.com for bookings and secure payments, the team has already created an extended version in response to customer demand.   “This type of shared experience has very broad appeal for friends, families, colleagues, even sports teams,”   said Chris who has big plans for the future.

Already the business is generating revenue and Chris is able to think about growing the team, even in the current environment. “With more games masters we can have more than one game running at once and can offer more sessions at peak preferred times.” He is also planning two more adventures . “There are lots of creative opportunities for us to deliver creative, immersive entertainment via a digital platform.”

Any regrets about giving up the bank? “ I much prefer doing this to working in accounting but I regret not having done it sooner - I am naturally a cautious person and contracting gave me the opportunity to start my business. It is great to be creating something that you and your customers really enjoy.”

I much prefer doing this to working in accounting but I regret not having done it sooner.

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