Beer ye, Beer ye: A new, immersive, outdoor, fantasy video game-themed drinking theatre experience is coming to Denver this summer!
Created by local circus theatre group Rainbow Militia and art and media collective WeAreDenver, Beer Quest is a drinking game that combines 2D fantasy with immersive open-world play, theatre and, of course, beer.
“It’s a chance to kind of let go and forget about anything that’s happening in the outside world or anything we went through in the last year and a half and just enjoy themselves,” said Amber Blais, Rainbow Militia owner and one of Beer Quest’s executive producers. “And I think that’s what’s most magical about it.”
The adventure takes place in an enclosed area of 16th and Welton, about a square half-block in area. Groups of 4-6 will meet off the mall to conquer riddles, games and other challenges. Your quest? Help the 2D wizard Drinkledore rescue his missing dragon friend, Sheila.
“Usually, it’s slay the dragon and save the princess,” said Ryan Foo, a cofounder of WeAreDenver and another executive producer. “And instead, you’ll be saving the dragon.”
Foo has had experience with gamified events. Every year for his birthday, he organizes an event called ILLFOOMINATI, a party that gathers hundreds of people to drink and play immersive games.
“It’s always a kind of, ‘if video games were real life’ scenario,” Foo said. He knew earlier this year that he wanted to continue to build on that concept. This last spring, he brought the idea of a gamified beer drinking event to Rainbow Militia, and together they came up with an idea for a fantasy experience akin to Dungeons & Dragons, but with beer.
Renaissance themes tend to be a bit Eurocentric, Foo said. To break away from that, they decided to bring the narrative into a 32-bit video game world.
“Ryan was really passionate about bringing in a worldview, and kind of taking bits and pieces from all different fantasy realms throughout the whole entire world to make it really inclusive, versus just Eurocentric,” said Staza Stone, Rainbow Militia co-director and another Beer Quest executive producer.
What they came up with was an experience that toes the line between a virtual 2D fantasy world, and our own. At the start of the game, questers are introduced to a digital realm home to elves and dragons and wizards. When a portal opens up between two worlds, Drinkledore enlists the help of players from the 3D realm to find Sheila the dragon, his dear friend who has wandered through the portal into our world to sample the far superior selection of beer we have here. Drinkledore guides questers on their journey with the assistance of Beer Quest characters, who help train players to fight a final boss and complete the quest.
“They’ve opened a portal, and they’re sort of smashed their world into ours,” Foo said. “And so what you’re gonna see is a lot of 3D and 2D mesh. It shows up in the costuming of the characters, and shows up in how the games take place.” For instance, Heather Kroggemann of Alien Earth Design designed some of the show’s costumes and props to appear pixelated.
How it works:
The game blends corporeal and virtual elements to function as a sort of real life open-world video game. Questers wander, explore, interact with different parts of the set and with the characters. They perform challenges using props, uncover Easter eggs and scan QR codes for additional guidance or clues. And they’ll navigate the world by talking to characters played by Rainbow Militia and Denver Black Actors Guild performers. Like Sheila, the characters have wandered into our world through the portal.
“They’re just excited about all of the beer possibilities,” Blais said. “Because in Beer Quest, there’s only one beer, and it’s pixel beer. And nobody likes it.”
Each character is assigned to a designated location of the enclosed play area, and will guide players through a different challenge. Each location is sponsored by a different local brewery, including New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger, Raices Brewing and Weldworks, and has different beers you can try. Players can compete in challenges like “dodgeball with shields” to win beer or in-game currency called Dragon Scales, which can be used to buy more beer and other prizes, or even to tip performers. There’s also a currency exchange (one Scale is worth $2) and a beer passport, if you want to sample all of the beer, and you can earn bonus points if you come dressed in “hero chic” apparel.
While players are working towards rescuing Sheila, they’re also tasked with winning beer for Sheila.
“As everybody knows, dragons have the unique ability to turn beer into manna,” Foo said. “So you’re also just helping her generate her manna so that stuff can happen.”
At the end, questers will face off with a final boss by playing a motion-based video game designed by Meri Burgess. It’s similar to the Xbox Kinect, or the EyeToy. A camera will register players’ movements, allowing them to manipulate the 2D world on a screen by moving their bodies.
The quest will end in the Champions Beergarden, a separate space for players to gather, celebrate and drink more beer after they’ve completed the quest. However, the level of service you receive there might depend on how well you do in the game.
“Don’t fail at the game and you’ll be fine,” Blais said. “You’ll be a champion.”
There’s also a beer garden during the day open to the public from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. And while the name of the game is Beer Quest, its producers say you don’t need to drink to play. You can win merch and nonalcoholic beverages in the challenges, and there’s also a Designated Driver discount for players who don’t drink.
There are infinite ways to play the game.
The actors are constantly improvising and testing the players. You can negotiate with them, ask them questions or bribe them. You can also cheat, if you want, though you risk either penalty or reward, depending on what the character thinks about it.
“Characters are built. They have a backstory. They know who they like and who they don’t like. They have this really, really rich history,” Stone said. “But how that will play out with the guests will be completely unique every single time, because we can’t predict what people will do. And that’s really fun for both the actors and for the audience.”
Foo says there are a ton of hidden Easter eggs in Beer Quest. He says what makes the game special is the novelty of it.
“There’s a moment that you’ve never experienced before, something you stumble onto that maybe no one has stumbled onto yet in the world. And there’ll be things hidden in the world that some people may never find,” Foo said. “As producers, you have to be at peace with that. Like, oh, we set up this whole cool backstory, and no one figured it out. But the thing is that if you if you design things that way, if there’s this ethos of novelty, if there’s this sort of intention of going in, figuring things out and exploring, then the people who do stumble onto it, even if it’s 5 percent of people, it’s gonna feel really authentic. And that’s what we are shooting for.”
Stone says she hopes the game will give people the chance to be surprised after a year and a half of limited opportunities for adventure.
“People just really haven’t had a chance to play, especially with others,” Stone said. “So I think that that is like the most important element is it’s giving people the opportunity to just play, to play games to be surprised to be caught off guard and just really to indulge in that side of themselves that a lot of people don’t indulge in to begin with, but especially during this whole past year and a half, they just haven’t even had the opportunity or ability to.”
Beer Quest shows run from July 15 – August 1, start at 6 p.m. and last 75-90 minutes, though players can stay and drink in the Champions Beergarden until midnight. Tickets are $35-$45 per person and are available on Beer Quest’s webpage now.