Last week, we sat down for a Zoom catch up with Tourism New Zealand’s Australia General Manager and mad keen mountain biker Andrew Waddell. He’s been overseeing the roll out of PLAY NZ – an innovative campaign showcasing New Zealand in a gamified, open world context. New Zealand Mountain Biking played it’s part by shooting and providing footage of trails in Rotorua, and adding an exciting element to overall user experience.
Thanks for talking with us Andrew. Firstly, whats the concept around PLAY NZ?
PLAY NZ is a world first with New Zealand “virtually” opening it’s borders to the world to allow the visitor to experience New Zealand through a gamified virtual experience. It’s “Gaming, Not A Game”, using an immersive, open world experience using the narrative of a “walk-through” film of New Zealand in real life where people can experience that from the comfort of their own home.
What kinds of experiences and regions will the user experience on this platform?
The video itself is a really innovative way of telling a story of the visitors experience of visiting NZ. So, the visitor arrives in NZ as a stranger, lost in the bush and he/she meets characters through the course of the story, and each of those characters introduces him to a new experience or “quest” in gaming terms and that experience increases their health and well-being aspects as you normally would in real travel and by the end of it they are invited into a bach for dinner and a dance. They arrive as a visitor and leaves as whanau.
Can you give us an example an experience or “quest” the visitor has in the “game’?
In the realm of Rotorua, the visitor arrives and he meets Tane, the protector of the forest. Once he’s given a short cut, the first experience he has is a mountain bike ride down a couple of trails in Rotorua (New Zealand Mountain Biking contributed to footage of this). The ride down is POV (point of view) footage as well as third person, and is gamified so they get points as they head down the trail.
After the mountain biking”quest” the experiences that follow are flying over Lake Tarawera as a hawk and rafting on the Kaituna (with Rotorua Rafting).
Through this gaming world view, the idea is to replicate, to a degree, the real experience a visitor would have if they were to visit here in person.
Give us an insight as to how this concept was created.
Well, Tourism NZ has always explored new and innovative ways to be a world leading and authentic destination story teller and gaming has been on the rise for a few years – it’s now the biggest entertainment industry in the world. At the core of gaming is entertainment, engagement and playing with others. The other key aspect of gaming is that it crosses borders and connects people in an exciting way.
So during lockdown the ideas around people connecting and needing play were crystalised and as people were unable to travel, the hustle and bustle of the commute disappeared, people stayed close to home. There was much greater play at home and universally we understand that people are connected through play of any kind. So we brainstormed how play could come to life in a virtual tourism context and developed it from there. So we’re not actually asking people to travel to New Zealand for obvious reasons, but we are bringing to life the idea of play and using this an invitation to come here in the future.
What types of experiences were you looking to showcase in each realm?
We were looking for experiences in New Zealand that related to that open world and gaming context, so we inevitably landed on more action and adventure based activities such as mountain biking which features footage kindly shot and provided by you guys there at New Zealand Mountain Biking. Because of the single track nature you can capture and it’s interaction with the natural environment, especially through POV filming, it’s certainly one of the more captivating quests the viewer can experience.
In some ways you could say, given the situation we find ourselves in, this seems to be an appropriate fit for current times.
Yeah, that’s right – we’re respectful of the context the consumer is in, but we also believe that they don’t need to be reminded of the situation either. So, it’s consumer in context – not “consumer in COVID”. We strived to understand that and be true to that principle and bring NZ to life in a light hearted, entertaining and exciting way.
How can people find PLAY NZ?
PLAY NZ is live across Tourism New Zealand social media, playnz.com.au
Thanks so much Andrew, all the best to TNZ with putting this cool concept out to the world and we’re looking forward to seeing you back in New Zealand at some stage so we can all go riding together!
Find out about more about New Zealand Mountain Biking, our mtn biking skills clinics, and our mountain bike rental in Rotorua.