Saturday, November 22, 2014

Colab's Fifth Column, 30th October

I had really low expectations of CoLab’s Fifth Column before I went due to various things I’d read, and even these weren’t met. I feel like the whole set up had a lot of potential but the way it was carried out fell way short of what it could have been.

We had to gather at a meeting point and then ‘rendez-vous’ with a contact and give them the secret phrase. That part was promising, even though we were given the wrong contact and password to begin with. We were then explained a fairly complicated backstory which already put us on the backfoot, exchanging glances, worried about what we would have to remember. It turned out we had to remember very little as for the whole of the event we were basically shepherded around and had very little involvement in the storyline or what unfolded. This confused our group as we thought there was at least some element of interactivity in the first half and that it might be up to us to push the plotline forward. We kept hesitating to regroup and consider what had occurred, much to the exasperation of our ‘agent’ who basically just wanted to make sure we got to the designated end venue in time.

Some of it was fun – we were all given walkie talkies and an agent number and while we pursued the group we were going to infiltrate, we had fun saying ‘Roger’ and ‘Copy that’ and ‘we’ve been made!’ to each other. But none of it meant anything. There was no real infiltration, or even interaction, with the group we were following – they were just another set of paying participants, put on a slightly different story arc to us. So we followed them around for about an hour, hanging back. At one point someone with a suitcase came along and we took it, but we didn’t have to figure out how to open it or what it all meant – we were just lead to the ‘end game’. At one point our agent gave us a secret word and we all had to run, but we didn’t run to anywhere in particular and no one was following us. It was just running for running’s sake. Nothing happened. I was nonplussed.

The end game was a secret lair where the hackers we were infiltrating and us agents were meeting to bring about the end of this shady organization, the ETF. We had been told the ETF had been controlling most of the world’s funds, using it to start wars and assure England’s continued prosperity. For the first time we had to do something. And time was running out! Only it wasn’t and all sense of urgency was ruined when their WiFi wouldn’t work and so the emails we were ‘hacking’ into wouldn’t load and we couldn’t get the secret password. I could sense a lot of people clocking out at this point. Finally we somehow managed to connect and we put the password and various ‘keys’ into the mainframe and set the scene for the finale. Which – unsurprisingly – was a bit of an anticlimax. There was a scene where a double agent was revealed. This should have been quite touching as it involved betrayal within a married couple, but due to rather poor acting and a lack of built-up affinity with the characters, it was just somewhat awkward. Then our lair was under threat – a SWAT team was on the way – we all had to get out, get out now! And that was the end. I expected at least some sound effects of gunfire or explosions to get the adrenaline going, but there was nothing.

I think they could have included much more interaction during the first half which would have made us buy into the second half. They gave us way too much information to start – this could have been fed to us throughout the evening, by using more characters to interact with – and even just giving us a couple of clues to solve would have greatly improved this evening. The problems with technology in the lair really did jolt the continuity and I just didn’t buy into the urgency or consequences they were trying to foster. We were supposed to be bringing down civilization as we knew it but it didn’t feel like it. If these guys and Agent November could get together, they might have something pretty special, but as it was, I wish I hadn’t wasted my money. 

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.