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On October 1, the Museum of Ancient Wonders (MoAW) will unveil the virtual reality (VR) escape room experience, Escape The Lost Pyramid, created by French gaming company, Ubisoft. Produced by VR studio Pro VR USA, the experience is set in the world of Ubisoft’s action-adventure video game Assassin’s Creed Origins and tasks participants with finding their way out of an ancient pyramid. 

Located in Coachella Valley, MoAW itself has a store of both replicated and genuine artifacts that bring to life ancient civilizations from Greece to Africa, including 124 life-sized replicas of objects found in Tutankhamun’s tomb (including a chariot, shrines, jewelry). For Derek Etten, CEO of Pro VR USA, it was at MoAW’s King Tut exhibition that he saw the possibilities of merging the physical with virtual reality; the VR experience, as he saw it, “would fit in perfectly.”

Set in the world of Assassin’s Creed Origins, Escape The Lost Pyramid tasks participants with finding their way out of an ancient pyramid.  Image: Pro VR USA

From next month, visitors to the exhibition will be greeted by four mobile VR stations anchored by gaming PCs. Players can choose to play in teams of two or four, and as they attempt to escape the lost (and fictional) pyramid of Nebka within 60 minutes, other museum visitors can observe the gameplay on attached television screens. According to Etten, this is MoAW’s first VR escape room offering.

But it’s not the first time that museums and gamified entertainment have intersected. Last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art became the first major US cultural institution to partner with a Chinese gaming IP (Games for Peace), and more recently, the Pokémon Fossil Museum toured institutions across Japan. MoAW’s use of onsite VR demonstrates the potential for the technology to reconnect audiences with cultural venues, particularly in a post-COVID climate.

Shots from the VR game, which museum visitors can play in groups of two or four. Images: Ubisoft

“I think a lot of people want to just escape reality,” says Etten. “After all that we’ve been through, they want to get out and do something different. VR is still fairly new technology as far as the general public is concerned. My goal to bring virtual reality to the general public and get them to experience and understand how much fun [VR] is.”

That fun should also hopefully revitalize and modernize an ancient world for a contemporary audience, further engaging and immersing them in Egypt’s history and mythos.

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Based on the general reception to Escape the Lost Pyramid, Etten says MoAW and Pro VR USA are considering staging VR experiences every other month, further expanding on the hybrid offering. “We might produce [VR experiences] where people use VR equipment and travel around to different locations according to the museum exhibits currently running,” he says.

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CultureTech, Museums & Cultural Institutions