How a 3-Year-Old “Gamer” Inspired the Magic Behind Today’s Hottest New Family Entertainment

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Twelve years after young Emily poked her mother, millions of visitors are discovering magic wands that really work in the world’s first life-sized interactive game in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “MagiQuest,” the brainchild of her mom’s company Creative Kingdoms, is a 3-D fantasy realm powered by imagination, breakthrough technology and a liberal sprinkling of pixie dust.

Denise Weston first began to see the possibilities of a revolutionary idea one Friday evening in October 1993. As a “playologist” consulting with Hasbro Toys, she was asked to test a prototype computer puzzle game with 3-year-old daughter Emily at home. Sitting down for the first time with mouse and monitor, the bright preschooler picked it up in no time. But Denise grew seriously concerned over the days that followed. Emily didn’t just love her computer game; she was addicted.

While making dinner that night, Emily left the game momentarily to ask her busy mom a question. “Hmmm, let me see,” Denise thought carefully, formulating a response. She felt a distinct, small poke. Then another. And another. She knelt down, now eye to eye with an insistent 3-year-old. “Emi, what are you doing? ”

“MOM,” she explained, “I'm clicking you, but you're not fast enough!”

“That was the AHA moment,” says Denise, smiling. “I realized this wasn’t good. Technology’s promise of instant gratification was about to put our relationship to the test. Emily was cranky, getting no exercise, and no longer interested in friendship. She was only 3 years old! My knee-jerk reaction was: no more games for my daughter. But the rational part of my brain understood that digital gaming was going to be a cultural tsunami.”

“Emily returned to the game. When she was halfway through her next puzzle, I secretly unplugged the monitor. ‘What happened?!’ she cried. I told her: ‘The game wants you to put a real puzzle together. Once you’ve done that, come back and tell our computer.' Emily eagerly found one and completed her mission. ‘I did it!” she proudly announced to the computer. Then POOF! The game “magically” came back on—that is, after I plugged it in again.”

“This is how it began. We discovered that digital games were ten times more fun when combined with offline activities. Her friends got involved. We called it “Launch Off;” a series of games and puzzles that started on the computer and launched into the REAL magic of play. 10 years later, with the help of Creative Kingdoms partners Rick Briggs and Jonathan Barney, this concept evolved into MagiQuest.”

MagiQuest... where a fire-breathing dragon lies hidden in a dungeon dark... a dreaded Goblin Warlord threatens the land while the hauntingly beautiful Princess searches in vain for her jewels... lost or stolen, she knows not which. Can you master the magical arts in time to save this fair kingdom?

Since June 2005, when the first MagiQuest opened its portals in Myrtle Beach, millions of visitors have been lining up to find out. More openings are scheduled this summer in Anaheim, California, and in Pennsylvania’s Poconos. For Denise and now teenaged Emily, as well as the millions of visitors who have already experienced it, this is literally a dream made real.

Guests enter a vast 20,000 sq. ft. realm powered by the magic of award-winning technology. Packed with over 150 dazzling wand-activated events, game-play is described as uniquely compelling. Like a kind of techno-scavenger hunt, each player charts his or her own course through any number of exciting possibilities.

“Players choose their own adventures,” says Denise. “Unlike video games, there's no sitting around; everyone travels through the game at their own pace, into different areas where quests lead them. Families are rediscovering together time here. MagiQuest uses futuristic interactive technology to bring people together in the best old-fashioned traditional ways, face to face and side by side.“

About Creative Kingdoms, LLC: Creative Kingdoms creates immersive play environments that weave fantasy into reality, by combining elements of fun, imagination, hands-on activities, storytelling and game play into one seamless experience. Playologist and cofounder Denise Weston, a licensed clinician specializing in play therapy, has been developing award-winning entertainment attractions for over 25 years, working with companies from Disney to Six Flags. She's appeared as a guest expert on talk shows, authored three books and written more than 75 articles on parenting. Denise has also served on Hasbro's advisory board while providing product development consultation to toy industry world leaders.

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