Relive your days on the playground

In January, Play Playground opened its doors inside Luxor Hotel & Casino, with the idea of bringing back the concept of play into adults’ busy lives. “That’s a very important part of our lives that’s missing,” says Jennifer Worthington, co-founder of Play Social, the company behind Play Playground. “There’s a joyful exuberance and energy you have as a kid. When you’re rushing onto a playground, running from the swings to the slide, to the bars. You’re able to make friends, you can go up to a kid and say, ‘Hey, let’s be friends.’” 

Worthington says this excitement is lost as we age. “World is kind of a gnarly place right now. We really wanted to create this environment that took you out of that, even if it’s for an hour, an hour and a half, to give you laughter and high fives and bring you back to childhood.” 

This is coupled with increasing levels of phone addiction—which she also admitted to suffering from—and reports of loneliness rampant in First World countries. According to a 2023 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, approximately half of U.S. adults reported experiencing significant levels of loneliness; this is even more pronounced in people aged 15-24. “Loneliness is an epidemic in our country, so we set out to create this environment,” Worthington says. 

The Gaming Experience

woman laughing
Play Playground’s Poker Parkour game. photo: Gaby Duong

The 20-plus large-scale games experienced at Play Playground are as hands-on as it gets. “These are not video games. This is not a Dave and Busters’ kind of experience,” she adds. 

Play Playground visitors will find games like Doctor! Doctor!, where attendees take on the pretend life of medical professionals (if they already are, they’ll feel right at home) who conduct transplants on a giant human-shaped toy, and Perfect Popper, which requires attendees to fit different shapes on a wall of similarly shaped spaces before the buzzer sounds.  

Worthington says the favorites so far are the ones that make people feel they’re on a game show. Like Bullseye Bounce, in which contestants jump from a trampoline onto a Velcro wall; and Poker Parkour, where you must balance on a beam while dodging large poker chips. 

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To land at the number of games now at Play Playground, Worthington and the Play Social team worked with sociologists to help design them, going through a “bazillion” options—physical games, memory games and word games—to find which ones best encourage social interaction.  

“We wanted to create environments that bring people together, and I think that’s why we’re a very special environment for events and team building,” Worthington says, adding that she believes people are over traditional get-togethers, where attendees stand around at bars or restaurants and nibble at hors d’oeuvres. “Now we’re giving them not only something to do, but the ability to forge closer bonds.” 

Play Playground offers a free flow experience—“we think discovery is part of the fun,” Worthington says—where visitors can move from game to game. For events and groups, Play Playground typically offers the experience in two- or three-hour increments, and groups can play as many games as they want within that allotted time.  

Play Playground is an ideal setting for what Worthington referenced as “competitive socializing,” like at Topgolf and Toca Social in the United Kingdom. “You can have the accounting department against the marketing department,” as she puts it. Each team’s points are displayed on a leaderboard on a jumbotron and large LED screens throughout the venue. 

Looking Ahead

Since opening in January, the current games are the same ones the team began with, but Worthington says games are movable, so they can be popped out and/or refreshed. “We’re learning what games need to be zhuzhed up a little bit to make them more fun. Every day, we’re making adjustments to the customer experience. I think in Vegas there’ll be less game turnover, but we do intend to refresh games and put in new experiences every year.” 

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Worthington says Las Vegas was always intended to be their launch point, not their only location. The opportunity for national connection among the Las Vegas venue and future venues in the United States and internationally looks like an exciting venture. 

“We have this amazing ability to connect Play Playground,” she says. “All the tech infrastructure is built so that the Las Vegas location can compete against the New York location and can compete against London. For international companies, there’s a unique opportunity there because you can take your groups to each of these cities and have an unbelievable international or national competition with everybody in their own homes. We’re really excited about that as we continue to expand our footprint.” 

Spaces and Branding Opps

woman stuck to Velcro wall
Play Playground’s Bullseye Bounce game, photo: Gaby Duong

Play Playground is 15,000 sq. ft. and is made up of the main floor space; a second-floor mezzanine that can accommodate up to 75 guests; the gymnasium for up to 100 guests; as well as a private space, which has additional small-scale games. Full venue buyouts are also an option. 

Not only are Bullseye Bounce and Poker Parkour the favorites, but they also provide great branding opportunities for planners, as each allows for branding on its interactive obstacles—the bullseye in the former and on the poker chips in the latter. Worthington says almost half the games are customizable for branding, as are the LED screens throughout the space.  

A shortened version of this article appears in the May 2024 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.