“Escape to Fairborn”, A game to drive foot traffic in city

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The city of Fairborn has partnered with Dayton software creator Mile Two to bring what is said to be the first-of-its-kind augmented reality (AR) game — a outdoors “breakout” game called “Escape to Fairborn” — in a bid to boost foot traffic downtown.

The open-air Halloween-themed escape game is a new mobile app, available on iTunes and Google Play — and you can get a preview of the app at the city’s Bluegrass and Brews Festival Friday.

It’s meant to be an immersive experience with an interactive tale, based on the history of how Fairborn was born — the merger of two villages after the Great Flood of 1913. The idea is to lead players to Fairborn’s shops, taverns and eateries, although the app is free and no purchases are required.

The game’s first full chapter will be available in October, the height of the Halloween season, when downtown Fairborn’s Foy’s shops are especially active.

The Bluegrass and Brews Festival begins at 4 p.m. Friday at 103 W. Main St., Fairborn.

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Ontario Britton, Mile Two director of mobile product development, likened the app to a digital “breakout room” where players have to figure out how to escape or break out, beating the clock as they do.

Only the “room” is downtown Fairborn.

“Main Street is the room,” Britton said. “It’s an open-air escape room.”

What you’re “breaking out” is Frankenstein — players help the digital character avoid an ever-rising flood (tying back to the Great Flood of 1913) and defeat a secret antagonist.

“You have to go up and down Main Street to solve this conundrum,” Britton said.

Rob Anderson, Fairborn city manager, said city leaders want to pull people downtown. Britton said the game is built to intentionally draw people to specific locations — but players don’t have to buy anything.

Still, downtown businesses can participate, linking bluetooth beacons to the app to invite players in for a drink or a sandwich. Players are free to pause the game, and if they, say, get a meal at Tickets, the business could add minutes to the game or add other incentives.

The game’s first full playable chapter will be released in October, with additional layers — more puzzles, characters and destinations — being added as time goes by.

Said Britton,”We definitely want to give it some depth.”

Fairborn is the first Miami Valley community to try this, Britton said. Tonia Fish, Fairborn revitalization strategist, believes the city is the first anywhere to use an AR game as a development tool.

Could Mile Two do something like this in downtown Dayton or other cities?

“Tonia and I have talked a lot about partnering (with other cities) in the future,” Britton said.

“We could expand the game across the region,” Fish said.

Mile Two co-founder and partner Jeff Graley literally pulled Fish out of a food truck line during Dayton’s “Start-Up” week in June to run the idea by her, according to those involved.

“The moment was just right for us,” Fish said.

Anderson says the Halloween season and the city’s downtown itself are perfect for the game. Fairborn prides itself on an easy-going downtown, where parking and walking are relatively stress-free.

“It’s manageable,” he said. “We’re not a 20-block downtown. You can get from one (side) to the other very quickly.”

Fairborn has taken downtown investment seriously, with the city purchasing unused commercial properties along West Main Street and elsewhere for redevelopment. A business incubator is being built today in the 300 block of West Main downtown.

“We’re telling the story of Fairborn through this app,” Anderson said.

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