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Enter an Otherworld, interactive art space open now

Linda Lee Baird

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Otherworld is located at 5819 Chantry Drive in Reynoldsburg, and is now officially open Fridays – Sundays! To learn more about what Otherworld has in store, read our (614) Magazine coverage below! 

Remember the OASIS,  from Ready Player One, the immersive simulation game that sucked in players around the globe to escape from their dull existence? Columbus might have just gotten a step closer to that virtual reality. At least the escape part is down.

Check out Instagram highlights from people around Columbus here.

I need an escape. It’s a classic winter-in-central-Ohio gray day when I turn into the enormous parking lot of an abandoned strip mall off of Brice Road—a layer of fog has settled five feet above the pavement, and the faded lettering of a former Office Max marks the building in front of me. In the middle of the gray is a futuristic and intriguing sign: Otherworld. I park next to a car with the license plate “MORBID 1.” Despite the fact that I haven’t yet entered the building, I’m already transported.   

Jordan Renda, Otherworld’s Creative Director and Founder, takes me on a tour of the building—formerly a Sports Authority—that’s being transformed by a team of designers. Their goal is nothing less than developing a brand-new genre of “gamified” entertainment. Renda describes it as a combination of an escape room, a role-playing game, an art installation, a children’s science center, and a haunted house. “It’s an interactive art installation that’s tied together  with an overarching story,” he said. “We’re sort of blending all those things together to create something that’s totally new.” 

When visitors arrive, they’ll learn their role in the story that’s about to unfold—serving as beta testers for a company called Otherworld Industries.  “This company’s been developing this new sort of technology. It […] manifests this dream realm. So you’re unlocking this archetypal dream world that you can explore and go through,” Renda said. Visitors may also choose to follow a different path to  learn the backstory of the company. In total, there will be roughly three-hours of content to explore.

As we walk through the rooms, Renda shares more about who—or what—will inhabit them. Expect to meet a 19-eyed creature whose orbs can track you, a seamstress in a room of spiders, a monster with an oversized bed, and a botanist experimenting with wild plants (Renda describes him as “Willy Wonka meets Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty.”)

Even without having met these characters, I’m taken in by the design. With light projections, fantastical creatures, infinity mirrors, interactive control panels, and a central surreal-looking tree, Otherworld functions at a core level as a giant immersive piece of art, designed to be enjoyable even if visitors don’t want to solve any puzzles. 

“A lot of this tech is just emerging where we can actually make a whole room change around you by, like, the touch of a small button,” Fabrication Director Leland Drexler-Russell said. “There’s an interactive, or multiple interactive elements in every single room.” These features include spiders whose legs visitors can control and gems that guests can explode. There are even opportunities to influence other visitors’ experiences. 

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While Otherworld aims to be something entirely new, it’s inspired by the creators’ experiences with different forms of immersive art. Renda and Drexler-Russell both credit visits to City Museum in St. Louis as a formative early experience with large-scale interactive exhibits. Renda also spoke of attending Haunted House trade shows. “As a teenager I thought, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be great if you could add a story to this, add some themed elements,’ ” he said. 

I wondered whether Otherworld could be compared to immersive theater experiences where guests wander through the set, often staged in multiple rooms, watching bits and pieces of story unfold along the way. Drexler-Russell confirmed my hunch, but added that in this case, the story is told with video and audio logs instead of actors. “It’s kind of like immersive theater, if it was combined with like a Burning Man art installation and a role-playing game,”Renda added. 

Renda felt Columbus was the right place to bring Otherworld to life, and not just because of the abandoned retail space that’s available. “There’s a lot of people looking for, you know, culture, cultural activities like arts and entertainment, so it seemed like a good spot to do it from that angle,” he said. Our proximity to other large cities also convinced him. “We’re looking to not only attract people from Columbus, but to make it more of a regional thing.”

With the uptick in interest in escape rooms and other forms of immersive entertainment, it seemed to Renda like the right time to take things to the next level. “There’s so much information coming at us all the time; we just need to be interacting with it somehow,” he said. 

How far Otherworld’s guests will take these interactions remains an open question, even to the designers. As the storyline and the art evolve, so do the possibilities for the experience. It’s “taking that idea of this immersive entertainment and really branching it and seeing where the limitations are,” Drexler-Russell said.  

So how many levels could this world go? Plan a visit to Otherworld and find out for yourself.


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Things To Do

How accurate are these “12 extremely weird things only people from Ohio do?”

Regina Fox

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Every state has its own antics—Kentucky has country music, Colorado has recreational marijuana—but how accurately do these antics represent the general population?

Only In Your State recently put together a list of "12 Extremely Weird Things Only People From Ohio Do" and we're wondering how many of these are actually things people from Ohio do and, more importantly, how "extremely weird" are they, really?

Check out the list below and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

1. We often randomly yell out “O-H” and fully anticipate an “I-O” reply.
2. We spell our state’s name with our arms and take a photo—no matter where we are.
3. We avoid ALL things blue and yellow.
4. Many of us use the term “pop” instead of “soda.”
5. We eat large amounts of shredded cheese and chili on top of spaghetti…
6. We also dip our French fries in our Wendy’s frosty…
7. We sometimes use the AC and heat in the same day.
8. We can’t seem to agree on the way that “wash” is pronounced.
9. We usually give directions based on a location’s proximity to a major city and we give them in time increments, not miles.
10. Buffalo Wild Wings is “B-Dubs” to us.
11. Stores such as Meijer, Kroger and JC Penney are referred to in possessive form.
12. We have the epitome of a love/hate relationship with our state. We relentlessly make fun of Ohio while claiming it’s the best state there is.

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One of Columbus’ best shopping experiences returning for 2 special events

614now Staff

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SPONSORED

So often, the Christmas season is equated with stress—finding the perfect give for everyone on your list is no easy task! But, Carrie and Chelsey of Not Your Mama's Craft Market use their experience as both makers and shoppers to transform your anxiety into amusement with fun, festive, and fabulous offerings from creatives in and around Columbus.

Not Your Mama's Craft Market, voted one of the best shopping experiences in Columbus, is returning for two very special events this holiday season you won't want to miss.

The first market—the annual BIG Holiday Market— will be on November 23 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the Short North. With over 90 vendors flexing their creative muscles, this will be the perfect opportunity to cross everyone off your Nice List while also avoiding the mall (which, let's be real, can be a bit hectic this time of year).

Doors open for VIP shopping at 10am- 11am for $3 at the door. Admission is free from 11am- 4pm with swag bags available for $7 while supplies last! Profits from swag bag sales will benefit She Has A Name, a nonprofit helping victims of human trafficking right here in Columbus.

The second —the Village Lights Market— will be held in the Schiller Park Recreation Center on December 8. The event will coincide with the Village Lights Festival to add even more sparkle to your season! Enjoy eats from local food trucks and fun freebies throughout the market. There will be more than 100 makers at the outing, so you're sure to find something for even the toughest Christmas cookie on your list.

Admission is free from 2pm- 8pm.

What's more? (614) Kids Club + Jeni’s Ice Creams Made Stand are joining in on the fun!

(614) Kids Club will be on site during both events with the tools and crafts to help kids make cards for our Holiday Card Drive to help spread cheer to those unable to spend the holidays at home. Jeni's Made Stand will also be set up at both markets to support Jeni’s mission to raise the next generation of young entrepreneurs.If you start to feel overwhelmed or exhausted by the impending holiday, remember: Not Your Mama's Craft Market will always have your back. Be sure to mark your calendars and learn more at notyourmamascraftmarket.com.

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Winans Chocolates + Coffees is your source for the perfect gift this holiday season

614now Staff

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SPONSORED

Finding the perfect gift for all of the important people in your life can be a challenge. From a secret Santa at the office to the loved one who has everything, the stress of holiday shopping can be overwhelming. If only there was a surefire hit that is just right for all occasions...

For four generations, Winans Chocolates + Coffee has been the go-to for premium, handmade chocolates, freshly roasted coffees from around the globe, and gifts to delight everyone. This holiday season, Winans "12 Gifts of Christmas" has you covered with the perfect thing for those hard-to-please gift recipients in your life.

With a lineup of gift collections designed for personal gifting, corporate occasions, and even stocking stuffers, Winans has taken the guess work out of choosing the perfect gift. Winans also offers multiple size and price options in each category, providing a tailor-fit solution for any gifting scenario you might encounter.

With four locations to serve you in Central Ohio, including German Village, Downtown Columbus, Grandview Yard, and historic Dublin, Winans is the perfect place to score thoughtful, well-crafted (and delicious) gifts throughout the year. To learn more, visit winanscandies.com.

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