Celebrity Reflection introduces new video game technology at sea
Reflection cruise. (Celebrity Cruises / July 16, 2014)
For those who are familiar with the cruise industry, the Celebrity Cruises brand of ships from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is known for its luxury at sea. Celebrity also tends to attract an older demographic than Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian and Disney. So it's interesting to see that on its newest ship, the Celebrity Reflection, new video game technology has changed the way passengers interact.
Over one quarter of American gamers are over the age of 50, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). While the Nintendo Wii has become a mainstay across most cruise lines, including Celebrity, the company has developed brand new video game tables for passengers of all ages at its Game On lounge.
"Instead of the old run-of-the-mill card game rooms that we've had on older ships, guests now have a new multi-sensory touch screen experience with our Game On tables," said Paul Baya, cruise director on the Celebrity Reflection. "These tables have been designed so that we can add new games over time."
Right now, the tables come programmed with eight games that would appeal to an older demographic, as well as families. The games include titles like Bumpers (a modern version of marbles), Checkers, Word Power (a variation of Boggle), Think Faster (a Concentration-like match game) and Moving Puzzle (a video puzzle game).
What's cool about these tables is the multiplayer capabilities. Up to four players can compete on one tablet in games like Snag 'Em, which is a variation of the Bejeweled genre of casual games. But up to six tables can be connected wirelessly to allow 24 or more people to take part in games like Team Draw. This game is basically Pictionary (or Win, Lose or Draw) without the markers and drawing board. Instead, you draw on the touch screen with your fingers (there are even different colors to choose from) until someone types in the correct answer.
According to Ivonne Paris, manager of product development for Celebrity Cruises, the goal in designing these exclusive gaming tables was to create a state-of-the-art, interactive, digital environment where guests can play on their own or socialize with friends. Paris added that the games were chosen to provide a balance of nostalgic games in a modern digital platform.
I was able to play all of these games and it was interesting to see how this new technology created a different dynamic for Pictionary. I've played the traditional game on a Carnival cruise and for those who want to be "green," it eliminates all that waste of paper and markers. It also eliminates the shouting dynamic of a team guessing. Playing the video game version keeps the room as quiet as a library, which I'm sure the people playing real card games on their own non-video game tablets appreciated.
It's obvious that gaming has infiltrated all age groups and that casual games are now ubiquitous across mobile devices, Smart TVs, consoles and even cruise ships. Interactivity has opened up new ways for passengers to become a part of what traditionally were very passive activities.
Baya, who also serves as the entertainment director on the Reflection, said a new audience response system allows guests to partake in instant polls through wireless devices in everything from karaoke competitions to the Who Wants to be a Millionaire comedy game show.
"As guests walk into the lounge they're given a handheld unit and as the trivia questions go up on the screen, they can vote in real-time," said Baya. "It even tracks who's the leader in the room. It really involves the guests in a unique way, as opposed to just your old comedy game show. It's really using the technology into the comedy game shows themselves."
Another testament to the adoption of gaming and tech to a wide range of consumers can be seen in how Celebrity embraces the Apple iPad. Guests can pick up a free iPad at the front desk and use it throughout the cruise to unlock info and video content on the $1 million art collection that is on display throughout the massive ship.
"I've seen technology change the cruise experience a lot over my 18 years out at sea," said Baya. "Even our restaurant, Qsine, uses an iPad as a menu. Guests can see the food and wine and watch videos before using the device to order their meal."
If passengers don't have a new iPad or iPad Mini, they can buy one at sea (tax free). The Apple iLounge offers a room filled with 22 Macs for staying connected with email and social media. It also serves as an Apple store that sells everything from iPods to MacBook Airs.
"We do tend to cater to an older demographic and many of them want to know about Apple products," said Irene Bowers, iLounge manager on the Celebrity Reflection. "Many of them get the iPad or iPhone for the first time aboard board the ship and they have a lot of questions that we offer assistance with. We also offer classes for all Apple products during the cruise so they can make the most of this technology."
The cruise industry is constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses with each new ship and technology -- and gaming -- is a key driver across just about every line. Celebrity shows that gaming is part of our lives, regardless of age, even when we're on vacation.
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