This past week the New York Times published an article about Brock Enright, a Columbia M.F.A. grad who founded Videogames Adventure Services, a company that “that constructs ‘reality adventures’ for paying clients”. Despite what yomyomf.com readers may think – they don’t peddle in sexual fantasies. Instead their services sound like the equivalent of a live action, interactive “choose your own adventure” novel for those who seek their thrills from being kidnapped as opposed to bungee jumping (that’s so 1990s). Their clients tend to be a well-heeled set and will pay $5,000-10,000 to be the star of scenarios choreographed and acted by Enright and his team.
Apparently, Enright started with kidnappings but phased them out considering them too “one-note, cookie-cutter”. Now, his adventures have become more elaborate and not surprisingly, inspired by Hollywood movies. One client, David paid $5,000 for a superhero fantasy where “he was forced through a labyrinth of puzzles and endurance tests and charged with the welfare of a female client (a V.A.S. plant)”. Enright considers his work part performance art and part therapy for his clients and I suppose he’s not completely wrong when considering that one woman, Margo paid him $7,000 to take her to a “dark place”. Her adventure is pretty astonishing. Apparently to work out her father issues (which she disclosed to provide Enright fodder for his R&D), Margo was harassed by mysterious men, threatened with torture, and then put on a plane to Germany where she participated in a stage production and was the “victim in a simulated rape”.
While I was first shocked that people would pay good money for this service and was disturbed that it was so perversely indulgent, I have to admit it’s a pretty brilliant business idea. Clearly Enright has cornered the market preying and exploiting the neuroses of upper crust New Yorkers in the midst of their mid-life crises. But maybe, I could sell this to the Asian American market. Indulge me for a bit – here are some of my ideas for adventures catering to Asian Americans or anyone else, who would rather forgo the Sylvia Plath or Patty Hearst-inspired package from Enright and instead, buy some good ol’ fashioned escapism and wish fulfillment to purge those anxieties.
Which adventure would you choose?
SIMULATION #1 – THE CHOSEN ONE:
PERSONAL PROFILE: You had to work your butt off to be an A- student. You lived in the shadows of all the A+ kids that surpassed them and endured years of shame being told repeatedly that you were doomed to a life of mediocrity. You also had no musical talent. No amount of practice was going to help you read music or bang out tunes more advanced than ‘Chopsticks’. You were cursed with being “well-rounded” – you could play some sports, write for the school newspaper, and draw fairly well. But your parents considered “well-rounded” merely a euphemism for, you got it- mediocrity…And as for college, forget Harvard or Yale. Your only hope is Dartmouth.
ADVENTURE: The day begins with your high school graduation. You are valedictorian and are called to give a speech. Only, all you have to say is “welcome everyone, and thanks for being here” which garners a standing ovation from the crowd. Your parents – Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh are beaming from the front row. President Obama presents a leadership award and honors your achievements with a rousing speech. You are then flown to New York as Bill Moyers has come out of retirement to interview you. He invokes Joseph Campbell’s writings and frames your life story as the hero’s journey for the millennium.
SIMULATION #2 – JACKASS FOR A DAY:
PERSONAL PROFILE: Face it – your parents kicked your butt when you grew up and you’re still bitter. They brow-beated you into getting top grades, deprived you of a social life, and swatted your fingers with the chopsticks if you were not hitting the right notes on the piano. Now that you are older, they still kick your butt. They grill you about finding a husband/wife/having grandchildren. They guilt you for not making enough money to buy a bigger house that allows you all to co-habitate. They continue to berate you in advance for sending them to that hypothetical retirement community in 2030.
ADVENTURE: You are sitting in your childhood bedroom and your parents are watching tv in the living room. You hear a knock on the window. It’s Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera who summon you to escape to Las Vegas and film some stunts at the MTV music awards. You crawl out the window (who knew how easy it was?) and jump in their ridiculous souped-up, low-rider, hot rod that looks like a clown car on steroids (especially with Wee Man, Steve-O, and Chris Pontius crammed in the back). You cruise to a tiny airport with a private jet awaiting and climb aboard with the guys. During the flight, you have your first class dinner of artisanal beers, Jidori chicken hot wings, and Doritos. While at the awards, operation havoc is initiated and your job is to sneak up and give “The Rocky” to Tia Tequila and the entire cast of Jersey Shore as they sashay down the red carpet.
SIMULATION #3 – WANTED WO/MAN:
PERSONAL PROFILE: You have been working in a 4 X 4 cubicle since you graduated college. It is your 20 year anniversary at your job and your nerdy colleagues celebrate by papering your walls with 100s of inch sized Post-its that spell out “Yellow Power”. Your skin has a jaundiced tan from the fluorescent lights and computer screen glow. You keep a sleeping bag and some MRE’s under your desk for those 5 nights out of the week when you work overtime.
ADVENTURE: You are in your cubicle having your usual tuna fish sandwich lunch at your desk. It’s a good day as your roommate packed you some homemade chocolate chip cookies. Suddenly your cell phone rings and you hear a voice – it sounds oddly familiar. You ask yourself – why is Darth Vadar calling me? No, it’s someone else…he tells you to get on the floor. Okay…Suddenly there’s commotion in the office and someone asking for a Mr./Ms. Lee. That’s you. The voice on the phone tells you that you must listen carefully if you want to live. He gives you instructions on how and when to exit. Oh, right – you recognize the drill. But it’s different as it’s your movie, not that hapa guy’s. You see the agents – it’s not Hugo Weaving, but close enough. You make your way quickly down the aisles. But there’s too many of them and they have you cornered. You see no other escape than through the window. You know you have to try that crazy jump-through-the-glass-like-a-Chinese-Olympic-diver stunt. You’ve seen a million variations but the best were performed by Angelina Jolie (even if you’re a guy, you’d also want to look as good as Angelina Jolie). You do it and before you hit the ground, you wake up soaked wet in a bathtub…