Posts Tagged ‘las vegas’

Spoilers: What is Omega Mart, really?

October 27th, 2021

In my previous post about Omega Mart I talked about it in general without any spoilers. 

Well now it’s time to dig in and discuss everything down to the last detail about Omega Mart with spoilers.

So if you want to avoid spoilers, STOP READING NOW.

 

Omega Mart

 

Yes, the above photo is of an actual sign inside Omega Mart. Seriously though: spoilers follow.

Getting in

As you enter Omega Mart, you’re handed a “Boop Card.” This is your employee badge of sorts. There’s no rush to become an employee and of course you’re not really signing up to work here.

I should point out that the real employees here have different roles. Some of them are actors, others are there to keep the place clean and safe. Regardless, guests need to follow their instructions.

What you see entering the store is a little under 1/4 of the total physical space you’ll go through on this adventure. To the left of the entrance is the bag check, and to the right is the checkout.

To be absolutely clear, Omega Mart is a real store in the sense that they have items you can buy. The only food items are things like snacks, cereal, and soda. Basically stuff that has a long shelf life. There are also gimmick boxes such as the mysterious “Done” and a can of something called “tattoo chicken.” The rest of the items for sale tend to be more gift shop items like t-shirts.

Oh and yes there’s also a typical gift shop. It’s located outside of Omega Mart though.

Back to the store. If you walk in and straight to the fridges in the back, on the left there’s the bathrooms, elevator, and stairs. To the right is the hall to the pharmacy, which is the location of the “hidden” bar called Datamosh. To be perfectly clear it’s entirely optional to visit Datamosh and has no impact on the story.

Datamosh is an upscale cocktail bar with prices to match. The theme from Omega Mart extends into the bar with drinks allegedly made from their products. One particularly alarming example is Old Fashioned Spray, a typical old fashioned cocktail dyed a shade of blue that makes it look like Windex. The worst part? The blue dye is sprayed out of a plastic bottle labeled “Old Fashioned Spray.”

There are a number of secret passages in the Omega Mart storefront, and all but one of them lead behind the store. There’s also an opening near the bathrooms where you can skip the secret passages to the back.

Before we get to what’s behind Omega Mart, let’s discuss your first mission.

Mission 1: Become an Omega Mart Employee

  • You simply need to “boop” your card with all the terminals in the store at the ends of the aisles and follow the directions on screen.
  • Two of the terminals on the back wall in the store show you your progress. The same information is displayed if you scan the QR code on your phone, or log into the Dramcorp website with the ID code on your card. Similar terminals exist throughout the installation.
  • Once you’ve learned about what the different colored cones are for, head upstairs to the employee breakroom to take a quiz on which colored cone goes with which spill.

And that’s it! You’re now an Omega Mart employee and more of the story unlocks.

Aside from the stairs, there are two other passages out of the employee breakroom. So let’s talk about what’s behind and above Omega Mart.

 

 

Secret passages: Dramcorp and The Forked Earth

On the first floor several portals to the left lead to a polluted desert town known as Seven Monolith Village, and the ones on the right lead to either Omega Mart’s factory or Dramcorp. Some also lead to the office of Seven Monolith’s gas station (“Alpha Service”) most notably the fridge door you probably saw people entering the second you walked into Omega Mart.

All of this back area is part of The Forked Earth. It’s sort of like a pocket dimension that you can enter or exit from via various secret passageways, or wormholes. Omega Mart built its factory there to take advantage of a well of an inter-dimensional life energy called the Source.

The Forked Earth was created when an alien race experimented with the Source in their dimension, and somehow accidentally fused them together.

Meanwhile former CEO Walter Dram has been adding the Source to all Omega Mart products because it increases customer satisfaction. It also has some unexpected side effects, especially on the Dram family themselves.

But before we get there, I should mention the next mission.

 

Omega Mart

 

Mission 2: Become a factory worker at Dramcorp

I forget if you have to do these in any specific order? Apologies in advance there.

  • There are two places you boop into outside the Dramcorp office on the second floor facing the factory. Both of these involve pushing a button or whatever, there’s not much to it.
  • The Source Door is downstairs behind a structure shaped like a beehive. You boop into this and then twist the on-screen knobs for a few seconds and you’re good to go.

In my opinion this mission is the least interesting one. It does two things though: it unlocks a mission and it gives you an excuse to explore the Factory.

While in the factory I encourage you to explore and experiment with the DJ pads upstairs. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover you have a new career in music? Probably not but it never hurts to try.

The Dram family

Still cool with the spoilers? Because I’m going to distill the crux of the story which takes an hour or two of reading letters, emails, etc.

So let’s get back to the Source and how it’s affected the Dram family.

Walter Dram founded Omega Mart and was CEO up until recently. He moved the Omega Mart factory into the Forked Earth to take advantage of the Source.

The new CEO is Walter’s daughter, Cecelia Dram who wants to push some kind of new age agenda based around leadership principles. She also wants you to believe that she’s supposed to be the new CEO and is pretty cagey about what happened to Walter.

Cecelia became pregnant with her now-teenage daughter Marin in a ceremony in The Forked Earth where she drank the Source with her uncle Charlie and his neighbor, an herbalist named Rose. Charlie’s an odd man who runs the local gas station, operates a paranormal tour, and makes a beverage called Mish Mash out of the mysterious glowing runoff from the Dramcorp factory.

Marin’s story is chronicled in her blog on her computer and is brought to life in this music video from the band Beach House:

 

 

Marin Dram (Marin is pronounced MAY-rin) has your typical teenage girl issues. On top of that she can’t leave The Forked Earth because she’s forever tied to the Source. Her mother rarely visits or communicates at all. She feels lucky to have a few friends her age in Seven Monolith Village.

The big Dramcorp spoiler

The big reveal is on several terminals in the Dramcorp office. This is easy to get to from upstairs but a plus one in my book if you figure out the secret passage from downstairs at Omega Mart.

So here it is: Cecelia introduces her father Walter to Marin for the first time. Marin is nearly an adult at this point. Walter reacts to the news that the Source is her father by suggesting that Marin could be the template for a new product. A furious Cecelia gets into an altercation with Walter where she accidentally pushes him into the Source Well. Marin jumps in to save him.

Since then Cecelia has been trying to rescue her daughter from the well through Dramcorp technology. However, she clearly isn’t making any sort of rescue efforts on her father.

Once you’ve learned all this you have a choice. 

Branching story paths

From here you have two options. You can help Cecelia locate Marin, or you can help Marin’s friends rebel against Omega Mart.

I should stop here and say I don’t think there’s anything stopping you from doing both on the same Omega Mart employee card. There’s no way I can say for certain because rebel activities don’t show up Dramcorp’s boop cards.

Let’s start with helping Cecelia. This is the less interesting of the two missions in my opinion, I’d skip it if you don’t have time.

Mission 3: Help Cecelia and Dramcorp

  • There’s a decryption program on Cecelia’s computer in the corporate office. Boop into the computer and save the program to your Dramdrive.
  • In Seven Monolith Village, boop into the computer at either Charlie or Rose’s hut. Run the decryption software and forward that mysterious email to Cecelia.
  • Return to the Dramcorp office and boop into any available computer. Run the leadership ascension program and wow, you’re on your way to becoming a VP or something!

Okay but really, did you want to help Cecelia? Why did you do that? At the end you get a notification that Cecelia will need your help again. Sigh… okay.

Let’s get to the mission you can and should do.

Mission 4: Side with the Rebels (Marin’s friends)

  • Visit either hut in the desert and when the hacker’s prompt appears, agree to join the rebels.
  • The three rebels have maps to where you need to boop your card in different parts of the building. Save these maps to your Dramdrive.
  • The most exciting part is the takeover of Omega Mart where the rebel’s message appears on the TV and speakers while employees “freeze” and the lighting changes. 

Once you’ve finished this storyline you will currently be asked for a name and email address for when the next part becomes available.

This is the most satisfying ending even though nothing is resolved. What I find interesting is that the same boop card allowed me to do both competing missions. Can I only finish one or the other in the future? 

Would I go back to complete the missions? I’m not sure I’d travel back to Las Vegas to finish it anytime soon… maybe if I got a really cheap flight.

 

 

In my previous post I recommended visiting Omega Mart. Since we’re going into details here I want to go into more depth.

Criticisms

Key parts of the narrative can only be accessed on one computer with your boop card. This often causes slow moving lines to form as people realize they need to access that computer. Like most people it makes me feel rushed in these situations when it’s my turn.

Although technically all of the story can be accessed from a wheelchair, some of the passageways are very narrow and short. The two huts in Seven Monolith Village have physical entryways that might be a challenge.

The slides… oh these are bad. They’re really fast and knock you around. Keep your chin tucked into your chest if you do ride them to avoid the worst of it.

The cost may turn some away, and I think that’s unfortunate. At the same time while I don’t have any insider info about the company, Meow Wolf is known for paying and crediting their artists, and providing a decent benefit package for their employees.

Praises

The physical space is really well thought out. For example, anytime there’s a piece of paper to read like someone’s mail or a pamphlet, there’s a reading light nearby. Might sound like a small thing but these design elements add up, letting you know when you’re on to something.

The employees were the right amount of helpful. As the story went on they became a little less helpful, unless they noticed a guest who was frustrated. I think this is a good balance. They’re not throwing you into the deep end nor are they coddling you all the way through.

None of this would work without the videos. The cast is good overall though I have to say Rachel de la Torre absolutely nails it as Cecelia Dram. Likewise the ads for Omega Mart have a dark sense of humor that set the tone perfectly. This extends to the entrance of Omega Mart where the somewhat disturbing Super Family Store video plays on a loop.

 

Omega Mart

 

My takeaways

Some critics call this sort of installation a “playground” which I think is fair in some ways… I mean there are slides after all. At the same time that can sound dismissive; since when did playgrounds have a lengthy story to follow and a sense of humor?

Meow Wolf went to great lengths to put this together: aside from the amazing physical space the story is told through videos, music, emails, physical mail, phone calls, lighting effects, etc. There’s so much to it I’m sure there’s a lot I missed over my three visits. I didn’t even get around to cracking the substitution cypher found in one room to be honest. Maybe I should have gone back one more time?

Despite the linear progression of the boop cards, the storytelling is entirely non-linear. The more time you spend exploring and reading the details you find, the more of the story you’ll uncover. 

Ultimately the question isn’t whether I like Omega Mart because I absolutely do. The true question is whether or not there’s a sustainable audience. I certainly hope so and I realize the current marketing push won’t last forever.

This is my first visit to a Meow Wolf installation. There are currently two others: The House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe and Convergence Station in Denver. I’m planning on visiting both at some point in the future.

I think if I had to recommend Omega Mart to a type of person, it’s the type who’s either creative or analytical enough to have immediately noticed that if you remove the first two letters of each word you’ve gone from Omega Mart to Mega Art. Because that’s what this is: one big art installation that’s up to you to figure out.

Downtown Las Vegas street art: Fremont Street and the Arts District

October 20th, 2021

Street art may not come to mind when you think of Las Vegas. That’s fair, I thought the same thing. Are there even opportunities for street art in Las Vegas?

The brief answer is yes: Las Vegas has top notch street art. Better yet it’s all within walking distance if you’re staying downtown.

 

Street ArtStreet Art Street Art Street Art Street Art

 

Downtown Las Vegas is filled with street art on and around Fremont Street thanks in part to the annual Life Is Beautiful festival. The epicenter of the street art downtown is roughly around Container Park, roughly a ten minute walk from the downtown casinos. The area has a mix of world famous artists with a handful of local artists here and there.

The mural spaces for Life is Beautiful are often in alleys or on abandoned buildings, which there are unfortunately a lot of in this part of downtown. Outside of the street art there’s not a lot to see and do in this area.

That said you’ll find Atomic Liquors in this area, the bar where patrons famously used to go up on the roof and watch the nuclear bomb tests in the distance.

 

Arts District Arts District Arts District Arts District Arts District

 

The Arts District is also downtown but a little more of a walk, maybe 20-30 minutes from the downtown casinos. It’s also not far from The Strat (formerly The Stratosphere.) The free Downtown Loop Shuttle has two stops in the Arts District as well.

Despite the name, the Arts District feels like a nice small town within a city — plenty of great dining, cafe, and bar options — but you have to ignore The Strat’s giant tower looming over you.

My opinion might be different if I’d visited during one of the special events thrown in the Arts District, but on a weekday afternoon I found it a nice break from the all the “Las Vegasness” of Las Vegas, and a rare glimpse into the local art scene in a city not known for local art.

Review: Omega Mart (no spoilers)

October 18th, 2021

 

By now you’ve probably seen ads for something called “Omega Mart,” beckoning you to a specific address in Las Vegas.

If you’ve read this far, I bet you’ve already visited the Omega Mart website and learned it’s part of something called Dramcorp.

After visiting Omega Mart three times last week I thought I’d provide a review that doesn’t really spoil anything. (But don’t worry, I’m saving those for a post in the future.)

 

Omega Mart

 

What is Omega Mart?

Omega Mart is a new immersive experience from Meow Wolf, best known for The House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe.

This new story is framed by an allegedly normal American supermarket, Omega Mart. Just like your local Safeway, Kroger, or whatever the interior of Omega Mart has the same harsh lighting, the same metal shelves and price tags, and various sections like produce and dairy.

But just as the cheery jingle in some of their ads proclaim, “You have no idea what’s in store for you!”

Which is to say there’s a lot more to this exhibit than a supermarket. For one thing it’s a deeply weird supermarket. The products seem almost alien in nature. Oh and for some reason you’re invited to the employee training program.

And then there’s some sort of family drama going on behind the scenes. You need to explore and pay attention. At some point you need to make decisions about who you trust.

 

Omega Mart

 

Practical stuff

How do you get there? Taxis and ridesharing services are the best way to get to Area 15 and there are designated drop off and pick up zones. Limited parking is available on a first come basis. Unfortunately it’s not realistic to get there on public transit. Don’t consider walking there unless you’re staying on the same side of the freeway — it’s probably an okay walk from The Rio or Palace Station.

It’s strongly encouraged to buy tickets in advance. The center it’s located in is called Area 15, which may not let you in if you don’t have a ticket to Omega Mart or any of the other attractions in the building.

The entry requirements for Omega Mart forbid guns, knives, etc. and you will have to go through a metal detector and bag check on the way in. Larger bags have to be checked in for an additional fee.

Bathrooms, stairs, and the elevator are located to the left of the entrance. The staff will help guide you there if (or more likely when) you find yourself lost and need to pee.

With COVID-19 you must wear a mask at all times. Staff go around and disinfect spaces on a regular schedule so you may be asked to leave an area temporarily. 

Although all the key areas of the exhibit are available to wheelchair users there are plenty of physically challenging passages that I feel fortunate enough to still be able to do at my age. The most uncomfortable ones were the slides. These are not well made slides, they’re fast and knock you around. 

Also be aware that some areas have strobe lights, fog machines, and projection effects. There’s a lot that might give you a headache here if you’re not in the right frame of mind.

If you go to Omega Mart as a couple or small group (maybe four people max) you should stick together and use the same card. The card saves your progress in the story and you can access it anywhere on your phone by scanning the QR code on the front.

In theory the exhibit is all ages though I doubt the story would be relatable to anyone who’d never been a teenager. That said, most younger kids would probably lose interest by the time the more mature themes of the story appear. When I say mature themes I mean specifically: the story features elements of parental alienation, body image issues, and an implied “off camera” death. If you’re particularly sensitive to any of these issues at this time you may want to opt out.

There’s a bar located inside of Omega Mart. Where? You’ll have to find it on your own. For those who enjoy cocktails and don’t mind spending a little extra, I recommend ordering The Source.

Professional recording equipment is not allowed in Omega Mart but you’re encouraged to take photos and videos with your phone and share your experiences online.

I recommend booking tickets early in the day to beat the crowds if possible.

 

Omega Mart

 

My experience

For me these strange new immersive worlds are nothing new — they are the very reason I started this blog to begin with.

What sets Omega Mart apart for me was how well put together and contained it all is. The more I looked around and explored the more the story slowly unfolded itself. There were plenty of hidden clues I walked right past the first time — or a dozen times — before I realized there was something I could interact with.¬†

I went on three separate days during my time in Las Vegas though I could have finished all the stories in two if I’d pushed myself more. Personally I enjoyed spending my time there. By the end of my visit I kept finding myself eager to help out others who were confused or frustrated.

However there’s one very big caveat: as of October 2021 part of the story is unfinished. There’s a way to get notified when it becomes available. As a completionist type this bothers me more than it should.¬†

 

My recommendation: Omega Mart is an exemplary work of immersive storytelling within a large physical space.¬†Although it’s not yet complete there’s already many hours of entertainment. Still, I understand some might want to wait until the last mission is built out.

Wink World at Area 15

October 16th, 2021
Selections from Wink World (no audio)

 

After checking into Wink World and putting on a pair of (optional) 3D glasses, I was told to make my way past a series of psychedelic 3D framed paintings to the end of the hallway.

From there, a series of small rooms with funhouse mirrors and wacky objects illuminated by blacklights and other whimsical lighting effects danced around to a rhythmic soundtrack. Think the sort of stuff you’d get at Spencer’s Gifts but attached to motors. Meanwhile a narrator explained pop psychology concepts related to the infinite.

Each room has a limited time before the door opens to the next and you’re expected to step through. All in all it took around half an hour to complete.

If pop psychology and rhythmic music is of interest to you there’s another show you should check out in Las Vegas: The Blue Man Group. Sure it’s about three times more expensive, but it’s also far more entertaining. And wouldn’t you know it, Wink World creator Chris Wink is also co-founder of the Blue Man Group.

My recommendation: This might be worth it if you’re looking to pass the time and you’re already at Area 15, otherwise skip it and go get tickets for the Blue Man Group instead. Now that’s a fun show.

The Mob Museum

October 13th, 2021
The Mob Museum The Mob Museum The Mob Museum

 

Located in an old courthouse building in Downtown Las Vegas, The Mob Museum tells the story of the mafia in America. It’s a story that most Americans are at least somewhat familiar with, but how often do you learn about it in a museum setting rather than from a secondhand story in a movie?

After a recommendation from a tour guide and the convenience that it’s located directly across the street from my hotel I figured… why not check it out? And I’m glad I did.

The exhibit begins on the third floor and works its way down. After a brief introduction as to what made certain young immigrants turn to crime in the first place, they cut right to the chase: the rise of the temperance movement and the massive black market created by the prohibition.

Once alcohol became legal again, the crime families and the dirty cops and other officials who accepted bribes didn’t all disappear overnight. So the mafia branched out, using their connections on all sorts of other criminal enterprises.

One of those as it turns out was back home in San Francisco, where a now defunct mob family started — what else — Fisherman’s Wharf. Somehow that’s both a little surprising and at the same time, it explains a lot.

One of the big new crime schemes was of course gambling. There’s a reason The Mob Museum is located in an old courthouse in Las Vegas, and a video presentation on the second floor followed by a gallery on the history of the mob in Las Vegas explain that connection in more detail that I could possibly fit into this post.

The exhibits on the first floor go into the eventual fall of the mafia in America with new laws and new policing methods that made it simpler to prosecute career criminals on charges other than tax evasion. Of course it’s not all sunshine and rainbows these days if you look outside of this country, and there’s a section about large gangs in other countries responsible for everything from animal poaching to human trafficking.

The final room ends on a much lighter note with depictions of the mafia in popular media and even features props and pages of scripts from everything from The Godfather to Breaking Bad to The Sopranos.

Now I shouldn’t need to say this but this is a museum with mature themes like death and features graphic images and disturbing stories. They’re not trying to sugarcoat anything that happened, but at the same time it’s not a bunch of shock images either. Given the museum setting I think they struck the right balance in that respect.

My recommendation: If you’re interested in the history of the mafia it’s worth checking out. I recommend the off-hours “happy hour” ticket as it’s a significant discount. Skip the audio tour as the museum already has plenty of interactive and video exhibits anyway and the audio portion is largely redundant.

Review: Penn & Teller’s new 2021 Las Vegas show at the Rio

October 12th, 2021

 

I’m spending this week in Las Vegas — I’ll get to exactly why I chose to visit Las Vegas later on, but this is my first trip of any kind in over two years. (Yes, I know there’s still a pandemic going on but I’m vaccinated and Las Vegas has a perfectly reasonable mask requirement that I’m happy to follow.)

The last time I was in Vegas I got to see The Blue Man Group, which was a bucket list show for me. This time I wanted to cross another show off the bucket list: Penn & Teller.

I probably don’t need to introduce Penn & Teller as they’re arguably the most famous comedy magic duo of our time. Penn Jillette is the tall loud guy who’s the carnival barker of the two, and Raymond Teller is the smaller guy who does like 90% of the actual magic tricks. The pair have performed together since the mid 1970’s and there’s a good chance you’ve seen them on TV, either on a talk show or on their long running Fool Us show.

Oh and if you’ve somehow never seen their spin on the old cups and balls trick, go watch it now!

Though Penn & Teller have mixed up their Vegas act over the years, they had the entire pandemic to come up with new material, which Penn claims is a huge relief because they were out of tricks to perform on Fool Us.

While everyone found their way to their seats in the Rio’s theater, the show’s pianist was joined by Penn on an upright bass. They went through some classic jazz tunes before Penn had to leave and prepare for the opening act. 

And that was the first joke: the opening act involved Penn playing the same upright bass as the pianist played on a different piano, while Teller struggled to play a prop saxophone that seemingly only existed to “charm” a piece of tissue paper as it floated around the stage, fell on the floor, came back up, and even landed on Teller’s head after he fashioned it into a hat.

That’s just a small taste of what the new version of their show had to offer. There was only one trick in the entire set that I’ve seen them do before (a double misdirection involving a gorilla costume) though a more hardcore Penn & Teller fan than I might have seen versions of some other tricks before.

There was a trick that involved “gambling” with the entire audience participating where somehow I was one of the last five or so people standing until the final round. When Penn pointed out the prize was going to be extremely cumbersome to take home I honestly felt a sense of relief at not being the winner.

For those who remember seeing Penn & Teller decades ago I should point out that their act isn’t as physically demanding as it once was. This can’t be a big surprise considering their ages, particularly Teller who had his 70th birthday a couple years ago.

My recommendation: If you like Penn & Teller’s style of comedy magic this is a solid ~90 minute live show with plenty of new tricks. I had a great time, but if I had one gripe it’s that advance tickets are sold through Ticketmaster and as such come with Ticketmaster’s exorbitant fees.