You’re running (or planning to run) a virtual camp for summer 2020. That’s great. Me too.
You’ve got crafts, a cooking project, some trivia contests, storytime, and Bingo all set to go. But, you’re worried that’s not going to keep the campers’ attention, that they’ll quickly lose interest because they aren’t being engaged and entertained as they would be at camp.
That’s a valid concern.
How about this?
Imagine for a moment that one of your counselors is facilitating an adventure where each of their campers is playing a role as part of a team.
As the counselor clicks on a PowerPoint slide showing a room with different items and doors, the team of campers choose items one-by-one to look at and use. They also choose doors to go through as a group. As they explore this building (or cave or castle or town) they come across enemies they must defeat together, puzzles they must solve, and decisions the group must make. They do all this to accomplish their main goal, be that finding a treasure, escaping a forest, finding a cure, etc.
The counselor, of course, is narrating the experience in an entertaining way, giving the campers choices and hints, using voices for non-playing characters within the game, and showing a range of emotions as players/campers make their choices and find out the consequences of their actions – good and bad.
Now imagine that the campers are getting up and moving around during this game instead of sitting still. They are being active by using an imaginary tool or weapon, running in place to get away from a creature, reaching for something on an imaginary shelf, etc.
At the end of the game, they have succeeded. They defeated the dark creatures, found the treasure, escaped the forest, or found the cure. They smile and cheer. You hear one say, “That was way more fun than doing another craft.”
I believe adding an Story-Based Adventures will set your program apart from most of the other virtual camps out there. I’m not talking about Dungeons and Dragons and rolling dice (though that would be fun, too). I’m talking more about a Choose Your Own Adventure style of gameplay.
And that kind of experience could lead to parent conversations like this.
Parent 1: How was Billy’s virtual camp?
Parent 2: It was okay. They did some craft that he liked and one that he didn’t. They tried singing a camp song all together, but that didn’t go too well. He really liked the Bingo and scavenger hunt, though. How was Jessica’s virtual camp?
Parent 1: Amazing! They did some activities like Bobby’s camp did, but they also did this role-playing game that Jessica thought was so neat. At first she wasn’t sure about it, but soon she was excited about all the choices they could make and the story itself. It got her up and active, too. The counselor made it a lot of fun. They are doing a different one next week and she begged me to sign her up again.
Parent 2: Really? I wasn’t going to sign Bobby up for any more virtual camps, but that sounds like a lot of fun. I think he might really like that.
You may be thinking, “Okay, okay, that all sounds like a neat little scenario between parents, and I get the whole word-of-mouth marketing angle, but this seems like a lot of work to put together.”
You aren’t wrong. It is.
I have put together a virtual Harry Potter camp, and the role-playing games that I created (The Forbidden Forest Hunt, The Escape Room and the Sorcerer’s Stone Challenge) have taken days and days to create, and these are only 45-minute games. I’m running these myself, but if I had to train staff on running these games, it would take even longer to put together some sort of training course.
I wish I would have had the groundwork and the foundation to start with instead of reinventing the wheel.
Thankfully, however, you can get that kind of help.
Enter Guardian Adventures.
If you want to add a Story-Based Adventure to your virtual camp program, I highly recommend Guardian Adventures. They have been around for over 20 years running in-person camps that are story-based with different stories being told. The fantastic thing about their camp is that the campers are part of the story. They dress up in costume, battle enemies with Nerf guns and swords, do science experiments to find cures, and so much more.
Now they are putting their experience and story-telling skills into creating and running virtual camps, and these virtual programs of theirs are becoming very popular.
Fortunately, for you and other camp professionals, they are licensing their system and teaching you how to create and run your own Story-Based Adventure for virtual camp, as well as how to teach your staff to run these games.
Once you have the basic foundation, you can create whatever storyline you want. Or, if you are feeling short on time or creative bandwidth (that happens to me all the time), you can purchase one of their Story Add-Ons.
Let me break down what Guardian Adventures offers.
THE UNIVERSAL GAME SYSTEM
This is the core system, the foundation, the meat and potatoes of it all.
Here’s how the folks at Guardian Adventures describes it.
We started developing interactive online camp programs for the online environment well before the world came to a stop from the Coronavirus. Over the past 20 years, we created a powerful game system for creating story-based adventures for campers. These adventures are based on exciting stories where the campers play the role of a hero who battles villains or monsters and solves mysteries using STEM and teamwork.
The system has been refined to such a degree that it can now be applied to any story you wish to explore. It provides all of the rules of engagement with the campers, the antagonist and allies, 6 different story backdrops (think of these as the “universe” in which you run your adventure), and marketing materials for promoting your adventures.
We call this program the Universal Game System (UGS) and it can be run on Zoom and/or Google Classroom platforms which allowed you to hold weekly classes and even full-day Summer Camp Adventures in an online environment.
The UGS isn’t just a system that you purchase… it’s an actual online course that teaches your staff how to create adventures and run them as well as providing digital slides, printable instructions, and marketing materials for promoting your adventures.
Here’s what the UGS includes:
- All the instructions (using video and text) needed for creating and performing an online, interactive and educational camp program run by your staff
- Training videos for even deeper comprehension
- Quizzes for your staff to confirm their understanding of the material
- Online community for trading ideas and requesting support (Coming Soon)
- Materials for marketing and promotion
- A one year license for using the game system to create and use your own programming (license can optionally renew each year)
- (Bonus – All the instructions needed for creating and performing an in-person, offline version of the same camp program if campers are permitted to return to your facilities before the end of the summer camp season)
Cost: $495/yr per location (if you have multiple locations)
Click Here for more info and use the coupon code afpod10 to get 10% off.
They also offer optional live training for your staff hosted by one of our instructors.
As I mentioned before, if you don’t want to create your own storylines, you can purchase one of their done-for-you story add-ons. Currently, there are 3 to choose from.
Each module is good for a 2-3 hour game. You can play that game all at once, or you can spread it out over a few days.
Cost: $120 per module (Purchase the UGS separately and wait for the email. You should get a 50% off code for the story add-ons.)
Remember, you have to have purchased the core Universal Gaming System course first.
Sounds Interesting, but…
At this point, you may be thinking, “Curt, I’m not sure this is for me and my camp. Is there a way to sample this?” Yes. Yes, there is.
First off, the UGS has free samples of a few of its lessons. So check that out by clicking here.
To see what the story modules are like, check out the free online zombie escape room.
ZOMBIE ESCAPE ROOM – ONLINE
This course gives you step-by-step instructions, curriculum and videos, and all of the images and assets necessary for running your own interactive, online adventure. It gives you a real feel for what this whole RPG thing is about. I highly suggest you take a look at it. Click here to view it.
And there you have it. in my opinion, adding a Story-Based Adventure to your virtual camp is going to be something the kids and parents talk about for a long time and it adds a ton of value to the registration fee of your virtual camp. These games also don’t require any props or supplies, so there is no need to add anything to your camp kits if you are doing those.
Parents are nervous about paying for a virtual camp where the kids are going to be sitting in front of a screen and not doing much. While crafts, discussions, Bingo and other games of those sort can be fun for many of the kids, you want to get them up and moving around. You can do indoor scavenger hunts, yoga and stretching, etc., and you should, but if you really want to engage the kids, especially the older ones, really consider adding story-based adventure games.
To learn more about Guardian Adventures and all of their camps and programs (including the virtual ones), visit their website.
Meghan Gardner, the CEO and founder of Guard Up and Guardian Adventures presented a webinar at Virtual Camp Summit and was on our podcast talking about tips and tricks for camps offering virtual programs.