He chose Atlanta as a second site because of its youthful, tech-savvy demographics and the success of other nearby experiences like Puttshack and Topgolf.
And he is thrilled to have a much larger space to play with that enables him to add a bar and kitchen and provide an open beer garden space where people can watch other teams get bombed through a glass partition. “Atlanta is truly the 2.0 version of Beat the Bomb,” Patterson said.
Patterson, a 41-year-old Harvard graduate, spent years as a New York corporate tax attorney but yearned to escape his mundane career for something more creative. He first got his chance at Tough Mudder, an endurance obstacle course company, where he was able to wiggle out of the legal side and pursue marketing and brand management. That job sparked his desire to create his own experience-based company in 2016.
He said he started with the broad concept “beat the bomb,” imagining Jack Bauer or MacGyver. He rented a 500-square-foot space to create a mock bomb room where he perfected a way to explode paint onto people and ensure it can be cleaned up in a matter of minutes. He installed video cameras to capture the bomb explosion moment in slow motion, videos that could be immediately shared on social media.
These videos, popping up on Instagram and Facebook, became his hook to get more people to show up.
He hired two young programmers and a tech guy to create games using sensors, projectors and radio-frequency (RFID) wristbands that interact with computer screens. The rooms themselves are reprogrammable so they can accommodate different games with a touch of a button. Each experience starts with four different games. The better the team performs, the more time they bank to help “beat the bomb” at the end.
Most teams will build up about four to five minutes of time to try to win the final game, though better teams could bank as much as seven or eight minutes.
“We have generations who have grown up on video gaming,” Patterson said. “While they will still be bowling or playing billiards, these games are natively built around technology.”
Patterson made each 10-minute game inherently interactive. While a single person could technically do an escape room, he said, nobody can go rogue with his games. The opening code game, for instance, requires people to yell codes to people standing in front of other screens. And in a Simon-style music game, notes must be followed in particular sequences with each individual manning a particular note. “There are no wallflowers allowed,” Patterson said.
His Brooklyn Beat the Bomb, he said, opened with 1,000 customers in its first month, tripling to 3,000 by month three and consistently generating 4,000 to 5,000 customers thereafter.
The demographics at his Brooklyn location, he said, are all over the place. “We have eight-to-10-year-old birthday parties and summer camps,” he said. “We’ve had Google engineers do team-building exercises, partygoers on a Saturday night celebrating an engagement or birthday and families coming into town.”
So far, since the Atlanta location opened in mid-October, Patterson has been buoyed by the early turnout with TikTok videos and word of mouth fueling reservations. In its first two weeks, Beat the Bomb has already generated hundreds of nearly universal positive Google reviews.
He also has developed a second set of challenges with all new games and a soapy foam explosion at the end instead of paint. Very few people have opted for that yet in Atlanta because everyone wants to try the paint one first.
Evon, who has played his fair share of role-playing games over the years, said he’d love to come back again and thought it was worth the $34.95 price. After they lost, a Beat The Bomb employee provided them their results on paper and they happily scanned their stats: the team did fairly well, finishing in the top 20% compared to previous teams.
“We collaborated really well,” he said, noting his favorite game was avoiding lasers beams like an action hero.
And he shouldn’t feel bad. Fewer than 10% of the teams beat the bomb the first time, based on past data.
But a table away, Ryan Manterola, a 39-year-old Starbucks employee from Woodstock with his wife and three friends, had a beatific look on his face: his team did actually beat the bomb.
Compared to escape rooms, “this was sweatier,” he said. “We had to move a lot. But we communicated like a team.”
Although they won, they opted to get “bombed” with paint anyway, just for fun. Manterola had to go to the bathroom to clean up because some of the paint gobbed up in his beard.
Pete Anderer, who runs hospitality for Beat The Bomb, said he initially thought Patterson, his childhood friend, was nuts when he pitched the concept to him. But once Patterson turned idea into reality, he became an acolyte.
The hope is people will come back multiple times to improve their scores, Anderer said, and try new adventures. Winning teams who beat the bomb will be invited to tournaments with other winning teams.
“We have had pro leagues in Brooklyn and it’s a blast,” Anderer said. “We eventually would love Brooklyn vs. Atlanta, Atlanta vs. D.C. (where a third location is planned).”
IF YOU GO
Beat the Bomb Atlanta
3-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays. Tickets start at $34.95 with groups of 4 to 6 at a time. 1483 Chattahoochee Ave., Atlanta. beatthebomb.com/atlanta.