“Americans cumulatively streamed more than 57 million minutes of ‘The Office’ in 2020.”
As people enter “The Office Experience” through January 16, this stat stands out from a wall covered in fun facts as you wait in line to receive your Dunder Mifflin badge ($15 extra). In 2020, most of us were confined to our homes with little social interactions outside screens. Beloved sitcoms became even more integral to our self-care and characters became substitutes for friends.
Now that the world has loosened pandemic restrictions, companies have capitalized on our cravings for interactions outside the home through the immersive experience trend. Every fandom seems to have a touring immersive pop-up for fans to explore and engage with their favorite movie or TV show. At the end of the day, just how fulfilling are these experiences? Are they any more engaging than sitting on the couch and just watching reruns? Or are they just a new way to charge people money to take Instagram photos in our continued hollow quest for social approval?
Suffice to say, I have my skepticism before walking into “The Office Experience.” As a veteran of immersive experiences, I went in wanting to add it as another example of my already jaded thoughts on the trend. And yet, I walked away with a renewed appreciation.
“The Office Experience” has all the usual suspects of a standard immersive experience: facts and graphics incorporated throughout about the production, a display of how many times a character said their catchphrase (there is a hall dedicated to Michael Scott’s “that what she said”), costumes the cast wore and replica rooms. There are also plenty of photo opportunities, like standing on a pier in front of a Niagra Falls still to mimic Jim and Pam’s wedding, and standing behind a prop made to look like you are spilling a pot of chili onto the office floor a la Kevin in season five’s “Casual Friday.” The space is filled with so many details and callbacks that superfans will have fun spotting and reminiscing about the episode it derives from.
As a disclaimer, out of all the fan-based immersive experiences that I have toured, this is the first time I could proudly identify as a superfan of the show the experience was based on. I was delighted when I opened Dwight’s replica desk to find a stapler in Jell-O, and when I opened the freezer to find a bag labeled “Sprinkles.” I even asked one of the staff members who are stationed throughout the experience to take a photo of me when I was sitting behind Michael’s desk. Aside from my personal enthusiasm for the show itself, this was the first experience that actually brought a hefty hand of interactive elements beyond photo ops.
There is a whiteboard and dry eraser markers that you can use to fill out a large two-wall crossword in honor of Stanley (all the clues are based on the show). In the warehouse space, people can play ping pong. But the best interactive room by far was the back room office space where people can partake in the Dunder Olympic Games from season three. Visitors are encouraged to play paper football, shoot Dunderballs over cubicle walls, and try their hand at using cardboard boxes as skis, better known as Flonkerton. There are even replica medals and a paper box podium for the winner to stand on.
Yes, the experience might be steep for people who have only watched an episode, and no, it is not necessary to pay extra for a Dunder Mifflin badge with your face on it (you can get a free badge without your photo), but for people who have watched and enjoyed the series, the experience is worthwhile.
And if you are so inclined to purchase something from the gift shop, I highly recommend the Meredith sun shade for your car.
“The Office Experience” is open through January 16, 2023, with special decorations added in December for the holidays. Tickets range from $30 to $72 dollars. To see times and buy tickets visit here.