As a second location, he chose Atlanta because of its youthful, tech-savvy demographic and the success of other nearby experiences like Puttshack and Topgolf.
And he’s thrilled to have a much larger space to play in, allowing him to add a bar and kitchen and provide an open beer garden area where people can watch other teams get bombed through a glass partition. “Atlanta really is the 2.0 version of Beat the Bomb,” Patterson said.
Patterson, a 41-year-old Harvard graduate, spent years practicing corporate tax law in New York but longed to escape his mundane career for something more creative. He got his first chance at Tough Mudder, an endurance steeplechase company, where he was able to get out of the legal side and do marketing and brand management. This job sparked a desire to start his own experience-based company in 2016.
He said he started out with the broad concept of hit the bomb, imagining Jack Bauer or MacGyver. He rented a 500-square-foot space to create a mock bomb room, in which he perfected a way of exploding paint on people and ensuring it could be cleaned in minutes. He installed video cameras to capture the moment of the bomb blast in slow motion, videos that could be instantly shared on social media.
These videos, which popped up on Instagram and Facebook, became his hook to get more people to show up.
He hired two young programmers and a technician to develop games using sensors, projectors, and radio frequency (RFID) bands that interact with computer screens. The rooms themselves are reprogrammable, allowing them to record different games with the push of a button. Each experience begins with four different games. The better the team performs, the more time they have to help “hit the bomb” at the end.
Most teams build up around four to five minutes to try and win the final game, although better teams could have up to seven or eight minutes on the bench.
“We have generations that grew up playing video games,” Patterson said. “While they will still play bowls or billiards, these games are inherently technology based.”
Patterson made each 10-minute game interactive by nature. While a single person could technically do an escape room, he said, nobody can go rogue with their games. For example, in the opening code game, people have to shout codes to people who are in front of other screens. And in a Simon-style music game, notes must be followed in specific sequences, each occupying a specific note. “No wallflowers are allowed,” Patterson said.
His Brooklyn Beat the Bomb, he said, opened with 1,000 customers in its first month, tripled to 3,000 in its third month, and consistently generated 4,000 to 5,000 customers thereafter.
The demographics at his Brooklyn location, he said, are everywhere. “We have birthday parties for eight- to ten-year-olds and summer camps,” he said. “We’ve had Google engineers do team-building exercises, Saturday night party-goers celebrating an engagement or a birthday, and families coming to town.”
Since opening the Atlanta location in mid-October, Patterson has so far been buoyed by early involvement with TikTok videos and word of mouth fueling reservations. In its first two weeks, Beat the Bomb has already generated hundreds of mostly positive Google reviews.
He also came up with a second set of challenges with all-new games and a soapy foam explosion at the end instead of paint. So far in Atlanta, very few have gone for it because everyone wants to try the color first.
Evon, who’s played his fair share of role-playing games over the years, said he’d love to come back and thought it was worth the $34.95 price tag. After they lost, a Beat The Bomb staffer gave them their results on paper and they happily scanned their stats: the team did pretty well, finishing in the top 20% compared to previous teams.
“We worked really well together,” he said, noting that his favorite game was dodging laser beams like an action hero.
And he shouldn’t feel bad. Based on previous data, less than 10% of teams cracked the bomb the first time.
But next table, Ryan Manterola, a 39-year-old Starbucks employee from Woodstock with his wife and three friends, had a blissful look on his face: his team actually cracked the bomb.
Compared to escape rooms, “this was more sweaty,” he said. “We had to move a lot. But we communicated as a team.”
Even though they won, they still chose to paint themselves for fun. Manterola had to go to the bathroom to clean up because some of the paint had dripped onto his beard.
Pete Anders, Beat The Bomb’s hospitality manager, said he initially thought Patterson, his childhood friend, was crazy when he pitched the concept to him. But once Patterson turned the idea into reality, he became an acolyte.
The hope is that people will come back several times to improve their scores, Anders said, and try new adventures. Winning teams that hit the bomb will be invited to tournaments with other winning teams.
“We’ve had professional leagues in Brooklyn and it’s a great time,” said Anders. “We would end up loving Brooklyn vs. Atlanta, Atlanta vs. DC (where a third location is planned).”
WHEN YOU GO
Defeat Bomb Atlanta
3pm-10pm Tuesday-Thursday; Friday-Saturday 11:00-24:00; Sundays 11am-11pm. Tickets start at $34.95 with groups of 4 to 6 at a time. 1483 Chattahoochee Avenue, Atlanta. beatthebomb.com/atlanta.