Santa Monica Is Using the Metaverse to Gamify Its Shopping District

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Santa Monica Is Using the Metaverse to Gamify Its Shopping District

Last week, the app FlickPlay announced it was partnering with Santa Monica (which is where the company is based) so that it would become the first U.S. city to have access to the metaverse through its app.

After all the Facebook hype, I wanted to find out what the metaverse looked like and why a city would sign on.

So, standing on the bustling corner of Santa Monica Blvd and 3rd Street, I scanned FlickPlay’s interactive map on my phone in search of tokens.

FlickPlay app

A blue coin users can pick up in the FlickPlay app.

Previously a social wallet app designed to work with various types of digital art and collectibles; the app now works in downtown Santa Monica as a way both to draw you into storefronts and gamify the experience. That could be good business for brick and mortar stores and the city’s tax base.

Finding tokens wasn’t too difficult: The map was filled with glowing yellow, blue, and green dots indicating I was in the right place to cash in on tokens in FlickPlay’s new metaverse social app.

Similar to TikTok, the explore page on FlickPlay features full-screen, looping videos set to music that often include people dancing and utilizing their exclusive collectibles as a backdrop. The experience can be enthralling.

As a user, you have the option to like, comment and share on other social platforms. While apps like TikTok and Instagram focus on the subject, FlickPlay is focused on the landscape around them - bridging the gap between physical and digital spaces. At one point I became disoriented from the physical world.

FlickPlay allows people to collect tokens to unlock and show off videos through the app using their rare filter-like collectibles - most of which have a limited quantity.

Currently, the app doesn’t have any challenges, but like the NFTs there is a scarcity factor that increases the value of the collectibles. This gives the user the opportunity to monetize their digital collectibles. Like most mobile games, FlickPlay is free to download, but offers players the opportunity to use the tokens they earn in exchange for tangible goods.

Tokens are categorized into three colors: yellow, blue and green, and can be earned by visiting the map on the FlickPlay app. The yellow coins act as the player’s currency to unlock experiences or purchase items from local retailers, blue coins unlock collectibles, and green coins (the rarest) come with a reward.

If a token is nearby, you tap on its location on the map and the token will appear on your phone. I saw one token was further away and the app led me right to it. The token amount I received ranged from a value of 150-250 per coin and was stored in a digital wallet within the app. That token brought me to a Dodger’s Clubhouse on the Promenade.

While I received some odd looks walking around with my phone pointed toward the sky—there were tokens to be had!— I also saw some curious faces.

If FlickPlay founder and CEO Pierina Merino is right, that will soon be a familiar scene and everyone will be on the metaverse. “In the next two years, we're all going to own something digital,” she said. “We are all going to have some sort of wallet or digital inventory of objects.”

Merino established FlickPlay in 2019 and has grown the company to include 20 employees. Earlier this year, FlickPlay raised $5 million in seed funding backed by global VC firm Lightspeed Ventures and co-lead by SF-based seed investor, Abstract VC.

FlickPlay founder and CEO Pierina MerinoFlickPlay founder and CEO Pierina Merino hopes to create more activity in parts of Santa Monica that have traditionally been less trafficked.

Before Merino founded FlickPlay, she launched the startup Pemier, a 3D printed product line that was picked up by Nordstrom in over 30 stores six months after its launch in 2016.

But what was lacking was the inability to interact with the consumer. “As a founder, it was crazy to think that I made it to one of the top retailers in the U.S. and I was still not talking with my customer,” she said.

During this time she saw how the Museum of Ice Cream created communities where people can create shareable content as well as Pokemon Go’s impact in the way that people interact with the real world. With FlickPlay, Merino is hoping she can help create more activity in parts of Santa Monica that have traditionally been less trafficked—and are thus more susceptible to crime.

“It has been proven that activating unused city spaces with art reduces crime rates,” she said. “There is no better incentive for us than building a metaverse ecosystem with strong values and purpose that have a direct impact in the world we live in."

Merino believes her app can help the local economy, too. “You’re not only activating the city from a creative standpoint, and enabling the city to control the narrative and the storyline of how people interact with their different locations, but it also involves local retailers,” she said.

As someone who has never been interested in gaming, I found the app entertaining. It even brought me to stores I’ve never been to before, like BookMonster. Even though I didn’t earn enough tokens to purchase physical items in one of the retailers, I’d consider coming back to rack up more tokens once more local retailers jump on board which would incentivize shoppers like myself to go out and play.

After about three hours of participating in the metaverse, My token counter hit just over 2,000—finally I had enough to unlock some rare collectibles. I gravitated toward the Los Angeles Lakers collectible which cost me 900 tokens. Once unlocked, I was able to “flex” the purchase by showing off my new collectible in a video.

Merino, meanwhile, has plans to expand FlickPlay to other cities -- including New York, Miami and Chicago -- as early as next year. FlickPlay has also partnered with some local shops like fashion retailer JapanLA and Mexican restaurant Lanea to allow users to shop using their digital wallets.

“I like moving people through our cities,” she said. “At the same time, all these new consumer behaviors are really tied to how we're building our digital identity and the value that these offline interactions are having on how people perceive us online.”

🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.


Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle

Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out

Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities

Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo

SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours

Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch

Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.

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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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