Cape Elizabeth native Lauren Steidl is a co-founder of Integrated Reality Labs, a startup that’s launched a mobile game named Slap that combines the augmented-reality style game play of Pokemon Go with real-life games like tag. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

On a crisp November night in Cape Elizabeth, more than a dozen 20-somethings huddled in a circle, faces illuminated by their phone screens as the game Slap started counting down.

“Spread out,” the app warned. “Get far as possible from everyone. Anyone can be coming for you.”

Participants took off, running through the dark. Some headed toward the street, others to the woods, all laughing.

“You don’t really know who’s going to be after you,” said Wyatt Tanner, 25, who compared the chaos to “The Hunger Games,” a young adult book series. “You want to win, you’re running for your life, but also trying to tag the other person.”

Slap, a digital variation of the playground classic tag, is the first game release from Integrated Reality Labs, a new extended-reality gaming company based in Philadelphia whose founders include Cape Elizabeth natives Lauren Steidl and Ian Andolsek.

The game uses technology – in this case a smartphone app – to track and electronically tag (or slap) players running around in real time. Loosely based on large-scale in-person games like Assassin, Humans vs. Zombies and Manhunt, Slap is designed to be easier to play, scale and organize.


The technology relies on what Andolsek called “sensor fusion,” which integrates data from GPS, Bluetooth and internal gyroscope sensors in your phone and high-speed 5G cellular networking for live device mapping.

Unlike massively popular augmented reality games like Pokemon Go and Jurassic World Alive, where digital content is superimposed on the world around you, Slap puts the emphasis on “human connection and real-world engagement,” Steidl said.

“It behooves you to put your phone in your pocket and run away,” she said.

The company launched its first round of open beta testing this month. It’s available for iPhone users under the name SLAP MVP. By the end of January, Andolsek hopes to have about 1,000 people playing Slap. By the game’s official commercial launch in 2025, he hopes to see that number closer to 1 million.


About a decade ago, Sean Nissenbaum, now a sophomore at New York University, was playing tag with friends while also playing a geocaching game on his phone. Tag would be a lot more fun, he thought, if it were more like geocaching – technologically enabled and played by the masses.


So he started teaching himself to code, and after 10 years, he and his father, Scott Nissenbaum, approached Andolsek, 29, who was working as co-founding chief operating officer at MyClimb, a social fitness/training app for rock climbers.

Andolsek signed on immediately and reached out to his former classmate and former smoothie shop co-worker, Steidl, also 29. She was working at MedRhythms, a Portland medical technology startup. They recruited Marc Ilgen, a software developer and former NASA researcher, and the three, together with the younger Nissenbaum, launched Integrated Reality Labs earlier this year.

“It sounded really exciting, the idea of people playing in the real world … reconnecting in life again, using technology to undo some of the social isolation that technology has caused,” Andolsek said.

There were a few tag-style mobile apps on the market, but the two quickly discovered the games were “awful,” practically unusable.

“It actually made us worried about whether this was technically possible or not at all,” he said.

Nevertheless, Steidl and Andolsek officially quit their jobs nine months ago and have been working on Slap full-time and have two patents filed on the core technology. Steidl lives and works in Maine while Andolsek splits his time between here and California.


They are trying to raise $1 million for their startup and have just over 50% committed, Steidl said. The two Cape Elizabeth natives see near-limitless opportunity. Although the mobile gaming market is huge, it’s also really saturated.

“Pokemon Go showed there’s a huge appetite for apps that get you out and moving in the real world,” Steidl said. “The space we’re focused on disrupting is basically untouched.”


The early 2000s saw the advent of StreetWars, a three-week-long water gun tournament based on the game Assassin that toured around the world between 2004 and 2015. In major cities like New York, Los Angeles, London and Paris, hundreds of people would sign up to hunt down and take out opponents in what was essentially a drawn-out and high-stakes game of tag.

Steidl and Andolsek hope to capture the same kind of enthusiasm to reach beyond high school and colleges.

But these large-scale games with dozens or even hundreds of players require a lot of coordination. And now, with more technology at hand, game-runners are consulting massive spreadsheets and using multiple social media platforms and apps to track players.


“We want to streamline this process so there’s just one app this experience is housed within,” Steidl said. “We eliminated all the parts of the experience that suck.”

They also made a choice to differentiate from games like Assassin and Humans vs. Zombies, which often feature toy weapons like water guns and Nerf guns. Some colleges banned the games outright following the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. 

“I immediately saw the potential for this to do something really kind of different by eliminating the water guns and squirt guns to conform more to what parents and administration are OK with,” Steidl said.

“There’s still the element of finding, chasing, escaping,” Andolsek added. “(But) our game doesn’t have the violent undertones.” 

Cora Dempsey, one of the players who tested the game this month in Cape Elizabeth, described it as “silly fun,” although she was out before things intensified.

“The last couple of people were playing to win,” she said.


Dempsey, 23, of Portland, said she can see Slap catching on, either as a fun activity for a group of friends or as a way to meet new people. Most of the players from her game were strangers, with the exception of Andolsek, who’s a friend. She has since stayed in touch with several people she met.

Tanner, of Scarborough, also didn’t know any fellow players. He met Steidl and Andolsek at C Salt Gourmet Market just a few days before, where they were recruiting people to try out Slap.

“I think it’s a really cool and unique game because a lot of people will play games on their phones and I don’t think it really sparks a lot of in-person interaction,” he said.

He also thinks the app opens the door for other games, like real-life versions of Assassin’s Creed, League of Legends or Fortnite.

Andolsek and Steidl think so too, and other games are in the pipeline at their company.

As for Slap, planned updates for their existing game include increasing the number of players able to join a game and the length of matches. They also plan to launch public matches where anyone in the vicinity can join, rather than by invite only.

“We’re walking before we run,” Steidl said.

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