Due to the fact that a ragtag group of online gambling enthusiasts were not invited to parties thrown by land-based groups in 2002, Fire and Ice was born out of this situation. When the full scope of the industry is taken into consideration, the concept now appears absurd.
From its humble beginnings in the backroom of a pub to its current incarnation as a must-see mammoth show at Troxy, the show has garnered a reputation for being the gaming industry’s craziest and most cutting-edge spectacle.
Caselli does not shy away from examining the event through the lens of high art, despite the fact that it features a mix of the daring and the strange.
Caselli says that the acts are on the line between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. “Precisely as good art ought to, it makes what is uncomfortable comfortable, and what is comfortable, uncomfortable,”
In earlier performances, otherworldly elements such as a giant maze, a pygmy goat, acrobatics, illusions, and giants were among the spectacles that were presented. At Fire and Ice, guests are encouraged to interact with elements such as live animals and pyrotechnics, which are typically avoided at parties with a lower level of daring and exploration.
Caselli, who has worked in the online gambling industry for the past 20 years, has witnessed the sector’s explosive growth.
From a time when the company’s vision was years ahead of its technological capabilities to the present day, when the biggest online conglomerates stand shoulder to shoulder with the crown jewels of the land-based sector, the longevity of Fire & Ice is a testament to the uniqueness of the industry as it exists today.
When the first Fire and Ice was released, the online gaming industry was still in its infancy. It was plagued by all of the challenges that arose from a world that was only tangentially familiar with the internet. To say that things have changed drastically since then regarding online gambling would be an understatement.
In the late 1990s, when Caselli first encountered the concept of online gambling, it was little more than a pipedream. No one was sure whether or not the technology that was necessary to process bets placed online would even be able to function properly.
According to Caselli, “When I first started looking at it, basically all it did was load HTML pages.” “You knew what hand you had before your 9600 band modem downloaded the cards, because the page title would say “forward slash 9H, KD” – like 9 of Hearts, king of diamonds. This told you exactly what cards you were holding before the modem even downloaded them.”
The Fire & Ice competition that will take place this year will, in a sense, be a memorial. In the twenty years that have passed since the cast and crew of the show first started getting together in the back room of a pub to plot their rise to prominence, fortunes have been made and lost in the chaotic and frenetic world of online gambling.
This will be acknowledged throughout the course of the event through the medium of performance. The Fire & Ice festival will feature five acts, each of which will represent a different phase in the evolution of the industry over the course of its existence.
According to Caselli, there will be “some magic and illusion, there will be some high energy, there will be some aerial, there will be some fire, there will be some pyro,” and there will be special effects. “By far, this will go down as our most successful and expensive show to date.
“We are putting everything that we have learned over the course of 20 years of doing this into our Magnum opus, which will be our greatest piece.”
Those who guided the path for scrappy start-ups to become serious corporate actors will be in attendance at the event. These are the people who were responsible for making the online gambling industry what it was in its early years of uncertainty.
In recognition of those individuals, there will be a “legends table” at the event, at which participants who have been involved from the very beginning will take their seats.
The first interpretation of the show’s title, “Beyond our wildest dreams,” refers to the fact that the growth of the industry has been significantly more extensive and innovative than anyone could have anticipated prior to its emergence.
The show is going to have a surreal and dreamlike style, which is the second meaning of the phrase. This meaning refers to the thematic staging of the show.
“It’s going to have an awesome appearance. It will most certainly remove you from your everyday life, and it will be unlike anything you have ever experienced or imagined.
A night to remember
The complexity of Fire & Ice means that it cannot simply be compared to other big-time, big-budget events.
“It’s a little bit of Burning Man,” says Caselli. “It’s a little bit of New Year’s Eve Times Square. It’s an immersive, interactive theatre experience.”
When asked for memorable moments of past shows, Caselli says that his liberal use of snakes has raised an eyebrow or two over the years.
“I use a lot of snakes in the shows,” says Caselli. “People remember the snakes.”
However, inevitably, a show with as many moving parts as this one is bound to experience a hitch once in a while.
The 2012 edition of Fire & Ice, titled ‘Original Sin’, featured a hair-raising moment involving a party-goer who became scared when one of the snakes snapped at a dancer. The woman yelled out, causing a brief joint of panic among the performers.
“Everyone in the lift was screaming and running around because they thought the snakes had gotten together and decided to attack the humans,” said Caselli.
“I had to calm everyone down for the rest of the lift journey and say listen, the snakes have not communicated to each other, they’re not attacking the humans. Everyone chill out.”
The end of an era
This year’s anniversary edition of Fire & Ice is, in a sense, the end of an era. Thanks to the efforts of those on Fire & Ice’s guest list, online gaming has changed radically since the event’s origins.
The upcoming generation are not venturing into uncharted waters, in the same way Caselli and his posse were. Every year, the industry grows up a little more.
It’s a bittersweet feeling. The show – much like the industry itself – finds itself in much more serious, ordered times.
But Caselli has no intention of saying goodbye to Fire & Ice. To the contrary, 2023’s edition is set to be the most spectacular of them all – although Caselli is prepared to take the show in a new direction going forward.
“We’ve probably used every illusion, every pyrotechnic, every special effect that you possibly can,” he says. “And if I’m going to continue to blow people’s minds, anything going forward is going to be different.
“It’s going to be everything we’ve learned, put together into its twentieth year. The granddaddy of them all.”