Escape Room Rumours – 13 November 2017


Welcome to your weekly roundup of UK and Irish escape room news covering everything this site has discovered in the last week.

This site is always on the look-out for new games or venues that are opening, references in the media or anything else that might be of interest to the readers, so please do send an email if you spot anything of interest. That applies to owners too – feel free to send me your news for inclusion here. Don’t be shy!

On to the news

That’s all I’m aware of. If any of the above is incorrect or if you’re aware of other news, significant discounts or competitions, then let me know via email or in the comments below and I’ll include updates in the next edition.

Thanks for reading!

The UK Escape Room Conference 2017

Wow, what an experience! Those of you who were lucky enough to get tickets to Nottingham on Monday will know just what I mean. It was an action-packed day from the moment the conference attendees arrived till when I left late in the evening (and well beyond by the sound of it!). As a non-owner, I always feels a bit strange attending these events. I’m an impostor, flitting from design talk to design talk and steering clear of the more mundane aspects of running escape rooms but maybe that means I can step back and look at things from a different perspective.

For me, the highlight session was the Daves from Bewilder Box and James from Deadlocked in Reading talking about in-game interactions. I had no idea what to expect but I really liked the clear way their messages came across. Dave Middleton’s comments around “the ancient art of dressing up” were particularly inspiring. Whatever aspect of escape room design you’re thinking of, consider whether you can put a (potentially metaphorical) costume on it to help aid the immersion. Their use of D.A.V.E., the in-room AI to dispense hints but also entertain and, when necessary, control the players showed just how creative you can get. In some rooms, the clue system is a necessary evil. A break from immersion that most players are happy to accept but the purist in me still wishes could be improved. In Bewilder Box it becomes the central pillar of the game, controlling the experience to a level that other games rarely attempt.

James, on the other hand, talked with passion (and humour!) about adaptable experiences. It was one of those great presentations where you go away thinking that what you’ve been told is both obvious and entirely new. The central theme there was how you could make games that appealed to the full range of teams from novice couples to large enthusiast teams and everything in between.  How? Well, adaptable experiences obviously but what I liked was his explanation and examples of how they’d done that. His overriding principle is the need to keep the interventions invisible, in-game and in-character. I told you that it was obvious but I still went away excited about what that might mean for other games in the future. Totally unrelated to what he was saying in the session I’d also like to send kudos his way for placing a strong female central character in their first game. The gender-balance of in-game characters in escape rooms is shocking, especially given the seemingly well-balanced demographics when it comes to players. It’s great to see another game with a non-male characters front and central.

Common to both those talks was a sense of interaction which was a more general theme I picked up on throughout the day – gone are the times when sticking a few puzzles in a room was enough. We’ve moved on to a new stage in the industry where you need to be doing more to engage your players. There were plenty of talks to help you with that, not least from the Escapement. In the morning David and Lewis were showing how they’d seamlessly integrated technology into Pirates of Polaris (via the most unbelievably advanced portable escape room kit, a live demo and members of the audience) while Mica took the afternoon slot to talk about set design.

One of the sessions that I couldn’t make it along to was Alasdair from History Mystery talking about how they’d managed to build on local history to tell stories and create games. Fortunately, I managed to grab some time to chat with him and his partner Lisa later in the day covering some of what he undoubtedly said in the talk but also hearing more about their plans. If you’re ever thinking of creating a game with a strong historical backdrop then I’d highly recommend getting in touch.

Most of those people were probably talking at an escape room related conference for the first time and made a fantastic job of it but there were, of course, some of the stalwarts of the industry for whom this is old hat. Nick from Time Run opened the conference with a rerun of his Up the Game presentation on the Tools of Immersion (good news – if you missed it you can catch it on YouTube here) which was universally well received. Mink of Enter the Oubliette fame took on the controversial topic of Doing Away with Padlocks. Or was it controversial? Perhaps she wasn’t so much saying you should get rid of padlocks as think more about where they belong and whether there are ways of camouflaging padlocks in other forms. Stuart from Tulleys kicked off the downstairs conference stream with the tale of how Tulleys had taken their experiences from being a huge force in the haunt industry and applied it as new entrants to the escape room market. James Wallman, author of Stuffocation, was the one non-industry speaker at the conference, covering the experience economy and how that played into the escape room industry.

It didn’t end there though. Simon from Escapologic, one of the hosts of the conference, somehow managed to find time to put together a session on tailoring the game to the individual alongside one of his managers, Conrad. Brendan from Escape Plan in London hosted a well-received interactive session on dealing with difficult situations. Alex from the Panic Room gave us his insights on how to take your ideas and make them a reality while Jane from Norris Box and Jason from Thinking Outside the Box joined forces to talk about how to involve children in games. I loved the simple advice Jane offered of locating child-friendly puzzles as low as possible to make them appealing to kids and unappealing to their parents! It wasn’t just owners, though, Sarah Dodd (the other organiser) teamed up with me for a session on players’ perspectives while the other half of S², Sharan, headed up a panel with Mark from Really Fun, Amy from Brit of an Escape Habit and another appearance from me (I’ve got two blogs, so it’s only fair I get to talk twice, right?). Finally, there were a couple of owners’ panels to round out the conference and let everyone get a few insights from the great and the good of the industry.

And breathe… It’s hard to believe that so much was fitted into one day. 16 full sessions given by around 30 people from all aspects of the industry. What’s all the more remarkable is that all these people did it out of the goodness of their heart – they didn’t even get their expenses paid. It’s great to be part of an industry where companies are happy to support each other without expecting anything in return. Where people are willing to get up on stage and explain the secrets of their success to strangers. It leaves me filled with hope that the UK escape room industry will continue to move forward rapidly but, even better, do that cooperatively rather than competitively. Long may it continue!

To the old friends that I caught up with on the day – it was, as ever, a pleasure. To those of you who I met for the first time (at least in person!) – thanks for taking the time to chat and make the conference a great experience. To those of you with whom I didn’t manage to connect – I’m sure it won’t be long before we get the chance again but please do feel free to drop me an email and say hello.

The only question that I was left with at the end of the day?  When can we do this again?

Watch this space…


Escape Room Rumours – 16 October 2016


Welcome to your (approximately) weekly dose of UK and Irish escape game rumours. These have been appearing over on The Logic Escapes Me for the last six months or so but, while the nature of them is a little more gossipy than is usual for Exit Games, they fit more naturally with the content of this site than the reviews on their former home so it makes sense to relocate them.

This site is always on the look out for any new games or venues that are opening, references in the media or anything else that might be of interest to the readers, so please do send an email if you spot anything of interest!

On to the news!

  • National
    • You’d have to be hiding under a stone to miss that the Crystal Maze made a return to Channel 4 last night. While the show itself is a one-off in aid of Stand Up to Cancer, this site can’t help but feel that, given the furore around it at the moment, there’s a chance to launch a successful TV show off the back of it. Indeed with the announcement of a new venue in Manchester that’s housed at the old Granada TV studios, one can’t help but wonder whether they gave any thought to how they might fit filming into the venue…
    • Off the back of that, the Guardian ran a story about escape rooms and how they’d been part of the impetus behind bringing back the show.
    • Another thing you’ll have missed by the time you read this news update but… Alibi TV ran a live streamed murder mystery escape room style event on Facebook where the audience got to make decision about what the character did. If you think that’s a tenuous link to escape rooms then perhaps the fact Minkette of Enter the Oubliette fame was involved in the design will convince you it belongs here.
  • Northern Ireland
    • Escape Belfast opened with two rooms: Down the Rabbit Hole and The Preacher
  • North West England
    • As mentioned above, the Crystal Maze announced the opening of a venue in Manchester. Tickets are already on sale for the April opening date with promises of new games and some changes to the format. Head over to Ex Exit Games for some more analysis and interesting musings.
    • Breakout Challenge near Manchester opened with a single game entitled… the Game.
    • Timed Trap in Preston is opening later this week with The Great Escape, Serial Killer and Treasure Theft. If the name sounds familiar then it’s possibly because they ran an, ultimately unsuccessful, kickstarter project a few months ago. It’s great to see that in spite of that setback they’ve pushed on and opened not only the two rooms they working on but a third entirely new one.
    • Unfortunately appearing too late on this site’s radar to broadcast more widely, Wigan vs the Lizards was a free to play reboot of a temporary escape room that ran last summer in St Helen’s. This site certainly hopes that it wasn’t just a one off return!
  • East Midlands
    • Escape Reality have announced their Leicester location and games with Jungala, Enigmista and Alcatraz coming to the Midlands.
  • West Midlands
    • Those of you who like to know about escape rooms’ arrivals well in advance might be curious about a planning application in Stratford-upon-Avon by Escape Live – the brand behind the successful Birmingham and Southend games that has already announced plans for a room in Coventry.
    • Xscape Now (not to be confused with some of the other venues mentioned in this article that used to use the name Xscape…) have successfully applied for planning permission and will be opening an escape room in Telford in the not too distant future. The local journalists are obviously fellow readers of planning applications and ran a story on the new outfit.
  • Scotland
    • If you’re quick, and you’re in the right area then you’re just in time to sign up to the Midlothian Science Festival’s free escape room, Escape the Cell. Sadly, it’s only running on 18th October so you’ll have to be very quick indeed!
    • Escape Reality have announced their venue in Glasgow and opening date (1 December). As with their Cardiff site, there are five rooms: Jungala, Misery, Enigmista, Alcatraz and, in place of Fibonacci, they’ve got Murder in Whitechapel.
  • London:
    • Operation Escape opened with a single game: World War II – the Ops Room
    • Enigma Escape have announced their long-awaited second room, the Breakout.
    • Enigma Quests have finished beta testing and opened up their second room, the Million Pound Heist, this week.
  • South East England:
    • Clue Cracker in Margate closed down their first game, Jail Break, and have just opened Escape From Quarantine
    • The Real Escape opened their second game, Dr Ryddle’s Memories, this weekend. Another games follows in November
    • Houdini Escape opens its doors this week with Escape from Alcatraz.
  • East England
    • If you’re a fan of escape rooms with a local tie in (and this site certainly is) and you live in Suffolk then you should be excited about the arrival of an escape room at the Suffolk Food Hall. Escape the Gamekeeper’s Bothy is due to open in late October and comes from the same stable as the Oliver Cromwell escape room in nearby Ely.
    • Meanwhile, just outside Cambridge, this site has come across a venue that’s planning two games. The interestingly named Cryptx is based on farmland a few miles outside the city centre and plans to open two games at the end of November, the Pub and the Gaol. Looking further ahead, there appears to be plans for a venue over in Essex somewhere. Watch this space…
  • Wales

That’s all folks

That’s all I’m aware of. If any of the above is incorrect or if you’re aware of other news, discounts or competitions, then let me know via email or in the comments below and I’ll include updates in the next edition.

Thanks for reading!

Crowdfunding round-up

Savings jar graphicThis site has long had a policy, among many others, of prioritising efforts not to play favourites. While the policy continues as ever, the biggest challenge to it yet has arisen; for the first time, it happens that people who I already knew and liked are starting their first UK exit game. Impartiality (as far as consciously possible, and making efforts to consider subconsious effects) remains critical – but, by way of full disclosure, there’s more of a reason for me to have a rooting interest in this one particular case.

This site has given a few mentions to Mink Ette, one of the team behind the Spark of Resistance game in Portland, near the Pacific coast of the US, and also mentioned Gareth Briggs of last year’s MOLE game and more. The two of them, and others, are teaming to start an exit game in Brixton, with an associated Adventure Society situating its headquarters in the site’s retail presence; the crowdfunding campaign has started like gangbusters.

It would be fair to say that the UK has not previously seen an exit game crowdfunding campaign with such a hot start, this side of a more inclusive decision of exit game that might permit comparison to Hyde or The Crystal Maze. It would also be fair to point out that other sites have reached their targets even after a less conspicuous beginning – and that other sites again that didn’t reach their targets at all have still come to fruition, flourished and made a great many people happy.

It’s worth asking what has made the difference in this case; at a guess, informed by other articles on successful crowdfunding such as this one by beloved band the Doubleclicks, getting your name out there and being a known quantity makes a big difference, and one way to do that is to work on many other people’s projects. It also helps that other reputable people have been willing to lend their credibility by volunteering on the project, on the crowdfunding rewards or simply by being vocal about it. The whole “having run the game before in another country” issue may also make it a somewhat more plausible proposition, too.

This is far from the only game in town, though. There’s another Kickstarter project for Code Rooms, a putative exit game in Cardiff looking to open in 2016. Kickstarter is not the only crowdfunding route; on Indiegogo, the campaign for Escape Rooms Cardiff is offering early bird tickets ahead of the launch, planned for December, at a very attractive rate. This site has also mentioned Mystery HQ Wigan, though the crowdfunding campaign seems no longer available.

More about all these games, as and when news becomes available!

Mid-September news round-up

News round-upToo many news items for a single post, so let’s leave news of new rooms and a new site until a second news post, hopefully within the next two or three days. Eyes down and let’s go go go…

  • Canadian exit game blogs Escape Room Addict, Escape Games Review and Escape Games Toronto have teamed up with a crew of their very talented friends to put on three performances of one-night theatrical live exit game Canadian Caper tonight. In the theatrical tradition, this site wishes them all broken legs and hopes to read more about the event’s glorious success soon.
  • Exit Games UK thoroughly recommends the talk given at VideoBrains by Mink Ette on exit games, one of the team behind Spark of Resistance in Portland (and any excuse to plug the masterclass that is their talk about its design principles is welcome). The end of the talk hints at Mink teaming with Gareth Briggs of last year’s MOLE game on a project to be announced later; enter the Oubliette on Twitter if you want to be among the first to learn more in time.
  • Escapism of Nuneaton have announced on Facebook that they’ll be running a one-off game at midnight on Hallowe’en, and are auctioning the spot for the team of eight to play it. This site gets the impression that Escapism might be marginally more… aggressive? than most, based on its disclaimer, and no holds would surely be barred if you give your informed consent to a Hallowe’en witching hour game. A few sites are ramping up for that time of the year, but it’s not clear if any of them will be able to do so quite so magically.
  • A very interesting-looking business undergoing the crowdfunding process is Legend Quests, which aims to put on theatrical fantasy adventure experiences for teams of thirty, or immersive costumed experiences for teams of ten. The person behind it has an unimpeachable record in fantasy photography and videography, as well as a popular fantasy podcast, and the project has absolutely the right people involved – from voiceover by Tom Baker down to design by experienced fantasy gamebook designers. There have been LARP-for-the-masses efforts before, often taking the tricky role-playing parts out. Rules-light, acting-and-emotion-heavy freeform role-playing is doing at least as well now in the UK as it ever has done, but that’s another matter. Consider contributing to the crowdfunding campaign if that’s your cup of tea.
  • Finally, and most on-topic, the Escape exit game chain (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Dublin and licensees elsewhere) have announced that they have been shortlisted for the Scottish Business Awards in the Emerging Business of the Year category. Congratulations on the nomination; judging by the line-up of presenters at the award ceremony, it’s clearly a big deal!

Hold Fire

Illustrated London NewsThis site is delighted to see both QMSM and Escape Game Addicts get off to such strong starts. Both sites have written about good trips to Breakout Manchester; QMSM also wrote about won-one-lost-one trips to Clue HQ, where any entry in the W column is a hard-won feat, as well as a take on Toronto Room Escapes‘ mighty Themed Thursday strand, spreading like wildfire from blog to blog. Dear old Intervirals is also posting daily through February, a month which will feature their first birthday, an achievement to celebrate – and the quality is well up there with the quantity.

Closer to home, what’s going on? The bad-news-good-news department reports that the limited engagement of Jailbreak! at Oxford Castle has had to come to an end for now, but an unconfirmed report from a friend who really enjoyed playing suggests that it has proved sufficiently popular that it might come back in a bigger, better form at some point before too long.

The biggest London news is that this weekend sees Test Fire, a “regular session of playing games, making games, talking about games, and drinking. High-energy and action-packed throughout“. This particular session is of unusual interest because it will feature Mink Ette, part of the team behind Portland’s 60 Minutes To Escape (where this site cannot praise the design concepts video enough) speaking on the topic and also Gareth Briggs who ran the extremely well-received MOLE game last year. Who knows what other exciting people there will be in attendance? (Sadly travelling will get in the way here this time, but maybe some other month soon!)

Mid-January exit game news

Newspaper with spectacles and pencilCongratulations to The Escape Room Manchester, which opened yesterday and is rolling out the last three of its five rooms today and tomorrow. More news from them, surely, in the weeks to come!

This site greatly enjoyed the coolplaces guide to exit games in London, comparing and contrasting the approaches taken by London’s five oldest indoor sites and declaring superlatives without picking a single superlative. Fingers crossed that they keep exploring what else there is on offer and continue to share their opinions. Similarly, a welcoming tip of the hat to the attractively-designed Escape Rooms London; no clue who’s behind it, but they’re clearly off to a good start. This site’s blogroll needs attention shortly.

Further afield, Dr. Scott Nicholson, a Professor at Syracuse University in upstate New York, launched a large-scale academic survey of exit games last year; he has released a video about the intentions for his survey. One key question: do exit games have lessons for interactive learning experiences within libraries and museums? What an interesting question, and it would take someone with the breadth of knowledge of games in so many different media, and such an accomplished academic pedigree, to look into this. If you run a site, want to participate in the survey and haven’t been contacted yet, see Scott’s recent tweet and get in touch with him.

This site very much enjoyed this presentation and discussion of their design principles from the people behind the Spark of Resistance exit game in Portland, Oregon. Going further, it’s probably a must-watch (though not necessarily a must-agree!) for anyone interested in, or in the early stages of, putting their own location together. The team also discussed their facility on this podcast episode so it’s great to get to see some pictures and enjoy more of their thoughts.

From factual exit rooms to fictional ones: this site’s favourite librarian was enjoying a recent Publisher’s Weekly book deals report, which is surprisingly relevant. Scroll down two-thirds of the way to the report of deals signed by Denis Markell. He’s writing a young adult novel about a scenario that seems to have a lot in common with an exit game. Exciting!

Saving something very strong and close to home for last, Clue HQ made a very interesting announcement on Wednesday, with further developments in the last day. More on this story next!

The latest links

Monochrome pumpkin graphicA blessed Samhain to all of you.

Most excitingly, social media updates lead to some new dots on the map! Locked In Games of Leeds confirm that today is their opening day and The Great Escape Game of Sheffield have launched their Facebook presence, revealing their location and thus earning a red “Coming soon” dot.

Puzzlair of Bristol have announced a one-day discount available for bookings placed on Saturday 1st November only. Book that day for a game to be played by the end of January 2015, use the discount code HALLOWEEN and you’ll earn a chunky 30% off the cost of your game. Additionally, their Facebook page is close to a thousand “Like”s; whoever turns the counter to four digits will earn a free game.

The consistently brilliant Snoutcast podcast is putting out monthly episodes this year, featuring interviews with women who make puzzle games of various sorts. This month’s episode is particularly relevant for this site, as it features an interview with two of the six founders of Spark of Resistance, Portland’s first exit game. The people behind it have a remarkable track record in a variety of styles of game and it’s clear that the eight months of effort have led to a great deal of thought. The Oregonian have a write-up with more detail.

Lastly, a quick tip of the hat to the girlgeekupnorth blog, who has written delightful reviews of the three exit games she has played, so far all in north-west England. With the new games opening elsewhere in the north, who knows what else might be reviewed at some point?