Interview with Daniel Hill, proprietor of Escape

Scottish flag graphicThere are two new red pins, representing exit games set to open soon, in the Exit Games UK map. One is for Escape Rooms of London, which opens on Friday as discussed yesterday. The other relates to this Facebook post with the exciting news that the very popular Escape site of Edinburgh is set to open a second location, this time in Glasgow. Exit Games UK had the pleasure of an interview with Daniel Hill, the man behind the Escape business. The questions asked by Exit Games are tagged with EG and Daniel’s responses with DH below.

  • EG: What’s your background and how did that lead you up to the opening of Escape?
  • DH: One of my friends visited an Exit Game in Europe and mailed me the link. We decided we would visit one when he got back, it turned out there was nothing nearby. I was studying to be a Maths teacher but when we got the idea it certainly seemed a lot more fun and it just snowballed from there!
     
  • EG: How has Edinburgh taken to its first exit game?
  • DH: We’ve had an absolutely superb response. We’ve met so many fantastic people, not just from Edinburgh but from all around the world. It’s really interesting to get perspectives and feedback on how to improve from places such as the States, Norway, Australia etc….
     
  • EG: Your excellent progress is all the more remarkable given that the site has only been open for just over two months. What techniques have worked well for you at getting the word out around Edinburgh?
  • DH: We did a couple of promotional offers initially through sites such as Groupon. In addition to having an article in the local paper and we were pretty active on social media. This helped us get people in and thankfully the feedback has been incredibly positive. Word of mouth and sites such as TripAdvisor have really driven the business.
     
  • EG: What are your favourite sorts of puzzles, regardless of whether they fit into an exit game or not?
  • DH: I really like optical illusions, the idea that there is something right in front of you yet you cannot see it frustrates the life out of me.
     
  • EG: Which puzzles, games and other artworks have influenced you most over the years in your designs?
  • DH: That’s a really hard one to answer as there are so many things that I have played/read/watched over the years. I used to love the books where you would have to make choices as you progressed, the first real “interactive” games I suppose. Then you have games such as Broken Sword all the way up to the apps that are around now. TV shows are an absolute gold mine, I always watch thinking how can I turn that into something I can use.
     
  • EG: Your Edinburgh Evening News article describes you as a game show junkie. Which shows have most inspired you in Escape and of which other shows do you have fond memories?
  • DH: Yeah it’s true I like a game show! From classics such as The Crystal Maze, Krypton Factor and kids shows such as Knightmare. I’ve started watching a couple of series from the 80’s recently that have given me some interesting ideas so I’ll keep them to myself!
     
  • EG: Your site might be one of the most intensively used of them all; few, if any, other sites have as many as nine teams through each room in a single day. What does a typical day for you look like?
  • DH: To be honest at the moment there is no typical day. Switching between working in Edinburgh, setting up Glasgow, writing “The Da Vinci Room”, organising corporate bookings and having potentially 18 bookings a day in our two rooms it is all a bit chaotic. Thankfully we have a great team who are prepared to work a lot of hours as we try and get everything done to the right standard.
     
  • EG: What makes an ideal exit game employee?
  • DH: After having recruited a couple of more members to the team we have primarily been looking for people from a service background with an inquisitive mind. The ability to put the customer at ease very quickly is really important as the majority of the time they are participating in a new experience.
     
  • EG: Do you have any particularly funny stories from the time you’ve been open?
  • DH: There have been several moments that would have made Youtube gold! We had a team of 3 girls who got stuck and decided to dance until they got another clue! A couple who sang the alphabet song to each other to try and break a code, and one team that pretty much lifted the entire carpet in an effort to Escape…they failed!
     
  • EG: August is Festival season in Edinburgh. Do you have anything particular planned for this month?
  • DH: We have extended our hours and been building “The Da Vinci Room” for the last few weeks. I’m really excited by this as we have turned a much bigger room into an old study with some really interesting puzzles. Getting the piano up the stairs better have been worth it!
     
  • EG: You mentioned on your Facebook page that you are planning to open a second location, but situated in Glasgow. What lessons that you have learnt from Edinburgh will you be applying to your Glasgow location?
  • DH: We have gone for a similar format to how we currently operate. The main changes being that we are on the ground floor with windows facing Glasgow city centre and having a bigger site. We have also amended the booking times to make it easier to manage.
     
  • EG: If you could predict the future for exit games, how do you think it would look?
  • DH: I think we are at the tip of an iceberg. Games are going to get more and more ambitious and I imagine there will be a number of sites opening over the next 12-18 months. I’m really excited about seeing what the other sites have got coming up in the future!
     
  • EG: If you could give the readers, exit game players and puzzle fans reading this one piece of advice, what would it be?
  • DH: Take your time and be organised, noone is going to present you a puzzle that cannot be completed in the time limit.

Thanks so much for that, Daniel! Glasgow poses a massive opportunity, with the conurbation holding literally millions of potential players. The very strong reviews that the first Escape site earned speak for themselves; anything that gives so many more Scots the chance to join the fun has got to be a big step in the right direction.

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