And we’re back…


There’s no other way to start this post than to say a huge thank you to Chris for all the work he put into Exit Games over the past couple of years, not to mention outside of the site through things like the Unconferences. When I first got into escape games, this blog was my font of knowledge and in taking it on, I want to make sure that the people who are just starting out on that crazy road have the same opportunities I did. Of course, Chris hasn’t gone away entirely! He’s still around on the scene and, if you haven’t already, you can continue following him via his new blog, Ex Exit Games, or on Twitter.

So who am I? Well, my name’s Ken and I’m an escape enthusiast who’s been following the blog for the last year and a bit.  You may have seen my name crop up as someone who regularly contributed information about new venues or have met me at the London unconference. You may also be aware that I run a review site, but I intend to keep the two entirely separate and this will likely be the last time I refer to that dual role here. To the best of my abilities, Exit Games will continue with its impartial reporting – announcing new games from across the British Isles and maintaining an up-to-date listing and map.

If you’ve been paying careful attention, you may have noticed that the site is a little out of date at the moment. I’ll be working over the coming days to fix that, specifically aiming to get the map and escape venue list fully accurate again (or as accurate as it can ever get in this fast-changing industry!) as well as listing all the escape rooms that I’m aware of that are under construction. Alongside that, my intention is to continue publishing news that I think is of interest to the enthusiasts in the UK and Ireland.

This is a learning curve for me, and I’m trusting you, the readers, to keep me moving in the right direction. If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please reach out to me, either through the comment space below, on Twitter or via email.


In which I make my escape

"End of Part One" graphicGood news! I will be blogging in future at Ex Exit Games. The URL is the same as this one except with an ex at the start – – and I hope that you decide to follow me there. Future posts will be like the ones over here since March, except less… rigorous.

Bad news! I do not intend to make any further posts to Exit Games UK.

Good news! I would be delighted to turn over to somebody else. (Ideally it would be someone not associated with any commercial escape game sites. There have already been at least two very good offers.) The only going concerns on are the map, most recently kindly updated by Ken, and the list of exit game locations, which has not been updated since late February. I would advise that you delete everything else on the site to emphasise that it will no longer be updated; I will maintain a complete archive of Exit Games UK at Ex Exit Games.

How’s about that for a news sandwich?

Jamming the odds and ends in

Jars of jam

Right behind these lovely-looking jars of jam is a jar of game jam. (Maybe it’s more of a preserve.) Specifically, it’s the Escape Room Game Jam held at MIT, probably the world’s coolest university, in the Boston area this weekend. It’s organised by the MIT Game Lab in affiliation with Red Bull; the link is clearer when it becomes available that teams will be creating escape room content “escape room based around a moment in a upcoming film”, with the film being DxM, the “second project from Red Bull Media House’s recently launched feature film division CineMater“. The boffo Variety magazine calls the film a “high-octane thriller based around the possibilities of quantum mechanics“. Sounds cool, though it’s not possible to measure precisely how cool without changing how cool it is.

This whole Game Jam is really exciting, not least because of the articles it has already generated. One of the co-writers and producer of the film, Joanne Reay, writes that “the next generation of Escape Room will offer a compelling narrative in which an understanding of the story-world delivers an added advantage and insight into the solving of the clues“. Quite possibly so; this site doesn’t believe there is a single future for exit games, but this definitely sounds like part of the future and one that a great many players would surely appreciate in their games. If it’s an aspect that is to be emphasised in this particular Game Jam then the results will be enticing indeed.

Additionally – and this is particularly interesting – Konstantin Mitgutsch, Affiliate Researcher at the MIT Game Lab, writes, advancing the state of the art, on the topic of turning escaping from exit games into a competitive sport. There’s definitely scope for expansion in at least a couple of ways here: first, how might these general principles be applied to other sorts of puzzle-based live adventures; second, how might Escape Room Malaysia’s Escape Run 2014 event compare in practice to the theory? (Are there any other events that might be compared? This site can’t think of any, but you may well know better…) Certainly if you were an operator thinking of running something yourself in the future, there’s the theory to consider.

The speakers at the Game Jam have remarkable sets of qualifications; the same page suggests that the event is set to be filmed. The designs produced are set to be released under a Creative Commons licence; hopefully, the filming will extend to the speakers and their talks will be released as well. If the content released does go on to be used in a pop-up game supporting DxM, then Red Bull will have probably done quite well in terms of getting considerable development expertise at the cost of enabling a single Game Jam – but the Game Jam material’s release will mean that the world at large will have done well from it too, and gratitude should be given to Red Bull and the MIT Game Lab for that.

A couple of other odds and ends outstanding: thank you to everybody who made a submission to the site survey released to celebrate its first birthday. There were more than twice as many responses as there were for the previous such survey (after a hundred posts) and it represents greater commitment to go and fill in a survey on another site, so this does represent progress. Particular thanks to those who offered additional commentary in the text box section, which will not be addressed here, but the responses were very much appreciated.

  • About a quarter of respondents are in the exit game business and another quarter have their own blog on the topic, so the proportion of “pure players” is just under a half. The suggests that no matter how many people visit the site just for the big map at the top and to find a site location, it takes quite a degree of commitment to scroll further down and read the blog articles, let alone respond to the poll.
  • Nearly 60% are more interested in exit game posts than anything else, nearly 30% are more interested in puzzle hunt posts than anything else, with some clicking both and some neither, which is fine; plenty of reason to keep things varied, but good to get such a clear indication of what you think the main attraction is.
  • The geographic questions were not so well-designed on this site’s part, but it looks like nearly a quarter of respondents are from Greater London, nearly a quarter from the North-West of England, just under 20% from the UK or Ireland but outside both hubs and just over a third from outside the UK and Ireland.

Finally, this site has captured a second quarterly set of live price data towards producing an estimated exit game inflation rate, and with rather a better idea than it had three months ago about what should be in the basket. Still far too early to attempt to quote a meaningful inflation rate, though, but the general trends based on very few data points are that London launch prices are varying at both the high and low ends compared to prior practice, and provincial launch prices are trending slightly lower.

Exit Games UK is one year old today!

Birthday cake with one candleHappy Birthday to this site! Please help the celebrations by spending 45 seconds or so to open this page and fill in a very quick survey. Just mark as many or as few of the boxes as are appropriate, and the results will be summarised in the last week of March 2015.

The survey arises because this site doesn’t really trust its hit counter and statistics package. The number of visitors that this site attracts fell by about half a few weeks ago. It seems a little unlikely that the number of humans visiting this site has actually fallen hard; every WordPress blog attracts masses of spammers trying to leave comments advertising their products – at a guess, maybe 90% or 95% of the traffic to this site – and almost every blog puts a number of anti-spam measures in place. This site is counting on the (probably fairly small) number of humans visiting not having changed much, but the number of spammers having halved, for whatever reason.

Too much blogging about blogging can make those who don’t blog go “bleurgh” – better write about the topic itself. However, on the birthday itself, it’s probably reasonable to take stock. It’s been far more successful and exciting than even wildest expectations; many thanks go to those who have contributed to the blog, to those who have spent their time, effort and so-o-o-o many resources putting the games of so many types in place for us all to play, and very much to readers like you for taking the time, trouble and interest to read and follow what’s going on. Updating this blog has got much easier over time, simply because the rate of developments is so rapid that there’s so much to talk about – the posts often, more or less, write themselves.

The biggest highlight has been the people; it’s been a thrill to get to know some delightful and singular people through the blog over the past year. It’s really exciting to see all the blogs that have sprung up both in the UK and around the world, and people helping the industry by writing more enthusiastic and insightful reviews than this site ever could. The interviews have been great fun, particularly when they’ve given me the chance to meet amazing people in real life. If there’s been a lowlight, it’s that the site’s busiest day came on the only day with bad news so far.

It’s a thrill that there are so many games out there, but more importantly, it’s a delight how many ideas there are out there and the exciting variety of ways in which people are developing the exit game concept. Last July, a prediction of reaching 20 games by the end of the year seemed a little ambitious; just a few months later, the truth way has way outstripped that. This site cares slightly less about how many games there are out there than it does about how many games can thrive; it would rather see 40-80 games flourish for the long term than a bubble of 100-200 games that oversaturate the market.

So to the future. The frequency of posts may well decrease slightly over time; contributions are always welcome. The layout may well change again, as there are some significant ways in which it is sub-optimal, though it may require some outside expertise and additional WordPress-wrangling skills; if you have the knowledge and willingness to assist, please pipe up. (For instance: this layout seems to eat tick-boxes whenever you try to embed a poll in a post, which is why this site has had to use an external polling service. Grrrrr.) The map at Play Exit Games is amazing in the way that it clusters nearby sites together; if anyone can explain, as if to a five-year-old, precisely how to produce a stunning clustering map like that, please get in touch at once.

Future emphases for the year to come include:

1) A change in focus from “helping people to find a game to play” to “helping people to find the right game for them“. With sites from Aberdeen to Plymouth, it’s a reasonably safe assumption, to an acceptable degree of approximation, that people will be able to find a game to play. The fact that so many people will have a choice, and wildly different preferences determining how they would make that choice, is the next step to deal with.

2) Help people find all sorts of different puzzle adventures to play. Perhaps people will want to go to the near-freezing Czech Republic in autumn and be part of a thousand people running around looking for clues; perhaps people will want to pull up a cosy chair in the comfort of their own home and let the puzzles take them to all sorts of different places in their minds. If you like one sort of puzzle adventure, you may well like all sorts of others – but only if you know they exist, and if you know how to get into them.

3) Keep the bureaucracy going. Maybe the statistics that this site collects will turn out to be valuable and useful in the long term; maybe they won’t. If it turns out that they are of use, or if people can find some statistics that would be useful to collect, then stopping keeping track won’t help anybody.

Tomorrow won’t be a Mechanics Monday post, as more exciting site openings push the less time-critical posts into the slightly longer grass. Plenty of time for them to come over the next year… and beyond!

First Crowdsourced Awards Show

Graphic of a shiny cartoon trophyApparently 3% of the population of the UK will be at work today – mostly in the health profession and other essential service workers, but plenty of chefs as well. A busy day for the clergy, too. This site believes that at least one UK exit game is in business today and wishes workers there well. Have an unbelievably good birthday, Chris Kamara.

This is often the time of year at which award shows are held, reflecting on the nearly-finished year. Time will tell whether this is a good idea or not, but this site suggests it might be a good time to perform its own awards show. However, we’re crowdsourcing it; please post your own categories – whatever you like! – and winners below. Here are some examples:

  • If you’ve played a game which had a particularly good celebration when you won, recognise it below.
  • If one location has a car park that made you feel that your car was especially safe, holler.
  • If someone giving a game briefing did such a good job that you instantly developed a crush on their competence and charm, they’re well worth a shout-out.
  • If you’ve played a puzzle which had a prop that made you squeal with delight… that might actually be a bit spoilery; maybe best to either keep that one to yourself, or award them the prestigious “Best Thing – you know the one, under the thing, with the other thing that did that really cool thing” award.
  • That should give you a sense of what you’re after.

Site proprietors feel free to give credit to other sites where it’s due, and there’s never any harm in being funny, though do please keep it all in the holiday spirit. Oh, and this site doesn’t need to receive any awards – at least, ones which you’d have thought that this site might like to receive. 🙂

Introducing the multi-submitter

Four contact iconsThere are several different attempts to produce directories of the exit games that exist. This site has a directory of sites in the UK and Ireland, along with a timeline tracking the dates of openings, closures, moves and more. However, there are also larger-scale attempts to track the field, including a European map and global listings at Intervirals and Escape Rooms Directory. If you have a new exit game, you’ll want to submit the details to all of them.

This site has produced a form where entering your new exit game’s details into the form will submit those details to all four listings at once. The listings are processed manually, so it may take some time to see the listings updated. (You might also want to submit this to other global listings which are also available – e.g., Escape Game List and EscapeFan – but they are not currently within the scale of this form.)

Raising an unrelated matter, which doesn’t refer to any specific recent incidents, but does crop up from time to time. This site has always had a policy of not accepting paid advertising, sponsorship, free games, deals not available to the public at large, hospitality or other commercial considerations. Accordingly you can be confident that this site does pay its own way and doesn’t play favourites. Offers from sites are gratefully received, but never accepted, no matter how impressive the site.

(Full disclosure: a site operator offered me a glass of water once, which seemed to me not to constitute hospitality, but ended up giving me a Diet Coke instead…)

Milestone 100: a quick survey

Milestone showing the number 100Depending on whether you count the post with the map or not, either there have been 100 posts on this site already or this is the 100th post to this site. This has taken about four months, though this site has always been a “posts every now and again” site rather than a “new post every day” site. Grateful acknowledgements are due to Iain and Phil for their excellent posts along the way and potential contributors are warmly invited to get in touch.

It’s hard to know quite how many visitors the site gets. We have hit count statistics, but – for all WordPress blogs – it’s difficult to know how many of them arise as the result of automated spammers, whose attempted contributions are largely blocked; it might be 75% of our many hundreds of visitors per day, it might be 99.75%. Accordingly, it would be very much appreciated if you would take 45 seconds or so to fill in this anonymous survey, and a hundred posts is as good a milestone point as any. Tick as many or as few boxes as you like for each question; all the questions are completely optional, though participation may set a cookie on your computer.

Thank you for considering it!

Milestone 100: a quick survey

Milestone showing the number 100Depending on whether you count the post with the map or not, either there have been 100 posts on this site already or this is the 100th post to this site. This has taken about four months, though this site has always been a "posts every now and again" site rather than a "new post every day" site. Grateful acknowledgements are due to Iain and Phil for their excellent posts along the way and potential contributors are warmly invited to get in touch. It's hard to know quite how many visitors the site gets. We have hit count statistics, but - for all Wordpress blogs - it's difficult to know how many of them arise as the result of automated spammers, whose attempted contributions are largely blocked; it might be 75% of our many hundreds of visitors per day, it might be 99.75%. Accordingly, it would be very much appreciated if you would take 45 seconds or so to fill in this anonymous survey, and a hundred posts is as good a milestone point as any. Tick as many or as few boxes as you like for each question; all the questions are completely optional, though participation may set a cookie on your computer. Thank you for considering it![wwm_survey id="0"]

Welcome to readers from Larry Hosken’s blog

"Welcome" sign boardSo Larry Hosken recently linked to this blog! If you followed his link and clicked through, welcome. There is a moderately heavy UK emphasis, but not completely so; most of the online competitions I mention are global, and I like to write about especially interesting or relevant non-UK matters. Larry is one of the foremost documentors of puzzle hunts, with plenty of evidence to back up his long-held contention that Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere. (And everywhen!) I always appreciate his research into exit game history from a knowledgeable source.

There is a focus on exit games, because they’re making quite an impact over here, with both the flourishing number of them and the extent of their popularity as measured by towns’ Tripadvisor attraction rankings acting as evidence of this. (Jumping outside the UK for a moment, I was delighted to see that a new site has opened in Chennai, India featuring four games, the most delightfully unusual theme of which is “90 degrees cricket fantasy”.) However, over the last month or so, I’ve discussed puzzle hunts such as the upcoming DASH in London and the “Top Secret” hunt in Essex, online puzzle competitions such as the World Puzzle Federation’s Puzzle Grand Prix, the Armchair Treasure Hunt’s free online competition (the start time of which has been put back to 11pm BST tonight) and even some April Fool’s Day silliness.

A couple of news items: the World Puzzle Federation’s Sudoku Grand Prix contest’s fourth round, set by Russian authors, is now in progress until Monday evening; you can read the Instruction Booklet and see whether you want to spend 90 minutes on it, wherever you are in the world.

In UK exit game news, Cipher Entertainment of Leicester’s Facebook page has an offer of half price for kids until they close on April 26th for renovations to launch their brand new “season two” – though look down to their March 31st entry for a discount that applies on weekdays for full teams of eight. I was also rather delighted to see on Cryptopia of Bristol’s Facebook page that Puzzlair of Bristol came to visit. Sounds like both site representatives had a good time!

Why not leave a comment here if you’ve surfed on in from Larry’s blog? Sadly the spam-to-actual-comments ratio is literally thousands to one, so it’s possible that the spam trap has been over-zealous, but I’d love to hear from you!


Hello World speech balloon
Welcome to the blog!

The focus of the site is exit games, which you might also know as escape games or locked room games. However, this blog will look a little further afield, covering related events such as puzzle hunts and also other puzzle games as and when news arises.

Exit games have been available within the UK, in their modern incarnation, since 2012, but it would be fair to say that 2013 saw a massive expansion, particularly towards the end of the year. Further afield, Japanese Wikipedia suggests that the first such games of this type were promoted by the company SCRAP, previously known for a free newspaper, in Kyoto in July 2007. The genre has spread around the world; at time of writing this post, the tremendous site suggests there are over 60 such games (or, at least, rooms…?) in Hungary, of which 44 are in Budapest alone. Last December, the Wall Street Journal reported on developments in China, suggesting the existence of 120 games in Beijing – which, in the context of Budapest, seems plausible. Currently this site is aware of eight sites in the UK and Ireland offering a total of sixteen games, so we have some way to go to catch up.

Nevertheless, there have been interesting games with some degree of similarity in the past, more of which some other day. The degree of technology required to produce such a game is not necessarily particularly high, so it’s tempting to wonder whether Lord Baden-Powell, or other Boy Scout leaders, might have produced a comparable diversion as an alternative to the long history of wide games, scores of years ago. If there’s ever evidence to suggest this, this blog will be one of the first to let you know!