Here’s a treat, and hopefully it might get some discussion going. This site is proud to feature a guest post by Ed Roberts, proprietor of Breakout Manchester. Breakout Manchester is one of the busiest and most popular sites in the country and Ed has travelled extensively, playing games around the country for research purposes (and because he, like everyone else, is a massive fan). Here is a starting-point for a possible ranking table of different games’ difficulties; if you agree or disagree with his rankings, please share your opinions in the comments. Different people will find different things difficult, of course, but if there’s any consensus of opinion, then this would be useful for people deliberately looking for a relatively hard or relatively easy game. Thank you so much, Ed, and take it away!
So I’ve played a fair few escape games. Here in my opinion is how they rank from hardest to easiest. This is no indication of which games are good or bad; an easy game may be great, so may a hard game. Likewise an easy game may be awful as may a hard one. This is also based on nothing more than my personal opinion.
I’ve never played the Scottish, Bath, Bournemouth, Cryptopia, or Irish offerings so I can’t comment on these. I’ve also ranked the Breakout game rooms for where I believe they would sit. You will also notice some games I escaped from are higher up the lists than some other I didn’t escape from, for two reasons: some of the people I was with are better at these games than others – and, as with any game, sometimes there are good performances and other days bad performances.
This site has previously discussed the Breakout Manchester exit game business, around two months old but already doing excellent business. It’s a joy to be able to feature an interview with Ed Roberts, the man behind the site. The questions asked by Exit Games are tagged with EG and Ed’s responses with ER below. The opinions are a little feisty in places; no bad thing at all, but be clear that they belong to Ed.
- EG: What’s your background, leading up to the opening of Breakout Manchester?
- ER: I’m a director in two other business, Awaken Ibiza and Funk Events, so up until opening Breakout I was running those companies. A lot of the skills developed in running these two businesses have been hugely beneficial in launching Breakout Manchester.
- EG: It’s exciting to see your Tweets from time to time suggesting that Breakout Manchester is selling out days in advance. Can you say more about how well things are going for you?
- ER: Yeah, things are going remarkably well. Another company opened in Manchester about 2 months before we did and I think it’s struggled. So for us to be selling out a few days in advance and weekends a few weeks in advance I’m really happy.
- EG: Your excellent progress is all the more remarkable given that the site has only been open for about two months. What techniques have worked well for you at getting the word out around Manchester?
- ER: My background is in advertising, marketing and promotion has been hugely beneficial. We use some fairly advanced social media techniques to promote the venue and I have done promotion in Manchester for the past 7 years I know a lot of people and organisation in the city which have been a big help. In addition to that, word of mouth is one of our strongest attribute, and that comes from people having an excellent experience with us and then those people spreading the word.
- EG: Which puzzles, games and other artworks have influenced you most over the years in your designs?
- ER: I really enjoy action computer games. Games such as Zelda, Dishonoured, The Room and The Room Two. Also TV programmes such as The Cube and The Crystal Maze. I’ve always been a huge fan of puzzles my whole life.
- EG: What lessons has your background in event promotion taught you about offering good customer service?
- ER: In terms of customers service probably not a huge amount, this is one thing I have learnt a lot of from doing Breakout. Where it has hugely helped is the promotion, marketing and advertising of the rooms and the venue.
- EG: It was fun to read that representatives from first the Daily Sport and later the Bolton News have visited your site. Do you have any other star guests lined up?
- ER: Not really guest stars but quite a lot of press will be coming through in the next few weeks.
- EG: What does a typical day for you look like?
- ER: I normally get to the venue around 7am and do around 3 hours on Awaken Ibiza or Funk Events. I then organise the staff for the day and spread my time between running the games, tweaking the games, promoting and advertising the venue. The venue is also incomplete so various DIY and decoration is still in place. To be honest for the past week it’s been non-stop running of games. I normally finish around 9pm.
- EG: What are the most memorable reactions from players that you have witnessed?
- ER: The other week we had 4 teenagers with behavioural issues in from Manchester Young Lives. They were accompanied by 3 teachers from the centre. They had all previously been expelled from numerous schools. The 4 of them absolutely loved it and were captivated from start to finish. Their teachers said their concentration spans were normally that of minutes and had never seen them working as a team before. Turning four disinterested teenagers into a team of happy, energetic and proud young adults was a very memorable moment. To see them rave about it afterwards really impacted me. A good escape room game is fantastic for all ages and in all situations. This particular example is a great example of this, and is testament to the quality of the room.
- EG: How are your preparations going for adding a third room at your current location?
- ER: Extremely slow 🙂 It’s the first room I’ve ever created completely by myself so I want to assure it’s as good as possible. It’s called Madchester so revolves around Manchester, its history and culture. Think the Hacienda, Stone Roses, Oasis, Coronation Street and so on. It will be open at the end of July if it kills me! 🙂 I’ve been to a few other sites around the country and with the exception of all the London sites, Leeds and one of the Bristol ones, some of them are very poor and I want to assure that my centre is as good as it possibly can be. If someone has a bad experience of an escape game it will put them off for life which would be such a shame.
- EG: Can you reveal anything about your longer-term plans after that?
- ER: We have the capacity to open another one maybe two rooms in Manchester so my focus is on that and to create some games which push the boundaries of the industry. I’ve got a lot of ideas of how escape rooms can break out of their current mould and I want to explore that. Why do they have to be an hour long for example? Could a escape room be more story driven? It’s exciting times for the industry as a whole.
- EG: If you could give the readers, escape game players and puzzle fans reading this one piece of advice, what would it be?
- ER: Play The Room and The Room Two on a tablet. Then come to Breakout 🙂
Thanks so much for that, Ed! Note also that last week, Breakout Manchester posted to their Facebook feed that:
Breakout Manchester is recruiting. We need game organisers, makers and technicians. Part time flexible hours available. Must have good customer service skills. If interested please send your CV to email@example.com and the days and hours that you are available to work.
Full-time and part-time roles are available, so as well as there being a good opportunity to play the site’s games, perhaps there’s a good opportunity for the right people to be involved from the other side as well!