A report from Up The Game 2017

Tim Horwood, co-proprietor of Derby’s escape game game Make Your Escape was one of several UK owners to visit the Up The Game conference in Amsterdam in the surrounds of the impressive Breda Prison Dome. He kindly wrote about his experience for Exit Games UK.

As escape room operators ourselves, last year’s inaugural Up The Game conference was a springboard for our business, which we opened just two months later. We had so many ideas from attending it, and gained so much advice, making so many contacts in the process. From advice of the legal side of running an escape room company, to the storytelling aspects and use of technology we subsequently incorporated into our games, it really was pivotal to Make Your Escape’s development.

So, it is with some trepidation, we attended the “difficult follow-up” of such a successful event for us personally. We had lower expectations – for a start, the venue had been switched from Amsterdam to Breda. The first thing I did was reach for google maps. Secondly, the conference was to be held in a prison – ok, it sounded a novelty, but would it actually work? Thirdly, we’ve been open almost a year, and I was concerned that many of the talks would go over old ground. Still, we all know the industry is an evolving one, so I was interested to see just how the conference had grown, if at all.

The venue was, quite simply, astonishing, and a vast improvement on 2016. The main criticism I had last year, was that it was often difficult to manoeuvre between rooms due to the narrow corridors and low capacities of the smaller stages. This year, there was no such problem, and it’s credit to the organisers that the capacities seemed appropriate. The only issue I found was that there was no central stage in the same way there was the previous year, so organiser Alexander Gierholz had to welcome the attendees in the huge, open foyer, whose acoustics were appalling and sounding like, well, a prison. Other than that, the foyer space served well as a communal area for escape room operators, enthusiasts and suppliers to mingle, drink, eat, buy, sell, and plan itineraries. The buzz felt much friendlier than the more clinical feel of 2016.

So onto the speakers, and there was a huge variety this year. Last year we had the team behind the Crystal Maze attraction talk about how they set it up. This year, Scott Nicholson opened proceedings on the main stage, discussing or, at times, defending how he’d been involved in setting up this year’s Red Bull Mind Gamers. For me, Scott was probably the main draw for the event, a great achievement having him sign up to the conference, and becoming involved in the discussion panels later in the day. Having said that, there were some great names on the bill, Stephanie Allen from the acclaimed Punchdrunk, the brilliant Jasper Wille, presenting utilizing actors in interactive experiences and, skilfully engaging the audience, and Room Escape Artist’s Lisa and David Spira.

Our very own Nick Moran from Time Run, arguably, gave one of the best talks of the day, on the tools of immersion used in escape rooms. As the industry grows, so too do the customers’ expectations and the standards we see. Time Run is a great example of a truly immersive experience, and for Nick to share his thoughts on the subject, interjected with bucket loads of humour, his was the standout session of the weekend.

In addition to the talks and presentations, the conference gives an opportunity for discussion, and panels of experts from various corners of the industry, from operators to enthusiasts to bloggers discuss various aspects and developments.

We also had talks on legalities again, how escape rooms are useful for team building, and the importance of set design…with Wilko Drews giving some brilliant advice on how to make your escape room set look far more expensive than it actually is, but then confessing to spending 80,000 EUR on his own room!

As escape rooms incorporated more technology, Chris Lattner and Malte Eiben’s tech workshops proved particularly popular, ranging from basic tech to advanced tech, and Adrian Bacanu of the quite brilliant Quest Mission gave an engaging talk on how escape rooms encourage personal development, are incredible tools to assess human behaviour, and shape people’s lives. For many enthusiasts, creators and operators, this could not be any closer to the truth.

Once again, Logic Locks and Real Life Gaming succeeded in creating an outstanding conference, bringing together the best of the industry – ‘Connecting Creators’ was this year’s motto, and Breda felt the perfect venue for this. Very much looking forward to seeing what happens next year…

Make Your Escape is the brainchild of Shelly Burton and Tim Horwood, perceived following a trip to Budapest in 2014. The two escape room enthusiasts wanted to mix storytelling, traditional puzzles and technology into their rooms, but also create games which offer a twist, and also set themselves within Derbyshire. Whilst the original idea was to introduce the escape room sector to their city, they also wanted to create games based around local stories and legends. 

‘The Signal’, based on a story that appeared in the local newspaper following a sighting of lights in the sky, is designed to engage players and then offer them a moral dilemma as to whether to do “the right thing” and the couple cite Up The Game 2016 as a major influence on the game.

‘Spellbound’ was designed for larger teams, again following advice picked up from Up The Game, and is based on the local legend of the Witches of Bakewell, who were hanged close to the escape room.

Two new games are being built ready for the Summer, with the promise of a unique premise…

A report from “Up The Game”

"Up The Game" adTim Horwood, co-proprietor of forthcoming Derby exit game Make Your Escape was one of several UK exit game owners to visit the Up The Game conference in Amsterdam in the Netherlands last Monday. He kindly wrote about his experience for Exit Games UK.

The first International Escape Room and Real Life Gaming Conference in Europe, Up The Game, was held last Monday in an impressive venue in Amsterdam, attracting operators and enthusiasts from over 30 countries. Ahead of the opening of their own escape room in Derby this Summer, the Make Your Escape team travelled to the Netherlands to review the conference and chat to some of the speakers.

Taking advantage of the influx of enthusiasts were several local operators keen to advertise their wares and services. We took the 40-minute train to pretty Maasland near The Hague to try out the “Escape Bus“. Its proprietors, Dennis Hunink and Peter de Vette, ardent followers of all things Arduino, kindly met us at the station, offered us a couple of free drinks before the game, and then locked us on their bus, parked in the middle of the beautiful setting of a farm/campsite. The lights went out, and 60 minutes ensued of what might be best described as a Speed movie with flashing LEDs. The Escape Bus was, truly, inventive and exciting… despite our failure at escaping although, in our defence there were two of us and was aimed at four as a minimum. Then, when it was all over, the guys showed us how it all worked – a nice touch from operators clearly loving the industry and proud of their work.

So, onto the conference and, I must admit, prior to attending we did think the price might be a little expensive for a one-day event. However, greeted by mobile escape room, Fenomena Logica, a freaky circus caravan nestled unconventionally at the foot of the steps to a modern building, we ascended into a bustling hive of what felt like the cream of the world’s escape room industry. There were not as many vendors as we expected, and it was very much about the speakers giving advice, and talking about their experiences. That said, it took a few brave souls to try out the “Famous Deaths” real-life art/research project, where the aim was not to escape from the confined, un-lit coffin-like space but, rather, experience the sense of smell surrounding famous deaths. We were told JFK’s was particularly popular.

Derby’s escape rooms will have particularly strong narratives, as well as incorporating technology into their games, and so two of the talks we were most looking forward to were “Storytelling in Escape Rooms” and “Talking Tech”. These were two of, quite possibly, the most inspirational talks I’ve witnessed. Elles Van Asseldonk’s bubbly persona and passion was hard not to like, and she kept her audience gripped in the very same way she expressed that an escape room should. A co-designer behind local company “Logic Locks“, Elles gave away a series of spoilers from one of her games to give us an insight into how to ensure the story flows through an escaper’s experience. Gloeidraad are a technical puzzle company, based in the Netherlands, but working with customers worldwide, and Raymond Reints expressed how player experience can be enhanced with a little Arduino here and there, the emphasis being firmly on stability, reliability and durability. Of course, we’d experienced Hunink and de Vette’s Escape Bus the night before where everything, tech or otherwise, had been reliable other than our own success in escaping!

The UK was represented in the speaking department too. Alastair Hebson, a designer for video games such as Grand Theft Auto, talked about “Game Flow and Pace” in games, likening the experience of a game to a movie, where players need to be hooked and then entertained throughout the game. Again, this was an inspiring talk fitting nicely on from Elles’ storytelling earlier in our itinerary.

The main stage featured some of the most influential names in the industry, and one thing which was clearly evident was the welcome and gratitude they received from the audience, both in awe of them and thankful of their playing a part in an industry we love. There was perhaps no-one quite as influential as Attila Gyurkovics, the founder of “Parapark” and the inventor of the Escape Room that we see across the world today. Due to timings and clashes between talks, we missed Attila, but the applause for him might well have been heard in the tulip fields around Amsterdam.

Escape room games in education and training is, we know, a growing trend. Mark Hammons presented his concept of an open source project for educational purposes, “Breakout EDU” in one of the most enlightening talks. Rather than placing a group of children in a locked room, something which would certainly be frowned upon in the British Education System, children are invited to work together, logically, to unlock a series of locks and open a box – an ingenious idea no doubt coming to a school near you soon. Lisette Hendrikse’s “Legal Issues in Escape Rooms” advice Q and A session was popular and insightful, and Anna-Maria Giannattasio’s “Marketing for Escape Rooms”, incorporating her views on social media, certainly gave us at Make Your Escape food for thought.

So, back to the UK’s representatives, and we welcomed Tom Lionetti-Maguire, and the team behind the The Crystal Maze tourist attraction in London. After a humorous false-start of a video intro, and blank faces from an audience largely made up of people who’d never heard of the Maze’s retro TV show, Tom won the crowd over with his charismatic charm, and the best presentation of the day. From an idea conceived in a pub, to finding premises, to getting the money together, to launching the business with no idea as to how successful it will be, Tom’s story was met by a wave of nods of recognition from the auditorium. It was when we caught up with the Crystal Maze guys in the bar afterwards that they revealed even more tales of changing Building Use issues, handling the media, and legal issues. Down-to-earth and incredibly helpful, the Crystal Maze team are clearly proud of what they have achieved; whilst many of us won’t be selling out for the next year as they have, or seeing the footfall of thousands of customers per month, they were inspirational and their presence in the UK can only help the escape room industry at a local level.

There was so much packed into one day that, ultimately, the event proved great value. The Make Your Escape team brought a lot away with them, and have certainly discovered new technology that can be used in the Derby rooms, marketing techniques, and legal advice. The sheer sense of community, escape rooms working together, was very clear, and is a principle we hold strongly to grow this industry in the UK.

One final word is for the organisers, who were courteous, helpful, and worked hard to make the event run smoothly, and the free bar at the end of the day was welcome! My only criticism, if there are any, was that some of the breakout rooms were a bit on the small size, but we’d love to see the event grow to a two-day one. Host Alexander Gierholz, an affable and keen presenter who welcomed and thanked the audience, but was also interacting with as many guest as he could, including us. His passion for the industry was clear, and he smiled optimistically when I asked if he’d put the event on again next year. We left him as he headed to try out the JFK experience, and after a long but fascinating day, we decided it was time to make our escape.

Make Your Escape is the brainchild of Shelly Burton and Tim Horwood, perceived following a trip to Budapest in 2014. Since then, escape rooms have grown across the UK. The two experienced escape room enthusiasts, working alongside experts from the escape room and the movie production sector, are about to open their unique escape room game in Derby. Set to open in May, there will be a strong emphasis on storytelling, traditional puzzles mixed with technology. Two original games are penned, “The Signal” and “Spellbound”, with games aimed at 2-6 players in a former Derby College building in the city centre.

The Signal at Make Your EscapeFollowing reports of strange lights in the skies over Derbyshire, your team intercepts a distress signal, which leads you to an abandoned military bunker.
Once the door closes behind you, you quickly realise the signal was not all that it seemed, the bunker was not abandoned and you are not alone.
Work together as a team to solve the puzzles and escape. The truth is in there….

Meetings of minds near and far

"Up The Game" adApril 2016 is set to be an extremely interesting month. The banner above is an advert for Up The Game, a conference focused not just on exit games but also other real-life games, which will take place in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, on Saturday 18th April 2016. “ As one of the fastest growing entertainment trends since the rise of cinema, real life gaming has taken the world by storm. ((…)) Where traditional games are a bit of a niche, real life gaming attracts a wide range of customers and people who exit a great escape room do so with shining eyes and a budding addiction- ‘where can I play more?’ But it doesn’t stop here, new games keep adding even more crazy ideas, more technology and more compelling interaction to the experience. We love to see all those new ideas as the better our games are, the more people will become excited about real life gaming.

That’s not April’s only attraction, though. Back in June, this site proposed that the UK industry meet up at the forthcoming The Crystal Maze live attraction. We have a date – Tuesday, 26th April 2016 – and an afternoon timeslot. (We don’t have a location, other than King’s Cross, London; this site’s uninformed guess is “somewhere within the Granary Square complex”.) There’s no guarantee who’ll turn up, but tickets have been bought by representatives of Escape Hour, Enigma Quests, Escape Quest, Archimedes Inspiration, Agent November, the The Escape Room chain, Breakout Manchester/Liverpool, Escape Live (both Birmingham and the forthcoming Southend branch) and the Escape chain, as well as by five fans with no business connection. 31 tickets have been paid for in total with a 32nd still available, plus potential resales from people who can’t make the event in the end. That 32nd ticket is available at cost price – £32.50 – which is rather cheaper than the £50 or £60, plus booking fee, you’ll pay for a ticket today. If the company appeals, as well as the price, then please get in touch by e-mail. ((ETA:)) Someone has called dibs on the 32nd ticket but if you’re still interested in going, I’m operating a waiting list in case there are resales.

Why wait until April, though? On Wednesday, 13th January 2016, there will be an exit game unconference in Leeds at a central venue to be announced. This has been discussed previously and the discussion of the counterpart unconference in Canada sounds intriguing. Be sure to grab yourself a ticket today.

Why wait as many as five and a half weeks, though? This Tuesday is Puzzled Pint day, and the December theme is Mad Men – though, as ever, no knowledge of the subject is required. The location puzzle has been posted; solve it to find out where the event will take place. My partner and I will be helping to run the London East location; being December, we’ve had to guarantee a high minimum spend so that they don’t pass us over for another Christmas party, so we really hope to see you there on Tuesday night!

Unconferences and other fun conferences, then onwards to an International Escape Game challenge

Abstract conference graphicAfter the Escape Games Convention in Stuttgart last month, yesterday saw the Ontario Escape Room Unconference 2015 in Toronto. Hopefully the Facebook group will get better-populated; Exit Games UK very much looks forward to reports of the event from those members of the extremely popular local exit game blogging scene who could attend, and the #oeru15 Twitter hashtag has exciting-looking titbits.

So if meetings can happen in Germany and Canada, why can’t they happen here? That was part of the thinking behind the industry-wide meetup at the forthcoming The Crystal Maze attraction, though the attraction’s delay in opening until 2016 is putting that on hold. Before then, an unconference in Leeds between 2pm and 7pm on Wednesday 13th January has been announced on Facebook, or at the very least, suggested. Hurrah! Exciting times; hopefully the Canadian model (and reports of how much its attendees got from being there) will drive lots of people to such a UK event, for its effectiveness will strongly depend on how many people turn up to take part.

The suggestion was made by Liz Cable of Time Games, a university lecturer in social media and digital narratives. Time Games have fine form, having organised pop-up exit games at speculative fiction conventions in the UK and in the Netherlands and combination exit game / scavenger hunts for universities as well – and who have such a varied background in other types of games that they can bring plenty of other experiences to the table as well. Most excitingly, as Essa at Intervirals pointed out, they’re responsible for this very exciting tweet: “We’re planning an International #EscapeGame Challenge for 2016“. Definitely one to follow!

Liz has a number of other provocative thoughts as well, for instanceThis lunchtime I am mostly thinking about how to combine laser-tagging and escape games“. A small part of the solution could be the rather cool-sounding Survive The Night large-scale outdoor archery tag (which uses proper bows and heavily foam-tipped boffer arrows) game recently discussed at Escape Rooms in Toronto; a bigger part might go along the lines of “who knows, but it certainly sounds amazing“!

Late September news updates

Newspaper graphicA few short news stories and they’re all good news, so without further ado:

  • Escape Plan Ltd. report that their lease has been extended until late January 2016, so there’s longer to enjoy their current game in its present location. Celebrate this good news by using the launch discount code, which will spiral into infinity for good when business closes on Friday night.
  • Excited to see Play-it-Real, an English language blog on exit games by the owner of one in Amsterdam. It’s only two posts old, but Exit Games UK really loved the Play-it-Real recap of attending the convention in Germany three weeks ago. Not much has been written about what happened there, making this article a must-read.
  • Only four days to go for the crowdfunding campaign for the Red House Mysteries exit game in Exeter. The campaign has come on in leaps and bounds over the last two or three days and is now well past 90% funded. While you can’t take anything for granted, you would be disappointed if your ticket pre-orders at extremely attractive-looking prices weren’t to come to fruition from this point.
  • Good news about new games coming at sites in Nottingham: Escapologic are opening their third room, E.P.I Centre on Saturday; it’s a game about compound interest, or at least about an interesting compound. Alma City has just been hit by an earthquake. There’s panic on the streets. Chaos and devastation. Buildings are collapsing. Fires are raging. People are screaming. Cars are crashing. Your team is the disaster cleanup crew. You have one hour to save billions of pounds of chemical research from the Edward Palamate Institute. Stabilise the systems. Save the priceless chemical sample. Get out before the contents of your cryogenic case disperse and it’s all over. Elsewhere in the city, the second room at Cryptology, which is set to put the crypt into Cryptology, “will be ready for an October launch”. Good times!
  • And finally, Agent November used Twitter to confirm the announcement that the intellectual property for the well-known large-scale zombie chase game 2.8 Hours Later has been bought from the sadly insolvent Slingshot. The zombies may yet run again; it will be rather exciting to see what a company that is used to smarter games might do to refresh the familiar concept!

Early September news round-up

News round-upLet’s dive right in to the latest assortment of links:

  • Episode six of Race to Escape was broadcast on Saturday night and has made its way to illicit video-sharing sites already. This was the final episode of the first series, which this site broadly considers to have been a triumph, with every episode bursting with new ideas – though, unfortunately, sometimes setting a bad example for real life play by literally bursting the rooms that they established. No idea what the ratings have been like and whether there’ll be a second series; there are plenty of things that could be done in later series, but even if it’s one-and-done, it’ll have been a glorious one-hit wonder rather than a flop out of sight. (It’s also the sort of timeless show that will surely be repeated, on and off, over the next twenty years at least.) If you don’t want to risk the illicit video-sharing sites, the episode is available at YouTube at about 110% speed, so it sounds a little bit funny but may not be caught automatically as a copyright violation. The same channel has all six episodes, similarly in Pinky-and-Perky-o-vision.
  • This site is looking out for content from the first Escape Games Convention last Friday. So far there is an overview video that is slickly produced, conveys the sense of excitement and hints at another event next year, if light on detail; you can also see Dr. Scott Nicholson’s talk, which is well worth quarter of an hour of your time.
  • Breakout Manchester are teaming up with the Christie charity, a local hospital charity that provides “enhanced services over and above what the NHS funds“, not least cancer research, between 6pm and 9pm on Tuesday 13th October. Teams of 2-5 can book a room for a special price of £75, regardless of team size, all of which goes to the charity. Great work!
  • Lost and Escape of Newcastle have a Groupon deal available at the moment, though availability is limited and it’s not clear when the deal might deal itself out. Up for grabs is a ticket for up to three players for £29, or for up to five players for £49. The tickets are only valid for games on Tuesday to Friday, starting at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm or 9pm (so not the 7pm prime time slot!) by 30th November. So there are a few caveats, but that’s a nice price.
  • Code to Exit of Altrincham near Manchester got in touch to say that “((…))we have a 50% sale on at the moment on The Blue Print Room. Also 10% Student Discount available on the top of that. ((…)) We are also opening our second room this month, I will keep you updated on the exact date.The Logic Escapes Me were well impressed by the site and they know their onions, so it’s well worth considering.
  • And finally, but what a finale: Handmade Mysteries, of Lady Chastity’s Reserve fame, point to a Mashable article about Midnight Madness 2015, the latest annual incarnation of the huge-budget all-night puzzle hunt sponsored by Goldman Sachs. 21 teams raised over US$3,000,000 for charity between them, so that gives you an indication of just how high you have to roll if you want to play!

One door closes, many more open

Closed blue doorimage credit: Closed Door via free images (license)

Today is not the worst day in the world to have woken up unexpectedly early, for live entertainment includes following the #egc15 hashtag on Twitter for discussion of the Escape Games Convention in progress. Apparently there are around a hundred attendees, which is impressive. Fingers firmly crossed for more to come!

Some sad news: a single-line announcement points to the closure of Guess-House of Bradford. It’s not immediately clear whether the shuttering will be temporary or permanent, but signs point to fearing the worst. The site’s Facebook posted nine team photos over its summer run; how many other teams there were who went unpictured cannot be known. This site will remember the location for offering players the ability to play solo, an innovation in this country that does crop up as a player request from time to time, though it’s not clear if that option was taken up in practice.

One piece of sad news, but many more pieces of happy news. The best palate-cleanser of all is that Breakout Games of north-east Scotland posted that this weekend they will be donating all the profits that their Aberdeen and Inverness locations generate to Medecins Sans Frontieres, whose Doctors Without Borders provide medical aid where it is needed most around the world. Kudos to them, and yet another good reason to go and play there. Breakout Games aren’t the first exit game to run such charity days and hopefully won’t be the last!

This site has long thought that Wales is one of the larger gaps in the market for exit games and is following the progress of the pre-launch Escape Rooms Cardiff with interest, even before it gets its web site going. However, it’s certainly not the only such project in Wales; Breakout Live Swansea has a venue in mind, a planning application under way and coverage from the local press (twice!) already. Very promising, especially with the news of the founder’s electronics background.

This site has also touched on the work of Fire Hazard, the energetic games company best known for City Dash, a running-sneaking-and-finding-checkpoints urban turbo-orienteering game. On balance this site considered City Dash to be a little too running-y to be quite its taste, though it was delighted to see that the game had been transported to Edinburgh for the Festival and praised by Can You Escape?. However, the latest flavour of City Dash is called Code Red, and there’s a clue in the title. Conversation in person at the Wellcome Collection’s recent Play Spectacular, followed up on Twitter (with thanks to Ken!) suggests that “We added a few extra hard checkpoints to the new series, so puzzlers have another way to get an edge on runners“. That’s the sort of thing to get this site interested!

This weekend

Red "Coming Soon!" ink stampThree very interesting and rather varied events coming up this weekend. It’s an exciting time!

1) The Intervirals blog reminds the world that Friday 4th September sees the first known Escape Games Convention taking place in Stuttgart, Germany. After a welcome dinner tomorrow night, the day features workshops, speeches and networking. Tickets are still available, and if you want to learn a load of best practice in the course of a single day then there’s no better way to do so; the rest of the world can follow the action remotely via the Twitter hashtag #EGC15 ((UPDATED, 04/09/15)) and Intervirals has already done much of the hard work for the rest of us. Looking forward to following the action!

2) In London, there’s a very exciting-looking event called Now Play This happening on Friday 4th, Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th September, at Somerset House’s New Wing.

Over the weekend we’ll be home to dozens of games and playful activities of all descriptions – from a wooden pinball machine to a soundscape in a tent; from unreleased video games to a papercraft workshop. ((…)) On Friday we have a special focus on game design – come along for a first glimpse at some upcoming games, and join us for lightning talks from designers and players throughout the afternoon. On Saturday it’s all about playing, with a packed schedule of games set alongside the exhibition. And Sunday is a day of experimentation, with a showcase of strange interfaces in the morning and workshops all afternoon long.

Tickets are available from the Somerset House website, at £5 for a morning or afternoon ticket for a particular day, or £12 to return as often as you like across the weekend. Families are welcome, though not all games are suitable for children.” One of the attractions will be Pint-Sized Puzzles to pick up and play at your leisure – to be fair, it’s not the biggest or most original attraction in the world, but something to tickle if you were going to be there already – and I shall be available to give hints at lunchtime on Saturday. Do say “Hi!”

3) If you prefer your puzzles a little more competitive, then this weekend sees the annual online US Puzzle Championship, which runs (with no charge for participation) from 6pm to 8:30pm, UK time, on Saturday 5th September. You’ll have two and a half hours to score as many points as you can by solving an assortment of logical, word and picture puzzles, probably with slightly more to choose from than even the best puzzler in the world could solve within the time limit. On Friday, you’ll be able to download the preview instructions and find out what sorts of puzzles will be available for you to face this year, so that you might form your plan of attack. The puzzles vary in difficulty but the test is intended to select some of the US team for the World Puzzle Championship, so they are very much in line with the levels of difficulty you get at the Big Dance. Always a hard test, but always a great test!

News round-up: convention, DASH 7 video and sudoku championships

News round-upLots going on at the moment. Normally this would be three separate posts, but there’s so much else to write about!

1) This site recently mentioned the Escape Games Convention in Stuttgart, Germany on 4th September. Katharina Wulf of co-hosts ExitVentures (who are apparently putting together a printed German-language magazine) wrote on a forum as follows:

We (as the oragnizing team) are trying to make it valuable to come for English speaking people as well. Here some information in English: One highlight will be the talk of Attila Gyurkovics. He is the first operator of live escape games in Europe with ParaPark (Budapest) and the first one who developed live escape games on the basis of flow theory. Attila Gyurkovics will talk about his experience and his future visions. Prof. Nicholson (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada) will give scientific insights into the field and an overview over the North American market via video message.

((…)) In addition there will be some workshops focusing on following topics: “Live escape games next level” (about innovative new room concepts) and “Live escape games association” (about the creation of common structures for the industry in Germany). ((…)) The video message from Prof. Nicholson and the speech from Attila Gyurkovics will be in English. Beside that we will offer the workshops in English, too. Furthermore we will be able to provide you with information in English for the other agenda items. In the session the participants will elaborate relevant topics in small groups. This can be realized in German or English.

It’s looking ever more tempting, especially for us non-German-speakers!

2) The UK Puzzle Association are running their annual UK Sudoku Championship online this weekend. Start after midday on Thursday, up until the end of Monday, and you have a two-hour window of your choice to score points by solving the 17 sudoku and sudoku variant puzzles. The top two finishers will earn places on the UK team for the World Sudoku Championship. It’s always a great contest for sudoku fans and there are no charges for taking part.

3) Lastly, back at DASH 7, Yasmin Curren took extensive video through the day. She has taken weeks of hard work, for which we’re all surely very grateful, to apply her magic; the results are a spectacular three-minute summary of the fun to be had, though perhaps the puzzles – being less telegenic – have to take second place. Be sure to look out for the Quidditch, Wronski Feint and all:

Around the world: Getting together

Hands around the worldIt’s definitely possible to draw parallels between the development of the exit game hobbies in different countries around the world. People start exit games, there become enough of them to inspire people to want to talk about them, eventually players and operators think about meeting up. Doubtless there will be other parallels still that develop in different places independently over time as well.

1) “National character” is lazy shorthand for prejudice, but it’s a compliment – and an amusing one – that the first country sufficiently organised to run an Escape Games convention is Germany. The line-up looks exciting, though more likely to be of interest to site owners than anybody else – but when you get enough people interested in the genre in the same place at the same time, magic will happen pretty organically. There’s a reduced price for bloggers; if there’s anyone out there who wants to represent Exit Games UK who isn’t working the night shift on September 4th and either speaks German or just doesn’t mind requiring people to translate for them all day, please get in touch.

2) Talking of bloggers, that’s not quite how it works in Canada. Some of the exit game bloggers of the Greater Toronto area, and their talented theatrical friends, will be putting on three sittings of a one-night 100-player stadium-style exit game. In your Night at the Speakeasy (a Prohibition-era illegal drinking den), explore the rooms, solve puzzles, interact with the actors, don’t get whacked by da wise guys and find the exit on September 19th in the Canadian Caper. This is horribly impressive, they’re going to have such fun, they have such accomplished track records that this site firmly hopes that the event is as huge a hit as it deserves to be.

3) Talking of bloggers and stadium-style games, EscapeGame.Paris announced that The Real Escape Game came, and are coming, to France; three of the four sessions of the SCRAP-derived mass-participation event have happened already, the fourth is set to follow soon. Given that Real Escape Game have brought their games to France and also to Spain, this site is very positive about the chance of it coming to the UK at some point as well.

4) So what does the UK have? Well, the UK will have The Crystal Maze, and this site is organising an industry meetup there. 14 tickets have gone, 18 tickets remain. If you’ve vaguely expressed interest in the past – even if just as a comment to a post – then please convert it into actual interest now; you should have received details by e-mail about how to send money and guarantee your place, but please get in touch if you haven’t.

5) However, all of these rely not just on being in certain countries, but also on being in certain cities within those countries. If you’re not in the right city, you can get together remotely this weekend by taking part in the seventh (“Swiss”) round of the World Puzzle Federation’s Grand Prix puzzle competition; 90 minutes to score points by solving 23 puzzles of seven different types. The download the Instruction Booklet page will let you find if this contest is the right one for you.