Exit games in the media

Newspaper graphicHere’s a collection of stories of exit games making their impression on the public.

News round-up for mid-January 2016

News round-upThis site is off to the unconference called The Great Escape UK today, so here are some news stories that have been queued up for a little while. There may be live coverage on Twitter with #EscGamesUK, but no guarantees.

  • Congratulations to Kelly and Alyson who became engaged to each other before Christmas at Escape Rooms Scotland! A report on Facebook suggests that Kelly had no idea, making the surprise proposal even sweeter. The best of health and happiness all round!
  • Clue HQ have already revealed that their next branch to open will be in Birmingham; even before launch, the Birmingham Post have a big piece on the forthcoming site. The suggestion that it might hold 36 guests gives a clear hint as to the ambition behind the location, suggesting it’s clearly one to watch.
  • Puzzlair of Bristol are also in the news as the Bristol Post visited the attraction and had “a great night out“. The reporter also noted that they had played Locked In A Room a few weeks earlier, so this site now has a favourite Bristol local newspaper. Some day the national press will start reviewing rooms and games…
  • Escape Asylum of Leicester are planning to launch in March but are already being covered in a piece in the Leicester Mercury that gives good detail about the founders’ backgrounds and starting-points and – along with the video – will give you a clear idea whether it’s the game for you. The site is set to launch whether or not its crowdfunding campaign reaches its goal; East Midlanders who like darker games should get in early and perhaps quickly pick up a discount.
  • Thanks to Ken for that one and for this: speaking of Kickstarter, there’s a campaign for a site in Preston called Timed Trap. While the campaign hasn’t got off to the best of starts, it’s far from unknown for an exit game to struggle with crowdfunding and then thrive in the fullness of time, so it’s definitely one to keep on the radar.
  • Further afield, the Brantford Expositor of Canada – and compare Expositor to Post and Mercury! – featured a piece on the BreakoutEDU Game Jam this weekend. Looks like an excellent time was had by all; it’s also exciting to read that there are more to come.
  • Even further afield still, Intervirals points to a panel on exit games at the PAX Australia convention in Melbourne. It takes a little listening, but fun to hear how they do it down under!

The highlights of 2015

heartsLet’s shine a spotlight on some of this site’s highlights of 2015.

DASH 7 at the end of May was a spectacular day. The puzzles were rather tougher than those of the previous two years, in the main, but ingenious and thematic. The company was excellent; many thanks to everyone who put the event together, whether globally or specifically in London. Being able to cover the event extensively on Exit Games UK was also a treat. A date for DASH 8 has been announced, but it has not yet been confirmed whether anyone has stepped up to the plate to run the event in London. If nobody does, it’s quite possible that there won’t be a DASH in London this year. Does DASH have your name on it?

This site considers 2015 to have been an amazing year for puzzle TV. Here in the UK, Only Connect was great fun, as usual. Race To Escape in the US divides opinion – it has been pointed out many times that it encourages behaviour that nobody would want to see in a real exit game – but this site considered it great fun, full of clever ideas and remarkably variable from week to week, well worthy of an inclusion in a highlight post. Series four of The Genius was outstanding; some consider it the best season of the four, others don’t, but it’s definitely there or thereabouts. Quiz The Nation was both a highlight for those who were able to win hundreds or thousands of pounds from it – and, it should be noted, received their winnings in full and promptly – and a slight lowlight in that it only had one short run at the start of the year and perhaps hasn’t yet lived up to its strong potential.

On a related topic, this year, this site got really excited about getting to interview the team behind The Cyberdrome Crystal Maze, and following the progress from a distance of the live The Crystal Maze attraction coming in less than three months’ time. This year’s April 1st post was a lot of fun to put together and it was a selfish thrill to be quoted in pieces by CNBC and by the BBC.

It’s also been very exciting to read about the parallel development of the genre in so many different countries. People want to talk about these games of ours, and related games, and this leads to weblogs; from there, weblogs lead to meetings, or perhaps conferences. It’s always slightly disappointing when cool events aren’t documented in nearly as much detail as you hope they might be, and there seems to have been only one report of the MIT Escape Room Game Jam in April. Stuttgart’s Escape Games Convention sounds amazing, but again there seems only to have been the official report and a recommended write-up at Play-it-Real talking about it… at least, in English. (The Twitter hashtag has gone dormant.) October saw the Ontario Escape Room Unconference; the report gives some flavour, but the Google document generated by the participants has so much more to offer. Fingers crossed that this example of best practice can be emulated in the future.

The games, the puzzles and the ideas behind them may fascinate, but to (mis?)quote Alan Parr, “it’s the people, not the games, that make the hobby”. Here’s to much more of everything in 2016!

Nous sommes tous Français

&heart; FranceThis site sends its love and warmest thoughts to the www.escapegame.paris and www.escapegamefrance.fr blogs – and, indeed, everyone in France, whether they’re part of the exit game industry or not.

While there’s no pretending that this is in any way, shape or form any sort of compensation for the horrid developments of the last 24 hours, this site needs to share some good news for its own benefit.

  • Congratulations on their opening to Clue HQ’s new location in Brentwood and to Extremescape of Disley in rural Cheshire. The latter is a particularly pleasant surprise as prior suggestions were that it would open in 2016, but its Pirate Ship room is already open and taking bookings. Two rooms are open in Brentwood; The Logic Escapes Me has reviewed them and raved about the location.
  • Congratulations also to Escape Live of Birmingham for winning the “Business Start Up and Enterpreneur” category in the Birmingham Post Business Awards. (Other sites have also recently made it to the final shortlists in regional business awards and also deserve their own congratulations.) Escape Live have also recently been featured in The Guardian, in an article about the genre; news of their expansion, both at their original location and at a forthcoming Essex branch, has also made the press.
  • Escape Quest of Macclesfield are celebrating their first birthday today, with three celebrated games and more on the way. Hooray!
  • Much younger, Code to Exit of Altrincham are opening their second room, The Test, today. No locks! No furniture! No other games quite like it, by the sound of things! Definitely one where this site is looking forward to the reviews.

All of this is, at best, distraction from the real issues of the day. Sometimes a little distraction isn’t so bad, though.

More media stories

"Top News" newspaperA selection of stories from TV, radio, print and more:

Exit games in the news

"Daily News" newspaperThere have been several more interesting news stories recently about exit games, well worth a round-up:

  • Most recently, The Guardian had an overview of the genre, with a focus on the games available in Toronto. The article claims that there are 37 facilities, so clearly it was written quite some while before it was published, but it’s enthusiastic (if slightly spoiler-y) and in the right spirit.
  • Living North magazine’s edition relating to the north-east of England had a really enthusiastic piece about their trip to Escape Newcastle, with four different perspectives showing how much the game can be enjoyed whether you might consider yourself a natural puzzle fan or not.
  • From the north-east of England to the north-east of Scotland, the Evening Express of Aberdeen had one of the better-informed preview articles that this site has seen about the then-upcoming Breakout Games Aberdeen, which seems to have got off to an excellent start. Good to find out a little about the story that inspired the couple to start their site.
  • Towards the other end of the country, the Salisbury Journal had a preview piece for the upcoming Salisbury Escape Rooms, set to launch towards the end of the month. As the piece says, The attraction in Salisbury is believed to be the only one set up by real detectives who have spent their careers investigating crime as Wiltshire Police officers – now that is quite a distinctive claim to fame!
  • Further afield, the ARGNet web site approach the genre from a different starting-point and take a very broad perspective of not just exit games but other related puzzling pursuits and associated adventures that came beforehand.
  • The famous CNET tech site also have an introduction to the genre, but emphasise one particular site in Sydney’s particular approaches to hinting that help people stay in-character and go into detail over way that site integrates digital and physical gameplay. Lots to think about!

Sites’ preview articles and more general overviews of the genre are two of the more common formats for mass media coverage, so this site won’t attempt to list them all; however, these were some of the most interesting examples of their type, as well as offering good examples of how sites can get their names around quickly.

Exit games in the news

Newspaper graphicThere have been several interesting news stories recently about exit games, well worth a round-up:

  • Today, The Star (of Sheffield, not the Daily national recently focusing on Big Brother, Channel 5 and the proprietors’ other business interests) had a cheerful piece about The Great Escape Sheffield, which TripAdvisor reviews place as number one activity in the city. It’s fascinating to hear more about the background of the people behind the game and get a sense of their influences. The suggestion that a local university offered considerable assistance is particularly interesting and shows what might be possible.
  • On Sunday, Isle of Man Today discussed a trip to Glasgow and Edinburgh where the Glasgow highlight was a trip to Escape, which TripAdvisor reviews also place as number one activity in the city. It sounds like they had great fun in both cities.
  • A couple of weeks ago, The Daily Telegraph had an enthusiastic and pleasant, though unsurprising, article about a trip to HintHunt, mentioning some of the other fixed-location sites in London at the end. As great as the games that get the lion’s share of coverage are, other games in London are also available.
  • Further afield, The Varsity of Toronto take a slightly wider cross-section of the games available there. The proprietor of LockQuest has interesting things to say (particularly in the context of this Twitter exchange…) – though, as ever, the media is far bigger than the mainstream media and you’ll find far more in-depth coverage from the amazing local bloggers who you’ll find in the blogroll here. For instance, everyone’s drooling over this timeline of the 45 (!!) exit games in the greater Toronto area, which looks so gorgeous as to put the counterpart UK timeline somewhat to shame.
  • The written word is far from the only medium; the IntoConnection series of vlogs had a global top three of the genre, in the opinion of a Dutch site proprietor polite enough not to nominate his own.
  • A really exciting blog post recently has been part of InterviralsBlog February series, with a look at the history of room escapes. It’s got people thinking, talking and researching…

Lastly, the very best of luck to Clue Finders of Liverpool! The last week has seen players taking up trial slots, with the first paying bookings expected in a day or two. Liverpool is the place to be right now, what with Clue Finders opening and Tick Tock Unlock taking its first bookings on Saturday onwards!

Virus Alert

Breakout Manchester's "Virus" graphicWith the discussion of the last week, perhaps there’s reason to be grateful that this doesn’t refer to any particular dangerous, insidious computer virus and refers to the strictly fictitious virus that is the subject of Breakout Manchester‘s upcoming second exit game room, advertised on the site as being due to open on Friday 6th June. It looks like quite a few sessions have been booked already.

“Can you slow down the outbreak and find the cure? You only have 60 minutes to do so or the fate of mankind may be in jeopardy. Our 2nd and newest room in Breakout Manchester. This room is completely unique and you will not find it anywhere else in the world.” Some early construction photos suggest that there is, as you might expect, a laboratory theme. The room may well also have a great deal of natural light, which is a little unusual when many sites don’t mind, or even embrace, a hint of claustrophobia to spur you on to escape. The theme and photos seem promising; this site looks forward to seeing Breakout Manchester’s first original room.

Breakout Manchester are conscientious about posting photos of their teams; while this is by no means unique to them, the players always seem to have had lots of fun. Whilst taking these photos in front of a wall, or a window, with the site’s name on is something of an exit room cliché, Breakout Manchester’s wall always particularly brings to mind a football manager’s post-game press conference held in front of a matrix of team sponsor logos. (Not a bad thing in the least!) Perhaps the logical conclusion would be the Italian press conference approach where the sponsor logos scroll along on a loop behind the manager as they talk…

If you’re not in Manchester, there are several exciting pieces of exit game news coming up soon that this site looks forward to sharing. Before then, the New York Times yesterday featured a superb piece about exit games, particularly the interaction and crossover between games and immersive theatre. The piece touches on other work by the theatre company Punchdrunk and also Gone Home; maybe the piece’s most significant original contribution is the collation of game designers’ quotes about exit games, but it does a fine job of neatly illustrating the common points of reference. Recommended reading!