Exit game TV

Television setFour quick stories about exit games on television, both past and future:

1) The Bristol Maze, of the City Mazes chain, was recently featured in a short but very positive piece on the genre that was part of the BBC’s Points West local news show.

2) As discussed, the US TV show Race to Escape will be coming to the UK version of the Discovery TV channel. Indeed, you may even have seen some trailers for it. There’s also acknowledgment of it, of a sort on the Discovery channel’s Press Releases page. This site liked the show a lot, though not everybody did, and certainly it’s rather more destructive within exit game rooms than would happen in the real world.

3) However, it’s more fun to look at what’s set to come in the future. This site is bullish about prospects for further exit game TV shows; the lack of references firmly fixing them at a point in time mean that they, like The Crystal Maze, could be repeated for literally decades to come and still entertain someone who hadn’t seen that particular episode before. The ratings for Race to Escape are mentioned in this press release; it’s written in jargon rather than English, but – running it through the translator – those ratings are apparently “boffo”.

Not sure if the success of Race to Escape has been noted as a good thing, but Intervirals pointed (on Facebook) that the US TV channel Pop, half-owned by the CBS Network, are set to feature a show by Zodiak USA, who have quite a track record, with the working title of Celebrity Escape Room. The Deadline web site quotes a press release like so: “Based on the hottest new craze in live-action gaming, CELEBRITY ESCAPE ROOM is a high-intensity, totally immersive pop culture challenge. Two celebrities and their friends compete by getting locked in identical rooms, and the only way out is to use their pop culture knowledge and work together to unlock the exit. With room themes ranging from zombie apocalypse to a totally tubular 80’s teen dream, viewers play along as the two celeb teams hilariously stumble through a series of clues, puzzles and red herrings until they unlock the key to their freedom. The first team to escape wins.

4) As much as exit games are a global phenomenon, there’s no reason why TV exit games couldn’t be global likewise – and being quite visual, the formats might travel well. This site has discussed the outstanding The Genius broadcast on tvN in South Korea, which has won the Best Game/Quiz Program award in the Asian Television Awards and may have had more of an impact still; rival broadcaster JTBC has announced a show which looks like it might just be an exit game. (On the other hand, it might not; compare with Dero!, which inspired the US Syfy channel’s Exit, and is sadly just a dressed-up quiz.) ‘Code – the Secret Chamber’ is a psychological survival program that the casts have to evacuate from the locked down rooms with 4 different concepts by solving secret codes through mission games. Through their deductions, the program will induce the members to union, betrayal, corporation and competitions. ‘Code’ will air its first episode in January 2016.

Not long to wait to find out either way!

Good news for the end of November

"Good News for a change!" - adapted from Rick Warden, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence

Adapted from an image by Rick Warden, released under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence,
originally created using a Flickr Commons non-copyrighted archival photo

Never enough good news stories. Never, ever enough of them.

  • Congratulations to Sofija and Artur who recently became engaged at Locked In Edinburgh; the story even made it onto STV! If you’re in the UK, you can enjoy the couple’s moment by watching a later part of this episode of The Fountainbridge Show within the next 30 days – and aired on St. Andrew’s Day, no less! This is the ninth UK exit game proposal of which this site is aware; this is the point at which these stories will continue to be joyously celebrated, but perhaps no longer counted.
  • On the subject of TV, Nick Gates of Bother’s Bar passes on a suggestion that Race to Escape is due to be broadcast in the UK, on our version of the Discovery channel, available on Sky and Virgin. A few months ago this site discussed covert ways to watch the show but this will be much more convenient, as well as – ahem – legal. This site considers it a varied, imaginative and entertaining show, though criticisms that it requires (and thus risks encouraging) horrible behaviour from exit game players do have a point.
  • Still on the subject of TV, though here it’s TV inspiring live games rather than the other way around, the live The Crystal Maze attraction is whirring into life with Indiegogo backers being able to select their tickets today and sales surely being opened up to the rest of the world very soon. With so many booking options sold during the campaign and literally thousands of people booking tickets, the booking process appears to have been a little bumpy in patches, but only a little and largely quickly resolved.
  • It’s been a bumper year for Rubik’s cube speed-solving records. Back in May, Collin Burns clocked a 5.25 second solve of a standard 3x3x3 cube to break a World Record that had lasted two years; on 21st November, Keaton Ellis improved on this with a 5.09 second solve, a new World Record. Unfortunately Keaton may go down in history alongside legendarily transient record-holder Olga Rukavishnikova, for his landmark achievement was overshadowed only about an hour or so later when Lucas Etter clocked a 4.904 to break the five-second barrier. Far better to have been the fastest that the world has ever known, even if only briefly, than never to have held the crown at all.
  • On the subject of records and prizes, Escape Manor in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, have announced on their Facebook that they’re holding an exit game design contest with a buxom prize pool of six thousand Canadian dollars; five finalists will be selected to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. “The top 3 contestants will be awarded a cash prize and a chance to help have their room developed at one of the Escape Manor locations!” This site contacted Escape Manor for comment, which has not yet been returned, as to whether entrants have to be Canadian and whether it might be possible for a finalist to pitch by videoconference should travelling to pitch in person be uneconomic. At the very last, perhaps it’s a model for design contests in the future.
  • A less geographically constrained, less competitive endeavour is the forthcoming Breakout EDU game jam on 9th-10th January 2016. Breakout EDU is a standard collection of equipment intended to help people create classroom games with something of the exit game nature to them – though normally breaking into a box, rather than breaking through a locked exit door. The standardisation of the platform means that if you design a game, anyone around the world will be able to play it; there aren’t many games available in this way yet, but this event will hopefully get people creating – and then using the created games. While the tools may be relatively frequently found, there’s no limit to the puzzles and ingenuity that might surround them; you can create games for four- and six- year olds, or anywhere up the scale to being for adults. Get designing games wherever you like, but the focus on one weekend will inspire physical events at which many people with a common goal can get together to get creating. Exciting times, and – again – perhaps a model for another part of the future!

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!

Late August news round-up

News round-up
Tuesday night seems to be becoming “list of short news stories” night. This isn’t deliberate, but here goes:

  • Episode five of Race to Escape was broadcast on Saturday night and has made its way to illicit video-sharing sites already. In truth, I haven’t watched it yet, but if it’s anywhere near as good as last week’s then it will be a glorious thing indeed. As ever, illicit video-sharing sites don’t make it easy – there are doubtless plenty of adverts (noisy pop-unders and the like, maybe worse) – but here’s this week’s link to a list of sites, of which megavideoz.eu will be the first port of call.
  • It’s Fringe festival time in Edinburgh, and three of the local sites have an unofficial competition to see who can get the most famous player come through their doors by the end of the month. Comedians and Dr. Who assistants are being thrown as punches, as if by a heavyweight. How do you judge how famous a person is? Search engine hits, perhaps, but it would take some carefully-selected search terms to ensure you’re finding a famous person and not any of their namesakes. All the participants are winners in this site’s eyes, perched from atop a fence. (This site’s official footballer has been playing rooms in Manchester again, too.)
  • Crowdfunding heroes Enigma Escape of London have updated their site with a nearly-eight-minute video of online video stars trying their game for the first time. It’s probably the best video of its type that this site has seen; it’s a good advert not just for its site, but for the genre as a whole, with the comment “We modified the game so that no spoilers are shown in the video” a telling one. Go and take a look!
  • Escape Plan Live of Chatham, Kent offer not only daytime games but also nighttime “After Dark” games by torchlight as well. One of their first had an additional special effect that even the team behind the game didn’t intend.
  • Clue HQ of Warrington are famous for the difficulty of their games – or, perhaps more accurately, the difficulty of their most challenging games. They also go out of their way to celebrate their most successful teams; they’ve celebrated the first team to go 4/4 at their games (2/2 at Warrington and 2/2 at Blackpool) and now the first team to go 4/4 at Warrington. Full disclosure: one of the team has written for this site! They’ve also posted this graphic, possibly hinting at filling the question-marks they’ve left on their site in discussion of a potential fifth game.
  • Two weeks until Puzzled Pint in London and elsewhere… and two weeks until a possible London Underground strike, making attending trickier. If you go to the London East venue, please would you fill out this form about how any strike might affect your attendance? Thank you!
  • Speaking of Puzzled Pint, one of its co-founders (and Snoutcast veteran) Curtis Chen reccently Tweeted the following: Look, at this point I am more likely to give you money to NOT start up another escape room business. Not a statement about the state of the Portland market, but in the context of its follow-up message, perhaps a call to arms: I mean srsly there are other puzzley experiences you can build for general audiences. Be creative! You can do it! I believe in you!

More and more news

breaking-newsMore and more short news stories at the moment; sadly, they can’t all be longer pieces. Eyes down for a full house.

  • Episode four of Race to Escape was broadcast on Saturday night and has made its way to illicit video-sharing sites already. (There are only six episodes in this series, but so much difference from epsiode to episode; treasure them before they’re gone.) This episode is perhaps the most so of the series to date in a room that looks like it would be tremendous fun to have played. The aforementioned illicit video-sharing sites don’t make it easy – there are doubtless plenty of adverts (noisy pop-unders and the like, maybe worse) – but here’s this week’s link to a list of sites. Megavideoz was the starting-point used here once again.
  • Less than two and a half days to go in the Enigma Quests Kickstarter and less than two and a half hundred pounds required for the project to fund. It’s looking promising, but there’s always more that can be done and those early bird prices look attractive.
  • Edinburgh’s the place to be for exit game excitement while the Fringe is in progress. Locked In Edinburgh have done extremely well before their temporary hiatus starts tomorrow; while the intention was to hold a short run before the venue would be used for a Festival performance, it has proved so successful that it’s now taking bookings for a permanent run from the same address from Tuesday 8th September onwards. Excellent news! The game is set in a disused small animal hospital; unusually, it is a dog-friendly venue, so do bring your dogs along and see if they can sniff out the secrets.
  • The top five entries in the current version of TripAdvisor’s Fun and Games in Edinburgh chart, at time of writing, are all exit games. Great work all round and well worth celebrating!
  • Elsewhere in Edinburgh, comedian Alex Horne and team didn’t have to say “We Need Answers” as they demonstrated that they could answer yes at Can You Escape, and husband-and-wife global medal-winning judoka (? judokas? judokae? Judo superstars, anyhow) Euan Burton MBE and Gemma Gibbons both enjoyed tying Dr. Knox’s Enigma in knots.
  • The stars aren’t just coming out in Edinburgh; The Escape Room of Manchester’s recent Open Night included an appearance by two Hollyoaks actors – but no indication whether they escaped their game or not!
  • Clue HQ of Warrington have launched their fourth game, The Teleporter. In it, the anagrammatic Professor Errol Tepet was a recluse and came up with a number of different inventions during his life time. Not much is known about this device. Nobody knows how he came up with The Teleporter or even if it actually exists – some say it’s just a myth. It probably doesn’t work, but do you fancy a look around? If you’ve played any of their other games before, then you very probably do!
  • CNBC have some rather lovely Time Run clips in a piece on the genre; pity they’ve got a couple of names very slightly wrong, but you can’t have everything!

Sunday night links

A golden chain of linksYou all know the puzzle about “how many links would need to be cut in order to make a complete chain”, surely? This site was going to have to post these links anyway, so here’s an old-fashioned link-log post.

1) Episode three of Race to Escape was broadcast on Saturday night and has made its way to illicit video-sharing sites already. The variety of themes and puzzles from show to show are at the very top end of what might be hoped for, even if inherently it has to represent a certain sort of theoretical exit game, rather than a practical exit game that you might play in practice. The illicit video-sharing sites don’t make it easy – there are doubtless plenty of adverts and maybe worse – but here’s a link to a list of sites. Megavideoz worked relatively well here.
2) Ken points to something a little special happening at Alton Towers as part of Scarefest: “In 1994, a government organisation known as The Phalanx, tasked with protecting the world from unknown threats, took on their most high profile case ever – to control the Nemesis creature and contain those that served it to the underground. ((…)) Sub Species: Operation Lockdown is a two hour extreme horror escape room experience. As Phalanx Operatives you’ll be put into small groups and must complete a series of challenges throughout the operation including facing one of three escape rooms. Gain points by being the least contaminated Operative at the end of the mission and be entered in the leader board of infamous Phalanx Ranked Operatives. This will be a test of skill and nerve as you work together as team.” It’s very exciting to see that a company with the resources of a major theme park is looking at the market, and perhaps they have the wherewithal to throw things at it that smaller companies cannot; they are using their credibility and reputation to set a price point of £99 per player, which redefines the top end of the mass market, so they had better have something very special for the money.
3) David points to a BBC News story about a biannual puzzle contest at hacker event Def Con. Interesting to see that the social aspects of hacking (as opposed to, or as well as, the technical ones) are as much an element of the contest as they are in real-life digital espionage.
4) If you want a much more accessible puzzle event, then this Tuesday is the second of the month, which means it’s Puzzled Pint time, including in London. London has eastern and western events; the majority of the free tickets have already gone for the eastern one and no more can be made available. (The western venue doesn’t have a formally limited capacity, but isn’t all that big, either.) Solve the location puzzle, using the hints if you like, to find out where the puzzles and pints will be.
5) If you don’t want to wait even that long for a puzzle contest, the Indian Puzzle Championship is taking place online right now, and worldwide solvers have a couple more days to finish it. Find a 2½-hour window of your choice and enjoy the puzzles which look exciting and accessible.
6) Superb work from The Logic Escapes Me on their timeline of London games, which builds on this site’s own timeline by tracking not only when sites opened and closed, but also when individual rooms opened and closed at each one. An admirable piece of documentation!

Early August news round-up

News round-upWhen in doubt, and when knackered, post some links:

1) Episode two of Race to Escape took place on Saturday and illicit copies of it have been uploaded if you can dodge the adverts and worse. Remarkably and delightfully, the puzzles are really decently different from those in the room in episode one. Episode one is probably funnier and more satisfying, but this is still very good. The behind-the-scenes videos are also well worth watching.

2) Phil, who sometimes posts to these parts, points to Deva Codex, a series of three codebreaking trails in the city of Chester, each running for a couple of weeks with its own animal theme. The puzzles are likely to be quite family-friendly, but nevertheless fun. The first of the three is already in progress.

3) The Logic Escapes Me have a really solid round-up of what’s going on in London, particularly in terms of keeping track of discounts and deals, an area where this site has been rather behind the pace. The site also points a link to a clearing-house of spaces for pop-up shops and suggests that they might be filled with pop-up exit games. Perhaps!

Racing to Escape

Race to Escape logoExit Games UK has previously looked forward to Race to Escape, a game show with an exit game theme that started on the Science Channel in the US yesterday. Happily, the first episode was very much to this site’s taste; the short series of six episodes promises a different theme each week and if the variety and standard remains this strong then the series will be something really rather remarkable indeed. In the worst-case scenario, later episodes in the series might have little to offer, but the first episode is still something of a must-watch.

The first question – at least to UK readers – is how to watch the series at all. If you’re in the US, then the solution is simple: it’s available to be streamed, free of commercials, on the channel’s own official site. If you’re not in the US, perhaps you might be able to persuade the official site that you actually are by means of a VPN or such – likely this won’t be free, but it’s cheap, can be reasonably simple, and comes recommended. It’s possible that someone might upload an illicit copy of the first episode to a video site; it’s also theoretically possible that, more legally, one of the UK channels over here might pick the show up.

((Edited to add:)) Oh, what the hell – here’s a link to just such an illicit copy of the first episode. As might be expected, there are a few ads to be closed, and there’s no guarantee that the link will last for long. Nevertheless, enjoy.

As previously discussed, the format is simple. Two teams of three strangers compete to escape identical rooms; the first team to escape within 60 minutes wins a cash prize. Escape within 20 minutes and win $25,000; take longer than that and the money starts to tick away at $500 per minute. Optional clues reduce the potential prize by $5,000 each. Based on a sample of a single episode, the actual show lives up well to the considerable potential. There is remarkably little messing about and the show gets straight to the action. The rooms are the true stars and look gorgeous. The puzzles are… not the most original things in the world, but sufficiently well-designed to impress and look like they have had more money spent on them than could be found in (almost all?) escape games’ budgets. The chain of cause-and-effect sometimes isn’t completely logical, but the show proceeds with such speed and spirit that on the few occasions that people might reasonably stop and say “Er, why?” that it gets away with it convincingly.

The host, Jimmy Pardo, plays his role with about as straight a bat as you might ever expect to see from a comedian, with only a couple of arch hamming-it-up moments. He interrupts the action occasionally to demonstrate the teams’ activities demonstrating certain psychological principles, which is a tenuous reason to justify the show’s broadcast on the Science Channel, but works well enough. The contestants are smart and likeable, though seem to be (if not quite over-emoting then perhaps) sugar-rushing their way through; they’re clearly having a great deal of fun playing the game, and this comes through convincingly. Maybe you can’t play the puzzles at home yourself as well as you might, but you can imagine how much fun it must be to get the chance to do so for real. The first episode left this site wanting more and looking forward to future episodes. Congratulations and compliments to everybody involved.

((Edited to add:)) The host recently took questions from the public on Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” section. Most of the questions were about his Never Not Funny podcast, but there were a few about the show, with some interesting views behind the scenes.

Has there ever been as good a time for watching puzzle shows around the world as this? Series four of The Genius has been sensational, four episodes in; Only Connect is reliably superb, and Race to Escape has got off to a heck of a start. Happy days.

One more other global issue; while Exit Games UK doesn’t habitually cover US site launches, please do keep an eye on the newly-opened Locurio of Seattle. By way of full disclosure, Exit Games UK knows one of the founders a little, but it respects the knowledge and background experience of the founders so much that the site has exceptional potential.

Puzzle TV update

"The Genius" garnet and logoIt’s a joy to have a good excuse to use the above logo again; the fourth series of Korean sensation The Genius is now under way. At time of writing, the first two episodes have been broadcast, translated and covertly reposted with English-language subtitles. The subtitle of this series is GRAND FINAL, and it’s an all-star series; the thirteen contestants have all played one or two of the first three series – and, furthermore, they include the top two finishers from each of the first three series. (Sadly, some of the most entertaining and biggest mouths of the first two series aren’t back.)

This site previously discussed the show; in summary, imagine Big Brother with really smart contestants playing proper clever, puzzly games. You can jump in at the start of the fourth series which stands alone, but you may also get more from being familiar with the personalities if you’ve watched the first three series (highly recommended; the games broadly get more interesting and better-played over time, but the first series has the single most brilliantly-played game to date and the second series has the single most brilliant piece of gameplay, which is not quite the same thing). Links to shows plus translations are at the usual place.

While the UK isn’t cool enough to have The Genius, it does have dear old Only Connect, brilliant in its own right and its own fashion – though this site maintains that the show has, metaphorically, put on a jazzy bow tie ever since it moved to BBC 2, just for a giggle. The new series starts on Monday 13th July. Get in early if you can, because you stand much more chance – though still not much of a chance, unless you’re good! – at being able to play along with the episodes at the start of the series. BBC FOUR starts its brand new show, Hive Minds, on Tuesday 14th July, hiding its tricky quiz answers in word search puzzles with hexagonal grids. The clips suggest that there may well be some play-along-at-home value to it.

Later in the month, with most direct relevance to exit games, the Science Channel in the US is launching Race To Escape, as previously discussed. Some more videos have been posted, one featuring the rules to the game. (Two teams compete to escape identical rooms; the first team to escape within 60 minutes wins a cash prize. Escape within 20 minutes and win $25,000; take longer than that and the money starts to tick away at $500 per minute. Optional clues reduce the potential prize by $5,000 each.) One video suggests that they’re going to use some techniques for the show’s clues which this site would consider a little exotic because real-life exit games cannot have a TV budget; this is good to see, and probably essential because many of the show’s viewers are likely to have played games and seen the relatively simple stuff first-hand. Fingers crossed!

Race to Escape

Race to Escape logoThis site has previously mentioned Race to Escape, a forthcoming game show set to be broadcast on the Science Channel within the US. More details have emerged and are good to share. The biggest headline is the date: the first episode is set for 10pm Eastern time on Saturday 25th July. The media organisations of the world have more or less accepted that they have lost the battle to restrict their programming to the country of their choice; expect the episode to be up on streaming sites within another 24-48 hours of broadcast. (If the world is lucky, the upload will be official, easy-to-find and officially available to the world. If the world is unlucky, it will be necessary to delve into the murky waters of BitTorrent.)

You can find the trailer at an article in Entertainment Weekly on the show with some more details of the format: two teams of three strangers race against each other in identical rooms. Each room has five codes to find and solve. The first team out shares the jackpot, which starts at US$25,000 but decreases over time. “There will be a variety of rooms with all sorts of unique decorations, including an old-timey barbershop, a Chinese restaurant, and a 19th century study (which is the location of the premiere episode).” The graphics suggest that at least the first code will be numeric; fingers crossed for the degree of variety, and focus upon tasks, that the world already knows from the best real-life exit games.

For a deeper view behind the scenes, see the article at the Pacific Standard‘s magazine; this features an interview with show creator Riaz Patel. The article reveals that the episodes are an hour long and – in the best news of the lot – every episode will have a completely different room. (An excellent reason to come back from one show to the next; always something new to see!) The piece also contains more background information about exit games at large, discussing them with an operator from California.

This site hopes that the show is a huge success. The Escape Room Directory points to 58 countries that feature exit games; let’s hope that the show’s creators, and initial broadcaster, are well rewarded for taking a chance on the format and that local versions of the show are made in countries around the world.