Lisa: This is the third piece in a three-part series by Diane Kobrynowicz and Sarah Mendez about taking risks and finding community through escape rooms.
In this – the final installment – Sarah and Diane both share thoughts on why this was “The Escape Room They Didn’t Know They Wanted” and what it ultimately gave them, which was far more than 60 minutes of gameplay. They also offer suggestions for anyone else who is looking to expand their community through escape rooms.
Brief Series Recap
Sarah & Diane: We want to close this series by sharing what’s been possible for us as a result of taking chances. We hope to inspire you to take even more chances with fun, adventure, and creating community.
Previous Experience with the Escape Room Community
Sarah: Prior to this experience, my husband Jonathan and I lived in our personal escape room bubble. We had played most of our 38 games as a date activity, dragging friends along on less frequent occasions. Although I was eager to entertain our friends with my garage escape room, I didn’t realistically expect anyone to be nearly as excited about it as I was. In short, we were oblivious to the possibility that there might be a broader audience for my creation. By extension, we had no idea that there could be value to a broader audience.
Diane: Tony and I had become knitted into the escape room community, first by taking a recommendation from David for our first experience of an escape room in New York City about 4 years ago, and then by participating in 3 of REA’s Escape Immerse Explore Tours. We’ve had the pleasures of joining David and Lisa when they’ve come to the greater Austin area to play games, and of pointing newbies to the Room Escape Artist as a resource for orienting themselves to this new world. Indeed, it was an email from Lisa that connected us to Jonathan and Sarah.
The Community’s Role in This Story
Our connection wouldn’t have happened without the existence of a broader, accessible network of escape room enthusiasts. There were three elements to this connection:
Sarah: My husband Jonathan, an Asker, tapped into REA’s treasure trove of knowledge by asking if they might happen to be in the area and interested in checking out the room. To any Guesser, like me, this immediately sounded like an outlandish question (“Hey, world-renowned escape room reviewers, do you want to fly to the far reaches of outer Austin to see our garage?”). Who would humor such a suggestion?
Sarah: REA – Community Builder Extraordinaire – that’s who! They could have ignored this request. Instead, they responded in a wiser and more useful way by serving as a matchmaker. They shared some local contacts who might be interested in and could more practically pursue such an experience.
Completing the Handshake
Sarah: Local contacts doesn’t guarantee making a connection. We could extend our hand, but would anyone reach back? Fortunately, Diane and her fiancé Tony’s open, adventure-seeking personalities made them the perfect pioneers for the experience. They not only jumped on the opportunity, but they promoted it to the rest of the local group. Ultimately, through their enthusiasm and unsolicited advocacy – Diane said it was “not to be missed” and that comment was what made one local couple take the plunge – seven more deeply experienced players came over to play the game.
Ease of Connection
Sarah: We lived in a bubble, playing escape rooms ourselves. This experience showed us that escape rooms could actually connect us to other people. When each team of enthusiasts arrived, we immediately knew we had something to talk about – what rooms we had done, our puzzle preferences, our approaches to clues, etc. – and all these things helped us immediately connect with strangers. We had absolutely no idea that (1) we would be excited to talk about escape rooms for hours on end and that (2) other people would share that excitement.
Audience for Niche Creativity
Sarah: As I made my room, I felt more and more that designing an experience is an art form. I found myself wanting to share it with others who would appreciate it.
Sarah: Now that we have connections with people who share our love of escape rooms, we have all sorts of new possibilities ahead of us. Most obviously, we have new friends to play rooms with who are enthusiastic enough to potentially travel to do so! Beyond that, we’ve discussed opportunities to jointly create wider experiences beyond just my garage. I never would have even considered thinking about this as more than a hobby, and I still might not, but what a fun, unexpected result of exploring a hobby from another angle.
Support for the Industry
Diane: As our escape room experience deepened, we came to appreciate the uniqueness of and challenges with this form of entertainment.
We want to play more escape rooms! We want more escape room companies to exist and thrive! We share our love as self-defined “Escape Room Ambassadors” by introducing escape rooms to anyone and everyone. How else will this unique form of immersive entertainment continue to exist for all of us to enjoy, unless we all take on helping it grow?
Because most escape rooms aren’t replayable, it can be challenging for these businesses to establish a consistent customer base. Word-of-mouth advertising is the most persuasive kind, so we can all help the escape room world by recommending our favorites.
Diane: Not everyone is enthusiastic about experiencing with a new type of entertainment, particularly one with a premium price. Escape rooms are so individual that it’s easy to imagine a newbie might have one bad experience and never go back. We provide context and encouragement to newbies to maximize the likelihood that they will have a good experience. That’s one reason we are so grateful to REA as a central hub of this mission.
How To Connect
It might seem that this just boils down to basic networking, but it is really so much more.
Maybe, like Sarah, you hadn’t realized the potential of applying networking skills to a hobby like this.
Maybe, like Diane, you find people fascinating and you find escape rooms fascinating, so combining the two make for more fun, more adventure, and more opportunities.
Here are some tried-and-true techniques for connecting with each other:
Be a Community Member
Diane: Be inspired by this 3-part guest article series to define yourself as an unofficial “Escape Room Ambassador.” Take on sharing the escape room experience in a way that works for you. In fact, consider taking more risks by reaching out to others, especially to escape room-loving strangers, and forming new connections.
Introduce the concept of escape rooms to your friends. Mix up your team sometimes to expose new people to the experience. The more people who discover and enjoy escape rooms, the broader the market, and the more fun we can all have together!
Sarah: Search online or ask at the escape rooms in your town if there are meetup groups, blogs, Facebook groups or relevant events that draw escape room enthusiasts. If there are none in your area, you could host your own.
Support Escape Room Businesses
Diane: Creating an escape room is often a labor of love, so the people behind a new escape room business are a part of the community and need your support. If you play the room and believe the business has potential, take the time to write them reviews. Spread the word to your friends. When a business has a quality product and customer experience, help to get it off the ground with word-of-mouth marketing so that it can deliver more fun experiences to you in the future.
Read REA’s FAQ
Diane: The REA FAQ is a good place to start, if you want to connect with their community.
Given REA’s mission, they have some fabulous ways to connect with others. These include:
- Meetups – Stay tuned for the next NYC meetup to be announced soon at REA.
- Escape Immerse Explore Tours – only a few tickets left for Escape, Immerse, Explore: The Hayden Farm, April 5, 2020)
- RECON – The Reality Escape Convention (Boston, August 23-24, 2020)
- A lively Patreon Support community
Be an Asker
Diane: The crux of our experience rested on several sparks of connection, none of which would have happened if we’d all assumed that there was nothing to be gained. Be open to possibilities. Imagine best-case scenarios. Someone has to reach out their hand first, so make it you.
Sarah & Diane: The coda to our story is that as a result of this pop-up-escape-room-in-a-garage experience, we two couples went on a destination escape room trip weekend to Houston that was anchored by Strange Bird Immersive, voted the top escape room company in the North America. We followed that up with an escape room triple date adding the couple who “took the plunge” to experience Sarah’s escape room. Our continuing adventures are just beginning!
In a world of disconnection or virtual connections, there is something uniquely meaningful about real-life escape game experiences, real-life friendships, and community.
Lisa: “Reader Stories” is a series we started back in 2016. Included in REAs mission statement is “we strive to grow the community of amazing people who love solving the puzzles together.” We think sharing stories in one avenue for growth.
If you feel inspired by Diane and Sarah’s story, we hope you’ll create new adventures of your own around your love for escape rooms.
Do you have an escape room-inspired personal story? We’d love to hear from you.