In episode 7, we talk to Chris Lattner, CEO and creative director of The Room in Berlin, one of the top-ranked escape room companies in the world, according to TERPECA—the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Awards. The Room’s immersive adventures have continued to win awards and accolades throughout the years, including our own Room Escape Artist’s Golden Lock Awards.
Chris’ background was as a professional DJ in the techno scene for many years, performing at clubs and festivals around the world. He was also heavily involved in the European geocaching scene, years before escape rooms even existed. After chatting with Chris, it became very clear that he has a focused design philosophy rooted in his past influences.
From guiding party-goers on an immersive emotional journey as a DJ, to creating a world-class geocaching adventure that oftentimes involved climbing equipment and wandering through forests at night, and even playing countless hours of video games, Chris shares with us all his influences and inspirations.
Chris is opinionated, deliberate in his design choices, and full of interesting life experiences. We loved getting inside his head and hearing about how he brings his immersive adventures to life.
Topics Discussed in this Episode
- Chris talks about his philosophy regarding renovations and updates to his existing experiences, explaining that when he designs an experience, sometimes the technology for his vision isn’t available yet, but when it does become available, he will update. [2:08]
- Chris tells us that his company isn’t really a “puzzle shop” and that he prefers what he calls “tasks” over puzzles. He illustrates the difference between puzzles and tasks, and why he considers “tasks” to be more immersive. [3:45]
- David discusses a third type of “puzzle” that he sees in escape rooms, something he calls “challenges,” which require physical dexterity. [5:37]
- Chris talks to us about why he changed the subtitle of his business name from “Live Escape Game” to “Immersive Adventures,” and what differentiates the two. [6:09]
- Chris tells us about some of his influences, including open-world video games like Assassin’s Creed, and old point-and-click LucasArts games. [7:08]
- Chris says that the storytellers of his youth were Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and talks about what an impression those adventure movies, like Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters, had on him. What he loves most about those movies is the emotional journey on which they take you. [9:10]
- Chris jokes about being the “Gordon Ramsey” of escape rooms, and acknowledges being a harsh critic of escape rooms. [11:38]
- David comments that for him, the best games create a realistic sense of urgency, as opposed to the drive to win the game for the sake of ego. [14:20]
- Chris tells us about his past experience designing and creating “extreme” geocaching adventures in 2012, even before escape rooms were a thing. [15:33] (video below)
- Chris talks about his popular geocache adventure “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” a multi-stage 6-hour experience that required climbing gear, treks into a German forest at night, and crawling through a dark tunnel. He even created a chest with a beating heart, booking system and hint system. [17:15] (video below)
- Chris explains the terrain ranking system for geocaching, from wheelchair accessible to requiring climbing gear or scuba diving gear. [19:23]
- Chris talks about “lost places,” abandoned military complexes, and how this type of extreme adventure geocaching is forbidden now. [20:23]
- Peih-Gee talks about her days as a raver in her twenties, and how they would sneak into these types of “lost places” and throw big underground parties, and the adventure of trying to locate parties in the desert. [21:30]
- Chris was a professional DJ in the techno scene, performing at clubs and festivals around the world for many years. He talks to us about how he immerses the audience, taking them on a journey, building atmosphere, and controlling the crowd. He discusses the importance of managing the ebb and flow of the energy levels, and how he applies this philosophy to the immersive experiences he creates. [22:50]
- Chris tells us that for his game The Lost Treasure, they created an automated mechanism where the sound is mixed in real time with a game engine during the game, triggered by the actions of the players. [25:22]
- In his newest game, Brandon Darkmoor, Chris tells us that his gamemaster is basically “running a real theatre show for just five people.” In this game, the gamemaster is mixing the sound for the games live and triggering scenes by hand. [26:32]
- Chris talks about the use of scents in his immersive adventures, and how powerful it is in creating a realistic atmosphere. [27:45]
- SPOILER ALERT: We discuss the political message and narrative story of Chris’ game Go West. Some details are spoilers for the game, so if you haven’t played it and don’t want to be spoiled, you can skip ahead to 32:19. [29:35]
- Chris discusses his philosophy behind updating existing older rooms as opposed to completely discarding them. [33:11]
- Chris tells us that his next immersive experience will be centered around Vikings, inspired by his love of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the newest game in the series. He has even consulted a historian to ensure historical accuracy. [35:47]
- We chat about creating immersive experiences for tourists and using theming based on local history and culture. Chris gives us an example of creating an experience rooted in local history and making use of a unique location, like an old railway station. [37:05]
- Chris talks about his love of LinkedIn and about his second company, The Room Labs, which creates themed entertainment for restaurants, escape rooms, and museum experiences [39:55]
- Chris gives us a bonus escape room story. [42:45]
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Chris’ Spotify Playlist
- TERPECA’S website
- REA review of Go West
- REA review of The Lost Treasure
- REA review of Beast of Berlin
- Video of the treasure chest from the geocache adventure Dead Men Tell No Tales
- Video of the secret entrance into the final room where you find the logbook. It was built by geocachers into an old abandoned children’s hospital.
- YouTube videos of Chris DJing at Fuse.
- Youtube video of Chris DJing in South Africa.
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Thanks for listening!
Chris Lattner, Owner and Designer at The Room Berlin
After 28 years working as a professional DJ playing techno and house in clubs around the world, Chris decided it was time for something completely different.
His first escape game experience in London in March of 2013 was the ignition point for the decision to open his own escape game in Berlin.
Together with his business partner Jochen Krüger and their former geocaching crew, he opened THE ROOM on the October 3, 2014 after a year of planning and six months of building.
Their first two rooms, GO WEST and THE BEAST OF BERLIN, were more successful than they’d ever imagined and the business quickly grew to a point where a third room made sense.
The goal with the third room was to create something groundbreaking in terms of set design and technical equipment. Thus the team was expanded to include Malte Eiben, who is responsible for programming, and Wilko Drews, with whom Chris designed HUMBOLDT, or THE LOST TREASURE, as it is known today.
After 8 months of building, THE LOST TREASURE opened to the public in November 2015. It has been extremely well received with many positive reviews from both new and experienced players.
At the end of 2018, THE ROOM opened BRANDON DARKMOOR, a one-of-its-kind immersive adventure.
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