In episode 8, we chat with Lisa Spira, co-creator of Room Escape Artist, one of the producers of this podcast, and the main puppetmaster holding the strings of two very happy podcasters.
David and Lisa have been married for five years. He calls himself the Penn to Lisa’s Teller and explains that in their partnership, while he’s the loud carnival barker grabbing the attention, Lisa is the shorter, quiet one who is actually pulling all the strings (and we couldn’t be more thrilled that she’s helping us organize this podcast).
Together, we delve into some of the controversy and discussion stirred up by our previous episode with Chris Lattner.
Lisa has not only applied her prodigious organizational talents to producing our podcast, but she is also the driving force behind many of Room Escape Artist’s endeavors, including the Hivemind Review group, the US Escape Room Industry Report, the REA Escape Room Tours, and RECON ’21 – the Reality Escape Convention.
She chats with us about these upcoming projects, giving us highlights of what to expect. I was fascinated to get a glimpse at some of the moving parts behind the Room Escape Artist machine. None of this would have been possible without Lisa’s guiding hand, and we are immensely grateful for her expertise and dedication.
Topics Discussed in this Episode
- David calls himself the Penn to Lisa’s Teller and explains that in their partnership, while he’s the loud carnival barker grabbing the attention, Lisa is the shorter, quiet one who is actually pulling all the strings. [1:19]
- Lisa talks about why they created the Hivemind – the group review project on Room Escape Artist that covers a variety of play-from-home content. [2:08]
- Lisa says that one of her main struggles with publishing during quarantine is figuring out what games they should cover. She says that previously they covered games based on where they were traveling. [5:24]
- Lisa talks about how the definition of “escape room” has changed so much, and some of the different types of rooms REA covers. [7:02]
- David discusses his idea of regional perspectives when it comes to escape room culture. He says that people assume escape room culture is the same globally, but in his opinion, “escape rooms have a lot of regional trends and regional flavors.” [10:30]
- Peih-Gee notes that this was the first time she thought of regional biases in escape rooms and says, “The way movies are produced and directed are probably different coming from different countries. It makes sense that any other type of entertainment or creative endeavor is also going to be flavored by your own personal cultural biases and perspectives.” [11:39]
- Lisa muses on what IS an escape room? Does it need to have puzzles? Where’s the tipping point between an immersive adventure and an escape room? [12:16]
- David states that he thinks the Los Angeles escape room scene, in general, has a more theatrical bent, and an undertone of horror with more illusions. He says they tend to be a bit easier and more focused on the immersion of the experience rather than on the puzzles. [13:34]
- David says he thinks Seattle has a much more puzzle-focused gameplay, whereas the New Orleans/ Baton Rouge area tends to focus more on spectacle in an artsy way. [14:22]
- We talk about the differences between theatrical versus spectacle, with “theatrical” meaning more narrative focused, and “spectacle” meaning a big reveal. [15:00]
- Peih-Gee notes that she loves the personality of regional flavor in escape rooms and David compares it to having regional flavors in music. [17:10]
- We talk a little bit about escape room culture in China, including the speed dating scene built around escape rooms, as well as the elaborate costumes. [19:35]
- David and Lisa discuss their data-driven Industry reports on the escape room community and go over a few highlights from their recent industry survey, including [21:07]:
- 80% of business owners that took the survey are currently operating.
- 75% of owners said that they had adjusted their schedules in various different ways to make the experience of playing in escape rooms safer.
- 42% said that their outlook is positive and almost 24% said their outlook is very positive.
- Lisa shares some quotes from the escape room industry survey. Some are positive, like one that says “We are doing the best we’ve ever done by adding online live avatar games. It has opened us up to an even larger market.“ [23:40]
- Some of the quotes are a sad reminder of the hard-hitting reality of this quarantine. ”My enthusiasm and energy after all of this is low. I feel like I’m starting over building my business up.” [24:35]
- Lisa talks about the escape room tours that REA runs and mentions that the Montreal Tour is planned for October of 2021. [26:53]
- Lisa explains how the tours work. David reminisces about some past players who told him that the tours had changed their life perspective and inspired them to learn new skill sets and make new friends who enjoyed the same hobby. [28:26]
- Lisa talks about RECON, the Reality Escape Convention created by the REA team, which will be held virtually again August 22-23, 2021. [34:27]
- We discuss the type of content that will be available at RECON including the curated talks, workshops, ARG, games, and even afterparty bars. [35:07]
- Lisa tells us about the ticket pricing structure for RECON: the basic ticket level which will be pay-what-you-want, and then the bonus pro ticket, which will get you into games and workshops. RECON will have content for people in the industry and for players. [37:21]
- Lisa gives us a teaser for one of the speakers at RECON ‘21 – Tasha from Project Avatar (see resources below for links to the Hivemind Review). [41:14]
- We learn that Errol Elumir of the Room Escape Divas podcast will be speaking about how to design puzzles that integrate into a narrative. [42:11]
- Peih-Gee talks about Errol’s game Present Quest and how it made her cry (see resources below for links to the Hivemind Review). [42:34]
- David tells us that the inspiration for his style of interviewing came from a Youtube series called Hot Ones, hosted by Sean Evans, who interviews celebrities while they’re eating a series of increasingly spicy hot wings. [45:43]
- David and Peih-Gee share some of their favorite podcast reviews. [48:24]
- Lisa shares one of her favorite escape room stories. [55:36]
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Introducing the HiveMind
- The REA Hivemind is Here to Stay
- US Escape Room Industry Report – 2020 Year End Update (February 2021)
- Room Escape Artist Tours
- RECON: The Reality Escape Convention
- REA review of Project Avatar’s First Mission
- REA review of Project Avatar’s Stalker
- REA review of Present Quest
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Thanks for listening!
Lisa Spira, Co-Creator of Room Escape Artist and Producer of Reality Escape Pod
Whether she is editing REA’s content, leading the Hivemind, or wrangling the logistics for RECON or the Escape, Immerse, Explore Tours, Lisa is the reason that everything runs like clockwork. As a linguist and data expert, Lisa also leads our Industry Data efforts and is responsible for our annual Industry Reports. Lisa is the heart of REA and also bakes all of our escakes.
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