REPOD S3E6 – Hillary Manning: Puzzle Design Expert on Create The Escape

In Season 3, episode 6 of REPOD, we chat with Hillary Manning, the puzzle design expert on Create The Escape. Create The Escape is a fun kids show where in each episode, kids design an escape room for their parents to play and hopefully escape. Hillary has previously worked at escape rooms like Beat the Bomb and Escape The Room as a puzzle designer and gamemaster.

young woman with bright pink hair and orange tips in a white t shirt next to a logo that says Create the Escape on an orange background.

Hillary walks us through the challenges of designing escape rooms for a television audience, and creating puzzles that are both fun to play and visually pleasing with a large scale. She takes us behind the scenes of how the show is produced, and what it takes to get cast on the show. It’s especially exciting to hear about how much input the kids have on designing the puzzles and helping build the room. I think this show will be a great introduction for more families to learn about escape rooms. Hillary is a fun, energetic host on the show, and she brings the same great energy to this podcast episode.

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Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • Hillary tells us about the television show Create The Escape and how it works. [1:18]
  • Hillary talks about why they don’t use tech in the escape rooms they build. [2:44]
  • Hillary answers questions from a couple of kids: who does the bulk of puzzle design, how they decide which projects the kids will build, and how kids are chosen in the audition process. [4:00]
  • Hillary talks about what’s in the mystery prize box. [7:37]
  • Hillary talks about the win/ lose ratio in the show’s first season. [8:55]
  • Hillary tells us about the beta testing process for the show. [10:39]
  • Hillary talks to us about balancing the competitive nature of the show with the typically cooperative nature of escape rooms. [14:08]
  • Peih-Gee talks about the issues that arise when there’s an adversarial relationship between gamemasters and players. [16:00]
  • Hillary walks us through production schedules and turnaround on any given episode. [19:24]
  • Hillary tells us about some fun things they can do for television that you might not usually see in an escape room. [ 21:27]
  • Hillary tells us about creating puzzles that are both fun to play and visually appealing for a television audience. [23:55]
  • Hillary tells us about how she first got involved with escape rooms by walking into a business and just inquiring about working there. [25:04]
  • Hillary talks about her experience going from set design for theatre to designing puzzles for corporate events. [26:20]
  • Hillary is a talented cosplayer. She talks to us a bit about what inspires her. [30:28]
  • Peih-Gee notes that all the parents on Create The Escape get a little costume to wear, and they chat about having costumes in escape rooms. [31:21]
  • Hillary walks us through etiquette for approaching a cosplayer at a convention. [33:41]
  • Hillary tells us about her adventures in Prague at the puzzle cocktail bar Alchemist. [34:57]
  • Hillary talks to us about some of her favorite cities to play escape rooms in, including Berlin and New Orleans. [37:54]
  • Peih-Gee talks about using show sponsor Morty App to track escape rooms. [38:45]
  • Hillary talks about her favorite escape room, The Lost Treasure at THE ROOM in Berlin (game designer Chris Lattner was a past REPOD guest). [39:36]
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Resources Mentioned in this Episode

About Hillary Manning

smiling caucasian woman with pink dyed hair with orange tips in a white t-shirt

Transplanted from Silicon Valley, California, Hillary Manning is a NYC-based designer. She has designed and built puzzles at Escape the Room, and worked with Beat The Bomb, an immersive paint bomb experience, to open and run their flagship location in Brooklyn. Most recently, Hillary was the Puzzle Design Expert on Create The Escape, a children’s competition show, where she helped young designers design and create escape rooms for their parents.

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Escape This Podcast

Escape This Podcast is a show that’s a mix between tabletop roleplaying and escape room puzzles.

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No Proscenium Podcast

Your guide to the ever-evolving world of immersive art & entertainment

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