REPOD S4E4 – Holistic Game Design: Alexander Gierholz, creator of Amsterdam Catacombs, Netherlands

In Season 4, Episode 4, we head over to The Netherlands for a chat with Alexander Gierholz of Logic Locks, creator of The Amsterdam Catacombs, which has won numerous accolades including a Golden Lock Award and a TERPECA. In a country rich with globally top-rated escape rooms, The Catacombs stands out for its commitment to immersion, stunning location and incredible ending. The Netherlands has a vibrant escape room scene, due in part to Alexander’s efforts with events like Up The Game, a global escape room conference he co-founded in 2017.

Coming from a psychology background, and having taught experience design and gamification, Alexander approaches game design with a unique holistic philosophy. He thinks deeply about creating experiences that pull from different disciplines which resonate with the audience in a meaningful way. This conversation about escape rooms, gameplay, and creating a community changed the way I think about game design, and I know you’ll find it as fascinating as we did.

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We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season: Morty App, World Escape Room Championship (ER Champ), and Buzzshot. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.


Morty is a free app for discovering, planning, tracking, and reviewing your escape rooms and other immersive social outings.

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World Escape Room Championship (ER Champ)

ER Champ is a global competition for escape room players.


  • Held virtually this year
  • Free Entry
  • Elimination round on November 5, 2022
  • Each member of the winning team will receive a Nintendo Switch Lite
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Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • David tells us that the postcard Alexander sent to Room Escape Artist was the inspiration for our mailbag episodes. [2:15]
  • Alexander gives us a brief walkthrough of his immersive escape room, The Amsterdam Catacombs. [3:26]
  • Alexander tells us a bit about how he was able to build a demonic-themed horror escape room under an old church. [4:55]
  • David notes that in Europe, in general, many of their historic buildings are used for retail and other commercial uses. [7:05]
  • Peih-Gee talks about how many of the escape rooms she played in Amsterdam were located in beautiful historic locations, including Sherlocked, which is located in a historic stock exchange building, and Rock City Escape, which is located in an old monastery. [7:41]
  • Alexander tells us about how he started Logic Locks when an ex-girlfriend’s father let them plunder his attic full of curiosities. [8:19]
  • We discuss The Secret of Eliza’s Heart, the first game that Alexander built, and he tells us that having unique props is great, but a bad idea when they need to be replaced. [9:29]
  • Alexander talks about his journey in the escape room industry going from his first escape room to building The Amsterdam Catacombs, including building a 15 minute traveling freak show-themed escape room experience and producing Up the Game, an escape room convention. [10:46]
Woman dressed as a bearded lady in a wine color corset dress holding a fan, standing in front of a trailer that says "freakshow" on it
  • Alexander talks about why they chose a horror theme for The Amsterdam Catacombs. [12:13]
  • Alexander tells us about the live actor in the The Amsterdam Catacombs and why the character evolved over time from a nun to an academic. [12:40]
  • Alexander talks about his background as a psychologist. [14:37]
  • Alexander talks about Up The Game, an escape room conference that he cofounded and for which served as program manager. [17:43]
  • Alexander tells us that there wasn’t much of an industry for immersive events in Europe back then and talks about some of the issues with trying to get the escape room industry off the ground. [20:02]
  • David talks about the first time he and Lisa spoke at Up the Game and the care that Alexander put into making sure their talk was good. [20:42]
  • Peih-Gee mentions that the premise of bringing creators of all different kinds of immersive experiences on Reality Escape Pod is inspired, in part, by Up the Game. [23:26]
  • Alexander talks about Prison Escape, by Real Life Gaming, and how Up the Game was held in a former prison. Prison Escape is a massive and intense roleplaying game with 80 actors and a gigantic cast of players. [24:32]
  • Alexander tells us that Prison Escape is held in a decommissioned prison and why prison locations in Amsterdam are available for commercial enterprise. [25:44]
  • Alexander taught gamification for two years, and he discusses some of the controversies inherent in gamification. [26:29]
  • Peih-Gee mentions some gamified apps she uses, and Alexander talks about gamifying in a way that helps connect with the actual activity instead of just distracting from a chore. [28:31]
  • Alexander, Peih-Gee, and David discuss experiencing moments of “escapism dissonance” in their lives. [20:02]
  • Alexander talks about how escape rooms can inspire more magic and curiosity about the real world. [32:14]
  • Alexander talks about some of his favorite experiences, including Molly’s Game by Down the Hatch Escapes, and I Can Hear You and Demise of the Gricers (gricers are railway enthusiasts) by Entered in Belgium. (He also wants to recommend Illusionist by Epic Escape.)[35:41]
  • Alexander talks about a possible collaboration with Marriot Hotels to create an immersive experience. [38:17]
  • Alexander shares a story about a treasure hunt that went awry. [43:35]
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Resources Mentioned in this Episode

About Alexander Gierholz

Man with pink hair and a brown goatee wearing a black turtleneck with a patterned jacket posing with one arm raised

After working in a wide range of jobs, Alexander graduated with a Research Master in Social Psychology before he co-founded Logic Locks. He has been teaching Experience Design and the Science of Wellbeing, and he has been the creative lead in many Game & Experience Design Projects either within Logic Locks or for external clients.

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