In Season 4, episode 7, we head over to Israel, a relatively unexplored escape room region that has a bounty of creative, lighthearted themes. We chat with prolific escape room designer Gai Bosco of Cerebro, who has designed over 200 escape rooms, or roughly 25% of the Israeli market. Gai is not only an escape room creator, he is a mega-enthusiast and self-proclaimed nerd who got his start creating sci-fi fan fiction.
The Israeli escape room scene is teeming with family-friendly fandom themes, with escape rooms playing homage to many movies including The Lion King, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and TV shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother. One of the other notable and unique Israeli escape room themes we discussed culinary escape rooms, where you gather ingredients for a recipe and that you actually bake or cook over the course of your game.
Gai is a passionate ambassador for Israeli escape rooms. His game The Sting is his love letter to escape rooms, and includes many enthusiast-insider nods and plays with the concept of escape room tropes. It was clear that Gai really loves his craft and wants to share the joy of Israeli escape rooms with the world.
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Topics Discussed in this Episode
- Peih-Gee remarks on Gai’s concern about being interviewed in a second language, and how his reply impressed her. [1:57]
- David and Gai discuss the impressive number of escape rooms Gai has designed, somewhere in the range of 200 games, or roughly 25% of Israeli escape rooms. [2:27]
- Gai talks about his extensive lists of Israeli escape rooms, which are available in the Israeli escape room enthusiast group. However, they are in Hebrew. He offers to personally help anyone interested in coming to Israel to play escape rooms. [4:43]
- Gai talks about how he got his start in designing escape rooms, going back to his days nerding out as a sci-fi fan fiction writer, creating puzzle hunts and musicals for sci-fi conventions in his off time while working as a computer programmer. [5:39]
- Gai tells us that he finally made the leap into full-time escape room design when he was laid off from his programming job. [9:21]
- Gai tells us about the first escape room he designed, Knights of the Round Table, which was the first game in Israel that was sold to other companies, across Israel and even to the United States, in Los Angles (now closed). [11:04]
- Gai tells us about how he first met and partnered with Or Matoki, a set designer who eventually became the owner of The Maze, which is consistently listed as a Top Company in Terpeca. [13:04]
- Peih-Gee and Gai talk about the importance to networking and rooting yourself within the community. [14:45]
- Peih-Gee mentions Matthew Stein, a REA writer who recently wrote a Field Report on playing escape rooms in Israel. [16:00]
- Gai talks about keeping his puzzles and ideas fresh, even after designing 200 games. [16:26]
- Gai talks about how each different escape room company adds their own spin when building and executing his game designs. [20:58]
- David and Gai talk about maintenance and room breakage over time. [22:44]
- Gai tells us that most of the rooms in Israel are family-friendly, due in part to Israel being a very family-oriented country. [23:59]
- Gai tells us that one of his best skill sets is knowing how to design within a certain budget. [24:21]
- Gai talks a little bit about his game The Sting at The Maze Escape Rooms, and how it’s his love letter to escape rooms. This is a meta escape room that is designed with the theme of being in an escape room. [25:53]
- Gai talks about being a huge escape room enthusiast, and how he tries to design with the enthusiast in mind. He also talks about the complicated relationship between enthusiasts and owners. [27:07]
- David, Gai, and Peih-Gee discuss how to be a good enthusiast, what makes for a bad enthusiast, and some general etiquette to keep in mind when talking to an escape room creator. [28:08]
- Gai talks about some wish-list escape room themes and designs he’d like to see built. [33:30]
- Gai talks about how he researches and designs for different types of clients, including museums, police and military training, and education. [37:20]
- Gai gives an example of a game he created to help teach police values. [41:23]
- Gai tells us about a genre of escape room theming unique to Israel: the preponderance of culinary escape rooms, such as Sugar Rush. (This room happens to be in New York City). [43:02]
- Gai tells us that the first culinary escape room was designed by Yoav Vainas, owner of Panica, as a pop up in the creator’s kitchen, but it became so popular that he soon had to find a retail location. [43:57]
- Peih-Gee clarifies that “culinary escape room” means that you are cooking actual food in the escape room, and she and Gai talk about other escape room concepts which would create a souvenir for the player, such as Solve Our Shirts. [46:14]
- Gai tells us some of his favorite escape rooms in Israel, including Robin Hood by Action Game, and culinary games such as Eurovision Pizza Party by Panica. [47:26]
- Gai tells us about future projects, and also offers an open invitation for people to come play escape rooms in Israel. He says that he will help with recommendations and bookings. Contact him via Facebook or his website. [48:45]
- Gai shares a bonus story about why escape rooms get confused with swimming pools in Israel. [52:11]
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Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- REA Field Report on Israeli Escape Rooms by Matthew Stein
- REA reviews of Israeli Escape Rooms by Matthew Stein
- Israel’s enthusiast ranking of escape rooms (in Hebrew)
- List of every escape room that has ever existed in Israel (in Hebrew)
About Gai Bosco
Gai Bosco is an Israeli Gamification expert and enthusiast, who has created over 200 real life escape rooms and gaming experiences for organizations, museums, television shows, the education system, and more. As an enthusiast he has played in over 800 escape rooms all over the world. He studies the escape room market and trends and is a speaker in escape room conferences.
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