Extra Long Escape Rooms Need Intermissions

I’m gonna overshare a bit.

While we didn’t play very many real-life escape rooms in 2020, we did play quite a few games with 1.5 to 3.5 hour game clocks.

Intermission

Once you hit the 2-hour mark, I think a game is what I’d call “extra long,” and consequently I think that these games generally need an intermission. Paradox Project in Athens, Greece, does this. They have snacks, drinks, and most importantly, bathrooms available.

The snacks and drinks are phenomenal, rejuvenating, and make for a more pleasant experience… but I think they are a nice-to-have.

The bathroom break is essential.

A very white bathroom.

Immersion is impossible when you have to pee

The other day I streamed The Avengers, and paused it so I could relieve myself in the middle.

It got me thinking about when I went to see all of the movies in this stupid long series… and how each time I had to pick a moment that seemed slow to dart out of the theater. I don’t like to miss anything in a movie (or an escape room), but missing a couple of minutes is better than not being able to follow the story because nature is calling.

The movie theater business is in trouble. It was in trouble before 2020, partly because these blockbuster movies have gotten way too long, without an intermission. Going to a movie theater is simply less comfortable than viewing movies at home. All of these old movie executives certainly can’t make it through their own movies without a bathroom break.

All I’m suggesting is that as we see some of these extra long, blockbuster escape rooms open, let’s do what Paradox Project has already established… and remember that player comfort is essential to player immersion.

How to Get the Most out of the TERPECA 2020 Results

The 2020 TERPECA results are live.

Last year we did a fairly deep dive into the data. I think that piece still holds up, so this year, we are offering some advice about how to get the most out of the TERPECA list as a player.

Before diving in, I’ll remind you that Lisa and I share a vote on the TERPECA board. This isn’t our project, but we do contribute to it and do our best to help guide it.

Top Room Escape Project Enthusiasts' Choice Awards 2020 logo.

Top Tip For Using TERPECA Results

In my opinion, the absolute ranking of TERPECA is a bit of a distraction from the project’s true value.

Numbered lists are eye-catching. The internet loves them. People love to see their opinions validated… or they love being righteously angry over what is clearly a wrong list. Lists spark conversation and they are good for marketing. For us, however, that’s not the point.

This list will never be perfect because these experiences are subjective.

For Lisa and me, the real action is the easily overlooked “Phase 2 Room Results” data. This is a listing of 279 really great escape games that are geographically dispersed. Let me explain why.

Figure Out Your TERPECA Use Case

Think about your own personal use case. Here are what I surmise are the two most common ones:

  • Selecting a travel destination
  • Picking games within a region you are in or will travel to

Let’s look at these individually.

Selecting a Travel Destination

If you are an escape room tourist looking to pick a place to visit based purely on density of amazing games, the top 50 list ain’t a bad place to look.

It’s easy to come to the conclusion that you’ll enjoy visiting Greece, Spain, or the Netherlands. Having visited 2 of those 3 destinations, I can say with confidence that they are amazing places to play escape rooms.

Is The Dome truly the best escape room in the world? Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. Is The Bookstore the second best escape room in the world? Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. Will you have a good time playing in the Amsterdam or Athens regions? I’d be shocked if an escape room fan walked away from either destination disappointed.

Picking Games Within a Region

Most of our travel is determined by happenstance. Work and friends’ weddings tend to select where we visit. We truly choose our long-distance travel destinations infrequently.

Instead, we use TERPECA’s Phase 2 Room Results because it is a big list with few duds. If you exclude a few quality-dense regions, most of this list is massively dispersed. Most cities and regions have but a few games on the list.

For example, our home state of New Jersey has only 1 game on the entire TERPECA Phase 2 Room Results. It’s The Grand Parlor at 13th Hour Escape Rooms. If you’re visiting New Jersey, go play this game. It doesn’t matter that it ranked 75th on the list. It’s a phenomenal game. And while it didn’t win TERPECA in 2020, it received a Golden Lock Award from us in 2018.

The bottom of TERPECA Phase 2 Room Results contains so many gems… even only judging by the ones that I’ve personally played.

If you live near one of these games, or you’ll be traveling near one, you should probably just check it out.

About TERPECA

You can find the winners and more information about the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiast Choice Awards on the TERPECA website. It’s impressive in so many ways. Not just the games, but also the broad participation, the checks in the process, and, of course, the math.

If you’re a community outsider, TERPECA is a novelty, and rightly so. If you’re a habitual escape room player, however, TERPECA is a useful tool. You just need to know how to use it.

10 Dos & Don’ts of Starting An Escape Room Blog

We recently passed 1,800 published blog posts on Room Escape Artist, written over a bit more than 6 years. During this time, I’ve given a lot of advice to folks who want to blog about escape rooms.

Here are my top dos & don’ts of getting started.

Close up of glowing WASD keys on an keyboard.

1 – Start

Do start producing.

Don’t wait. Even if you don’t have a place to publish the posts yet. Get in the habit of producing content regularly. It’s easy to stay in “planning mode” forever, so don’t let yourself into that endless cycle; just dive in.

2 – Tech & Infrastructure

Don’t get bogged down in custom tech.

I strongly recommend using a hosted solution from WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, or some other similar low-cost, low-effort provider. We use WordPress.com’s business plan. We started with a less expensive plan.

Whether or not you have a background building websites, I still recommend the lightest solution possible because you don’t want to spend your time maintaining your website.

Since day one we’ve had a “content first” approach. It’s tough to produce content when you’re spending all of your time maintaining your tech.

The result of our decision is that we have a ton of content that we’re incredibly proud of, but from a tech standpoint, our infrastructure has never been exactly where we wanted it. We continue to improve it.

All of that said, I wouldn’t have done it differently if I were starting over.

I’ve seen a ton of heavily customized websites with next to no content come and go… and that’s confounding.

3 – Motivation

Do it because you love these games and/ or the community.

If you don’t love playing escape rooms, thinking about them, and analyzing them… then you’re not going to have the fire to keep your site rolling. You need that intrinsic motivation because the early days of writing a blog are lonely. Sometimes you’re writing for almost no one, so you have to be writing for yourself.

There’s an old joke among those of us who have been producing content about escape rooms since the early days of 2014 and 2015. The joke is: “I started my blog for the money.”

You’re not going to get rich or famous from producing escape room content.

4 – Consistency Feeds Growth

Don’t be erratic if you want to grow.

We publish at 10:01AM Eastern every single day (and sometimes publish a bonus post at a different palindromic time in the afternoon). Back in the early days we used to publish 3 times per week, and in the extra early days it was once per week.

Consistency and stability – at whatever pace – feeds readers and attracts new ones. Consistency is really hard.

5 – Pacing

Do it at your own pace.

Contradicting myself… I really respect bloggers like Randy Hum from Escape Rumors and Alejandro Osorio & Stefan Bauer from Two Bears Life. They don’t publish tons of stuff, but what they do produce is well crafted and has a clear perspective. You don’t have to write a lot to add value to the community.

I am so happy that we have people like them adding to our community and whether they are consistent or not, it’s a better community because they are part of it.

6 – Intention

Don’t do this just to get free games.

If you’re thinking about blogging to offset the expense of your escape room habit, just get a side job. I’m serious. The bloggers who are just in it to get free games rarely last. If they do, their content is usually weak in quality.

Also, don’t review if all you want is for owners to like you; do something else. The reviewers who clearly just want to be liked can’t be honest even if they are knowledgeable.

7 – Perspective

Do evolve.

Cultivate your own perspective and let it evolve. The longer you do this, the more you’ll realize how little you knew when you started. Don’t resist that change; it’s growth. You’ll look back on some of your old pieces and realize that you were off. It’s part of the journey.

8 – Regionality

Don’t believe that you’ve seen everything.

Be aware of the fact that escape room trends are regional. If you’ve only seen games from a single region or two, that’s cool. Regional blogs are amazingly helpful to the community. Just remember that your worldview might get rocked if you visit a new place. Don’t let that rattle you.

9 – Adjacent Spaces

Do keep learning.

Whether it’s tabletop games, video games, immersive theatre, puzzle hunts, augmented reality games, improv comedy, set design, electronics, fabrication, or anything else really… there is an endless opportunity to learn new things that relate to the way that escape games are designed and played.

That’s my favorite part about all of this. I’m fueled by curiosity. I love that no matter how much I learn, there will always be something more to learn.

10 – Community

Do disagree without being disagreeable.

We’re not all going to like and dislike the same stuff. That’s cool. Embrace the fact that perspective on experience is subjective… and be kind to those who see things differently.

The moment that you feel that your way of seeing an experience is the only way of seeing an experience, you eliminate the possibility of discussion and learning. The beauty of this community is in learning from one another and seeing things through the eyes of others.

December 2020 US Stimulus: A Breakdown By & For Escape Room Owners

  • This is a quick, no frills post for US escape room owners because time is not on anyone’s side.
  • Below you’ll find a link to a breakdown of the December 2020 COVID/ stimulus section: p. 1924-2467.
Comic book art of hands signing a document.
  • This analysis was primarily the work of Andrew Preble (Escape My Room, New Orleans, LA) and Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent (Escape New Haven, New Haven, CT), with some help from Anne Lukeman (Champaign-Urbana Adventures in Time and Space, Urbana, IL).
  • Time is key because if you want to apply for the EIDL Advance, you only have about a day.
  • They say this in their post, but I will reiterate it. They aren’t lawyers. I am not a lawyer. This breakdown is simply to try to help make things a bit easier for escape room owners. Read the law, consult your legal and financial advisors.

Puzzled Escape Games – The Box From The Future [Review]

Mucking about with spacetime.

Location:  at home

Date Played: October 24, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 2 hours

Price: $50

REA Reaction

I wanted to like The Box From The Future more than I did. I loved the concept, and truly enjoyed the videos that carried the game’s narrative. As an overall experience, however, it felt weak and disjointed.

Assorted components including, a dry erase marker, a thumb drive, a world map, and a DVD labeled "Future Man"

The puzzles were largely a collection of generic puzzles, the kind I see in my Facebook feed and rarely stop to solve. There were exceptions, like a sequence near the end that honestly could have been expanded into a far more interesting and cost-effective game.

The physical components in The Box From The Future mostly seemed unnecessary. That was a fundamental flaw, considering that there are stronger games at a fraction of the price, and that competitors in this price range do some really special things.

Creatively, I respect what Puzzled Escape Games was striving for. I just wish that it had been edited and focused on the interactions that made it special.

Who is this for?

  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The video interludes were adorable and clever
  • One of the late game puzzles felt like an entire game could have been built around it

Story

A box wrapped in hot foil had hurdled through the space-time continuum and landed on our doorstep PO box. As we opened it we found a message from a man claiming he was from a catastrophic future. He needed us to make changes to our present to prevent what would come.

We were tired of our cataclysmic present, so it felt like a worthy endeavor.

A foil-covered box with an orange warning that reads: "Open with extreme caution. Contents insid can cause cataclysmic events in the future. Mishandlign will doom mankind."
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