REPOD S2E8 The Cinematic Delusions of Jon Braver

In season 2, episode 8, we chat with Jon Braver, creator of Delusion. Delusion is an interactive horror theatre experience where monsters might crawl on the ceiling, creatures could be flying through the air, and at any moment you could be pulled aside for your own personal storyline. Jon describes Delusion as a cinematic moving play with a rich, linear storyline, where the audience gets to be the main character in a horror movie.

A dark background with ghostly images of skulls and a photo of a bald man with stubble wearing a grey brown tshirt

Jon started creating immersive horror experiences as a teen in his parents’ house. When he began doing stunt work for movies, he naturally incorporated stunts and special effects into his productions. While Delusion is well known for its stunts and effects, Jon has always emphasized his dedication to the story.

It was so interesting to dig into Jon’s multi-faceted background to see how all his different skill sets culminated in the incredible experience of Delusion. After chatting with him, it was clear how committed he was to cinematic, immersive storytelling with an adrenaline-laden plot. He had so many amazing stories. We loved getting a glimpse into the cinematic delusions of Jon Braver. It’s a climactic finale to season 2.

Thank You to Our Sponsors

We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.

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SEO ORB

Marketing and SEO optimization created specifically for escape rooms by an enthusiast.

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Telescape by Buzzshot
Virtual escape room game creation and interface software. Bring increased functionality to your virtual escape rooms.

Escape from Mibo Island by Sherlocked
Virtual escape room played on a uniquely immersive web-based platform. First-person point of view avatar using your own webcam video that is ideal for anyone from families to corporate events. Try out Mibo Island for 20% off with the code MARVINRULES.

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • David mentions that Delusion actually made its first appearance on REPOD in Neil Patrick Harris’ episode, where he gushes about how much he loved Delusion. [1:03]
  • Jon talks about how he fought the moniker of “haunted house” for years and prefers the word “cinematic” to describe his experience. [1:30]
  • Jon describes Delusion as a moving play with a rich, linear storyline with some branching moments – an immersive horror play where you’re a character in the story. [1:50]
  • Jon tells us that Delusion moves about 220 people through a night, about 11 people every 15 minutes, and that it’s an hour long story. [3:04]
  • Every year the production changes. This year’s event is called Reaper’s Remorse. [3:34]
  • Peih-Gee says that one of the reasons they started the podcast is because they wanted escape rooms to become more of a cinematic, immersive experience. [5:05]
  • Jon talks about how in the beginning, in 2011 when he started, there wasn’t much immersive theatre or any escape rooms available. [5:42]
  • Jon talks about how playing games like Balder’s Gate, Space Quest and Grim Fandango as a teen has inspired him. [7:02]
  • Jon mentions creating elaborate scavenger hunts with many quests when he was a camp counselor in Wisconsin. [7:32]
  • Jon tells us about how he first got started creating a Halloween experience in his parents’ house as a teen. [8:53]
  • Jon talks about how he was inspired by Jackie Chan movies to incorporate stunts into his Halloween events, and how it eventually inspired him to become a stuntman [10:35]
  • Jon talks about balancing stunt work in his events with the plot and storyline. [15:48]
  • Jon talks about worldbuilding in his events, starting with what kind of characters the audience should be and what kind of powers they should have. [20:03]
  • Jon gives an example of a show in 2012 where the audience had superpowers and at a certain point in the experience, you reached out your hand and a creature would go flying backwards. [20:34]
  • Jon talks about the storyline of Reaper’s Remorse (this year’s production) and how it’s an easy storyline that doesn’t need a lot of exposition to explain the backstory, which is ideal for a fast-paced show. [21:26]
  • Jon talks about how the locations of his shows are different every year, and he talks about some of the difficulties in finding the right location when the venue plays such a large part in shaping the experience. [22:23]
  • Jon talks about bringing fear and horror back to the Delusion experience. [24:58]
  • Jon tells us that his drug of choice was adrenaline, from trespassing and getting chased by security guards as a kid to working as a stuntman. [26:13]
  • Jon tells us a story about a very close call he had while working as a stuntman on the movie Kingdom. [27:01]
  • Jon tells us another story about working on Ironman and how the giant Mark 1 suit almost toppled over. [28:34]
  • Jon tells us about working with Harrison Ford on Indiana Jones, and how he wanted a cool scar from Indiana Jones’ whip. [30:20]
  • Jon says that one of his goals with the experiences he creates is to push people out of their comfort zones. [33:09]
  • Jon talks about the importance of good actors who know how to engage the audience and feel the energy of a group. [34:23]
  • Jon mentions that one of the best ways to get reticent audience members to participate is by giving them a prop and a task. [35:57]
  • Jon talks to us about balancing art and commerce. [39:55]
  • Jon talks about joining Thirteenth Floor Entertainment as the Director of Immersive Entertainment. [40:41]
  • Peih-Gee talks about pricing in escape rooms, and how she thinks they should be charging much more for premium experiences. [42:47]
  • Jon mentions that every year he raises ticket prices and every year the audience seems to become more respectful of the art form. [43:37]
  • Jon talks about the “battle of throughput” and having to balance pricing with the number of people you can run through an experience. [44:20]
  • Jon talks about upcoming projects now that he’s joined with Thirteenth Floor Entertainment, including a Delusion-related show, and a permanent venue that would house rotating immersive theatre acts, mini dinner theatre shows, etc. [44:59]
Reality Escape Pod mission patch logo depicts a spaceship puncturing through the walls of reality.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Guest Bio

Jon’s personal and professional lives are eclectic and exciting, to say the least. A film, VR, and theatre writer/ director, action coordinator, stuntman, creative consultant for Disney Imagineering, and musician, Jon’s unusual range of talent gives him a keen ability to deliver his original, creative vision.

His work with some of the top directors in the business on titles such as Tenet, The Dark Knight Rises, Ironman, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones 4 has played its part in helping to bring his passion project to life: DELUSION, the first-ever interactive horror theatre experience.

Hailed as LA’s most successful interactive theatre experience for 7 consecutive years, Delusion engages with audiences to play their parts in fantastical and otherworldly stories. This moving play set the industry standard for interactive theatre nationally, placing Jon/ Delusion as vanguards in this emerging space.

Most recently, Jon has been swallowed into the world’s largest haunted house company, Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group (TFEG). Tasked with creating an all-new division, Jon will help expand the company’s reach into the otherworld of immersive with the first interactive horror play under the TFEG banner; Delusion: Reaper’s Remorse, opening Fall 2021 in Los Angeles.

Follow Delusion

  • IG & Twitter @enterdelusion

Other recommended podcasts

escape this podcast logo, microphone with a puzzle

Escape This Podcast

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

Support REPOD

Thanks for listening!

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

REPOD S2E7 The Puzzletales of Rita Orlov, creator of The Light in the Mist

In Season 2, episode 7, we chat with Rita Orlov, the designer of industry-favorite indie narrative puzzle games. Rita made a huge splash in the puzzle community with the launch of The Tale of Ord — an epic tabletop game with narrative depth and puzzle density. She followed that with The Emerald Flame and then The Light in the Mist, a tarot card puzzletale.

Illustration of a woodland landscape at night with a full moon and a gnarled tree. There is a small image of a woman with short brown hair and red lipstick in the corner.

Rita not only designs her games, she also self-produces, funding all of them via Kickstarter. She talks to us about some of the difficulties of being an indie game creator and her inspiration behind The Light in the Mist. Rita was also one of the featured speakers at RECON ‘21, talking about her granular hint systems for tabletop games.

My biggest takeaway from chatting with Rita was the depth of her vision. There is a grandeur to her games which leaves you fully immersed in a realistic narrative. Rita is a masterful artist, skillfully weaving all the different threads of the puzzles, themes, and the storyline together into a gorgeous and lush tapestry, a “puzzletale” if you will. We hope this episode inspires you.

Thank You to Our Sponsors

We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.

seo orb logo. cartoon man wearing pink sunglasses holding 2 puzzle cubes

SEO ORB

Marketing and SEO optimization created specifically for escape rooms by an enthusiast.

logo for telescape, a tower antenna on a greenish blue and orange square

Telescape by Buzzshot
Virtual escape room game creation and interface software. Bring increased functionality to your virtual escape rooms.

Escape from Mibo Island by Sherlocked
Virtual escape room played on a uniquely immersive web-based platform. First-person point of view avatar using your own webcam video that is ideal for anyone from families to corporate events. Try out Mibo Island for 20% off with the code MARVINRULES.

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • David talks about how Rita was the gamemaster at his very first escape room in 2014 at Escape the Room in New York. [1:21]
  • Rita tells us about how that game took place in an actual office, and how they transformed it into an escape room on weekends. [2:45]
  • Rita talks about shipping and manufacturing delays with The Emerald Flame, including staff shortages and supply chain issues. [4:18]
  • Peih-Gee talks about how quarantine affected shipping at her jewelry company. [5:49]
  • We talk about The Emerald Flame, Rita’s narrative puzzle game that raised almost $300,000 on Kickstarter. [7:19]
  • Rita talks about some of the difficulties with manufacturing overseas and being an indie game designer. [8:03]
  • Rita talks about her collaborator, Jack Fallows of Cryptogram Puzzle Post. Together, they created The Light in the Mist, her new game. [12:13]
  • Rita says the collaboration came about because Jack wanted to create a tarot deck, but didn’t know how to differentiate it from other decks, and Rita said the answer was to make it a puzzle game. [13:28]
  • David and Peih-Gee talk about how well integrated the puzzles are with the deck and the narrative. [13:55]
  • David mentions that he thinks The Light in the Mist is “unopinionated,” meaning it doesn’t try to dictate the type of experience players should have. [15:16]
  • Rita talks about how she was inspired by the constraints of working with the limited resources of a tarot deck, as opposed to the blank canvas of her other games. [16:52]
  • Rita talks about how her design style has changed since she first created The Tale of Ord. [22:28]
  • Rita tells us that her desire to tell a substantial story is why she tends to create games with six-plus hours of gameplay. [23:46]
  • Rita talks about the resale value of The Tale of Ord. [26:52] 
  • Rita gave a talk at RECON ‘21 last month about hinting systems for puzzle games. [28:37]
  • Rita talks about her approach to hinting and says that because so many of her puzzles are multi-step, she also likes to provide hints that are minute and incremental. [29:31]
  • David asks Rita about her “precision puzzles,” puzzles that require very precise placement of things. [34:42]
  • Rita talks about The Dome in the Netherlands. [37:23]
  • Rita started playing chess at the age of 3. She and David chat about competitive table gaming including chess and Magic the Gathering. [38:44]
  • Peih-Gee tells a story about how her dad tricked her in poker. [41:00]
  • Rita talks about her love of sport climbing and bouldering, and how it has influenced her puzzle design. [43:05]
  • Peih-Gee and Rita talk a bit about how climbing as a sport has some commonalities with the escape room scene, such as cooperative play and having to figure out a solution to a puzzle. [45:29]
  • Rita teases us about her upcoming projects, including a limited-run holiday game, and the new game she’s working on which may include building physical components. [48:09]
  • Rita mentions that if you sign up for her mailing list, she will send you free puzzles.
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Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Guest Bio

Rita Orlov is a designer, maker, puzzlesmith, and the creator of PostCurious. With a background in escape rooms, art, and object design, Rita lives for the “aha” moments and the journey of discovery that can be created through gamified storytelling. She strives to create unique experiences that will challenge, surprise, and engage the player. You can find her thoughts on puzzles, crafting, and game design on the PostCurious blog.

Follow Rita

  • IG @postcurious
  • FB @postcurious
  • Twitter @getpostcurious

Other recommended podcasts

escape this podcast logo, microphone with a puzzle

Escape This Podcast

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

Support REPOD

Thanks for listening!

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

REPOD S2E6 Puppets, Haunts, & Pranks—Brian Corbitt, Creator of Miss Jezebel

In Season 2, episode 6, we got to chat with Brian Corbitt, the creative mind behind the raunchy and hilarious Miss Jezebel—an actor-driven experience that’s a mix between immersive theatre and an escape room. Two of Brian’s games have won Golden Lock Awards from Room Escape Artist, and Miss Jezebel was also voted in the top three best online escape rooms in the 2020 TERPECAs – the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Awards.

a man in drag, wearing a red wig sitting in an easy chair holding a teacup. on the coffee table in front is a tea pot and a bottle of poison.

Brian’s games all have a quirky signature style to them, including the use of puppets, humor, interesting mechanics, and deeply immersive interactions. Brian worked in the haunt industry for over a decade as a scare actor and set designer, and it’s easy to see the influence the haunt industry has on his games. 

One of the things that struck me was how so many of his ideas all started off as April Fool’s Day pranks. Many of Brian’s best games came about because he wanted to create something to entertain his friends, make ’em laugh, and maybe troll them a bit. Brian’s passion for creating something brilliant, funny, and a tad twisted is apparent in his games and this interview. It was a blast diving into his carnival funhouse brain.

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Thank You to Our Sponsors

We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.

seo orb logo. cartoon man wearing pink sunglasses holding 2 puzzle cubes

SEO ORB

Marketing and SEO optimization created specifically for escape rooms by an enthusiast.

logo for telescape, a tower antenna on a greenish blue and orange square

Telescape by Buzzshot
Virtual escape room game creation and interface software. Bring increased functionality to your virtual escape rooms.

Escape from Mibo Island by Sherlocked
Virtual escape room played on a uniquely immersive web-based platform. First-person point of view avatar using your own webcam video that is ideal for anyone from families to corporate events. Try out Mibo Island for 20% off with the code MARVINRULES.

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • Peih-Gee notes that Brian is part of her regular escape room team, and David warns that this episode may be more explicit than usual. [0:51]
  • David mentions that Brian’s games tend to lean into his strengths and quirks, creating a style that is unique. [ 1:32]
  • We discuss the things that make Miss Jezebel unique, such as the fact that it’s an 18+ game, and that it’s an interactive, comedic, actor-driven game. [2:14]
  • Brian says that he really wanted to bring humor to escape rooms. [2:59]
  • Peih-Gee mentions that she tested his new game, Galaxy Quest, and that the videos were so entertaining that she abandoned the puzzles to go watch them (unheard of!). [3:26]
  • Brian says he originally wanted an actor inside Galaxy Quest as well, but decided to hold off on that during quarantine. He also mentions the difficulty for the actor in having to don a full-face silicone mask for an hour. [3:59]
  • Brian recounts how Miss Jezebel originally started as an April Fool’s joke for his friends and employees. [5:02]
  • Brian talks about some of the difficulties in creating an adult-themed game, including dealing with his franchise partner. [6:22]
  • Brian talks about joining the 60Out Franchise and how he’s managed to work with them while still maintaining some amount of creative control. [7:23]
  • Brian gives an example where 60Out renamed one of his rooms and it immediately increased sales by 30%. [8:34]
  • Peih-Gee talks about the benefits of how 60Out standardizes its rooms. She says that as a player, it’s good to know what level of quality and tech to expect. [9:56]
  • Brian talks about a unique mechanic in his room Tiki Time where you earn time, and you’re rewarded with more time in the room when you solve a puzzle. [11:09]
  • Brian talks about balancing passion for the industry and the business side of running an escape room. He says that he joined a franchise so they could handle operations and marketing, leaving him to focus on creating games. [14:10]
  • David talks about what a sensation Miss Jezebel’s Tea Party made in the community when it first launched. He mentions that many creators have cited Miss Jezebel as a primary influence. [17:22]
  • Brian talks about turning Miss Jezebel into a virtual game during quarantine. [17:54]
  • Peih-Gee talks about the decision to have 2 people running the room: the actor playing Miss Jezebel, and a new character, The Detective, who acts as the straight man and eyes and ears for the players. [19:30]
  • Brian talks about having a couple of different actors play Miss Jezebel and the variation in performance styles. [22:41]
  • Brian talks about working as a scare actor for over a decade at various haunts. He says the most important things are innovation and creativity. [23:58]
Brian’s haunt alter ego “Needle”
  • Brian talks about the time he hooked his body up to an electroshock device so he could give haunt guests a little electric shock when he touched them. [25:23]
  • Brian discusses the difference between working inside the haunt mazes as opposed to roaming “the streets” and having guest interactions. [27:18]
  • Brian talks about his philosophy when it comes to gamemastering, and how he always wants the gamemaster dialogue to be in character. [30:03]
  • David recounts his first time playing Krampus (which no longer exists) and how terrified his teammate was. [31:44]
  • Brian tells us about his plans to repurpose Miss Jezebel, essentially having two different games that can be played in the same space. [33:50]
  • David notes that puppetry is a hallmark of Brian’s game design. Brian talks to us about why he likes using puppets in his rooms. [35:03]
  • Brian says that the “Boglin” puppet he uses in Galaxy Quest is an audience favorite, and was his childhood toy from the eighties. [36:25]
  • Brian tells us about the origins of Miss Jezebel’s puppet cat Orion. [37:08]
  • We discuss the use of animatronics in escape rooms. [37:46]
  • David talks about being inspired by Miss Jezebel to use puppets when he worked on the tv show Create the Escape. [40:46]
  • Brian talks about creating the VIP maze, which was a secret maze that only happened for 15 minutes, one night per season at Knott’s Scary Farm. [41:42]
  • Brian talks about his time in the military and the different immersive training techniques he experienced. [45:14]
  • Brian tells a story about one of the immersive training encounters where he role-plays a drunken CIA spook and agents have to track him down and extract him from the scene. [46:28]
  • Brian talks about his new game with a serial killer theme, and how he’s torn between the authenticity of using real serial killers and whether it’s appropriate to use these stories for entertainment. [48:39]
  • For our bonus afterstory, Brian tells us about the best “distraction phone call” a player ever made in Miss Jezebel. [51:22]
Reality Escape Pod mission patch logo depicts a spaceship puncturing through the walls of reality.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Guest bio

In his early years, Brian Corbitt spent four years in the airborne infantry, and three years as a military training actor. He then spent 10 years in the haunt industry as both a set designer and a scare actor. His haunt alter ego is a clown named Needle. He’s since been an owner/ operator/ designer in the escape room industry for 5 years in Los Angeles as part of the 60Out franchise. He is the creator of the world-famous Miss Jezebel, an immersive actor-driven escape room.

Follow Brian Corbitt

  • Instagram:
    • @thatrandomjerk
    • @60outdowntown
    • @60out_downtown
    • @ms_jezebel
  • Tiktok:
    • @thatrandomjerk
    • @60outescapegames

Other recommended podcasts

escape this podcast logo, microphone with a puzzle

Escape This Podcast

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

Support REPOD

Thanks for listening!

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

REPOD S2E5 RECON Rising: A Look Behind the Scenes at the Reality Escape Convention

In season 2, episode 5, we take a deep dive into the inner workings of RECON, our escape room convention. In 2020, Room Escape Artist was poised to launch their first escape room convention. They quickly pivoted to a virtual convention when it became apparent that they wouldn’t be able to host an in-person event due to quarantine. Within three months, they put together an unforgettable experience for the escape room community.

They had even bigger aspirations for this year’s RECON, with new infrastructure and the all-new Play Pass, which lets you play a variety of games, including a few which are exclusive to RECON.

We’ll chat with different members of the RECON team, including James Cobalt—Jack of All Trades, Cara Mandel—The Games Curator, Theresa Wagner—The Games Executioner, Lee-Fay Low—The Volunteer Coordinator, Brendan Lutz—The “Hand” of RECON (Tech Wizard), Lisa Spira—RECON Puppetmaster, Theresa Piazza—Official Catch-All Task Master, Cindi Saiewitz—Speaker Wrangler, and Michael Augustine (Auggie/Okapi Kid)—ARG Master.

This was a fascinating look behind the scenes of running a virtual convention and seeing how all the moving parts fit together. As Brendan said, there was truly an invigorating start-up energy surrounding RECON. It was incredible to feel like we were all part of something greater. There is something really special about these talented enthusiasts and creators who want to help build an amazing community for the escape room industry.

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Thank You to Our Sponsors

We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season, SEO ORB, Buzzshot, and Escape from Mibo Island. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.

seo orb logo. cartoon man wearing pink sunglasses holding 2 puzzle cubes

SEO ORB

Marketing and SEO optimization created specifically for escape rooms by an enthusiast.

logo for telescape, a tower antenna on a greenish blue and orange square

Telescape by Buzzshot
Virtual escape room game creation and interface software. Bring increased functionality to your virtual escape rooms with a powerful, yet user-friendly interface.

Escape from Mibo Island by Sherlocked
Virtual escape room played on a uniquely immersive web-based platform. First-person point of view avatar using your own webcam video that is ideal for anyone from families to corporate events. Try out Mibo Island for 20% off with the code MARVINRULES.

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • David talks about having Neil Patrick Harris deliver the opening remarks for RECON. [1:06]
  • Some highlights of the convention include [2:37]: 
    • Talks aimed at designers, Talks aimed at players
    • Games to play
    • Facilitated Discussions & Workshops
    • ARG hidden throughout the convention
    • Exhibitor Hall where you can browse new products and games
  • David mentions his plans to have RECON as an in-person convention next year, 2022, in Boston, MA. [6:13]
  • James Cobalt—Jack of All Trades [7:10]
    • James has helped REA with different things like tech, graphic design. Some of his past accomplishments include organizing flash mobs. [7:45]
    • James tells the story of how he met David and Lisa at an escape room conference, and he ended up volunteering to help with RECON because he wanted to be a part of this community [7:51]
    • James proudly announces that he learned so much from last year’s RECON that he finally had the confidence to create his own games and escape room business [9:50]
    • We talk about the incredible video that James created for last year’s RECON. Peih-Gee is so impressed that she says he could go into business just creating videos for escape room lobbies. [11:15]
    • James says that what he’s most looking forward to are playing the games, and hoping that other attendees are inspired to create and go into the escape room business like he did. [12:49]
    • James mentions that one of the games available to play at RECON inspired him to change how he designs games. [13:56]
  • Cara Mandel—The Games Curator [14:57]
    • Cara talks about some of her previous work curating games for film festivals like Fantastic Fest, a horror, sci-fi, fantasy film festival. [15:38]
    • Cara tells us about her company, Interwoven Immersive, which creates games and activations for events, as well as curating games. [16:41]
    • Cara talks about working with Theresa Wagner, who she calls “the Games Executioner” on curating games for the Play Pass. [17:24]
    • Cara discusses her criteria for why she chose certain games for this year’s Play Pass, including flexibility in play time, large scale games, and games that were exclusive to RECON ‘21. [18:32]
    • Peih-Gee and Cara discuss the benefits of playing with other Play Pass holders and meeting other players. [19:31]
    •  Cara’s most excited about meeting other like-minded enthusiasts and creators from around the world. [21:10]
  • Theresa Wagner—The Games Executioner [21:51]
    • Theresa talks about coordinating all the games that will be a part of the Play Pass. (She mentions nine games on the podcast, but by the time this episode is released, we will have more than 20 games.) [22:47]
    • Theresa talks about some of the games that she’s really looking forward to, including Escape from Escape Island, designed by Trapped Puzzle Room’s Mark Larson, as well as games by DeadLocked and Green Door Labs, creators of Club Drosselmeyer. [24:01]
    • Theresa talks about playing video games competitively, and tells us about “speed running,” which is playing a game as quickly as possible, within certain parameters. [25:29]
    • David mentions that Theresa gamified the check-in process for RECON last year. [27:35]
  • Lee-Fay Low—The Volunteer Coordinator [29:40]
    • David recounts how Lee-Fay essentially created the position of volunteer coordinator for herself, and how indispensable she was to organizing the army of volunteers that helped out at last year’s RECON. [30:02]
    • Lee-Fay says that for her, the best part of RECON last year was all the meaningful connections she made with other enthusiasts. [31:12]
    • Lee-Fay and David talk about what the volunteers do and the different roles they have. [32:46]
    • Lee-Fay talks about being the “international conscience of the group,” and how she reminds us that this is an international conference with people attending from all around the world. [35:41]
    • Lee-Fay says she’s most looking forward to the program for RECON: the talks and workshops. [36:40]
  • Brendan Lutz—The “Hand” of RECON (Tech Wizard) [39:27]
    • Peih-Gee talks a little bit about using the Discord platform to host a virtual convention and how intuitive it was to use last year. [40:15]
    • Peih-Gee explains what Discord is and how it works. [41:57]
    • Brendan notes that part of what he loves about working on RECON is the “startup mentality,” and how energizing and fun it was to work on. [44:11]
    • David recounts how he first met Brendan and ended up inviting him to help him at their escape room convention booth. [45:14]
    • Brendan explains how they completely rebuilt all the tech infrastructure this year so it would be more scalable. [47:38]
    • David recommends exploring the parts of RECON that you do NOT know much about, and trying to see this as a learning experience, rather than just joining the talks where you’re already an expert. [51:18]
    • We discuss the ticket structure of RECON, how it’s a pay-what-you-can model. [53:04]
  • Lisa Spira—RECON Puppetmaster [59:08]
    • Lisa gives us an overview of what to expect at RECON, including facilitated discussions, birds of a feather talks (industry-related topics for interest groups to have conversations), hands-on workshops, and the games component. [1:01:00]
    • Lisa talks about some of the workshops we’ll be having at RECON, including those led by Charlie & James from Deadlocked, Bizarro and the Test Subjects, and Manda from The Room Escape Divas. [1:02:23]
    • Lisa talks about the different types of tickets and “tracks” available for RECON: one for enthusiasts, and one for industry professionals. [1:03:45]
    • We talk about how supportive the escape room community is, and why we are incentivized to encourage each other to create the best games possible. [1:05:19]
  • Theresa Piazza—Official Catch-All Task Master [1:07:42]
    • Theresa calls herself “your walking talking to-do list’s worst nightmare.” She talks about project managing the different teams and aspects of RECON. [1:08:07]
    • Theresa talks about the different sponsorship packages for RECON. [1:11:30]
    • Theresa says she’s most excited about the different ways they’ve structured the Exhibit Hall and how they’ve made the vendors more accessible to the attendees. [1:12:23]
  • Cindi Saiewitz—Speaker Wrangler / Logistics Coordinator [1:14:22]
    • Peih-Gee describes Cindi’s role as like the “concierge” of RECON for the speakers. She coordinates schedules, follows up on paperwork, and holds hands through stage fright. [1:14:54]
    • Peih-Gee tells a story about emceeing a corporate event without a speaker “wrangler” and how horrible it was having to wait on stage while people had to hunt down the next speaker. [1:15:29]
    • Cindi describes herself as “the one who worries.” By that, she means that she is often the one who considers the mentality of people on the fringe, perhaps the group who is being underserved, and making sure that everyone feels included. [1:16:20]
    • Peih-Gee talks about how Cindi is so representative of the escape room community in wanting everyone to feel welcome. Peih-Gee goes on to talk about how accessible RECON is to newbies and experts alike. [ 1:18:23]
    • Cindi says she’s most excited to feel the positive energy that she experienced at last year’s RECON. [1:19:39]
  • Michael Augustine (Auggie/ @OkapiKid)—ARG Master [1:21:06]
    • We talk a little bit about Auggie’s background as a very competitive puzzler, including competing in the Red Bull Mind Gamers and winning cash prizes in treasure hunts. [1:21:54]
    • Auggie talks about what an ARG (alternate reality game) is. [1:22:27]
    • Auggie talks about The Beast, an ARG created by Elan Lee, who will be one of the speakers at RECON, and was also the inaugural guest of REPOD. [1:22:57]
    • Auggie talks about the ARG that he created for RECON and he says he wanted to design something “that’s got a little bit of everything for everyone. So some puzzle hunt aspects, some ARG aspects, some interactivity.” [1:23:52]
    • Auggie tells us about the other members of the team who are helping with the ARG including Errol Elumir of Room Escape Divas, who will be one of this year’s speakers; John Brummels; and “Charmandacure”, Amanda Dupuy, who creates manicures with puzzles on them. [1:25:30]
    • Auggie talks about treasure hunts, and Peih-Gee invites him to come try one in L.A. [1:27:12]
    • Peih-Gee tries to sweet-talk Auggie into giving a clue for how to start this year’s ARG, and finally manages to squeeze out the clue of looking for a logo. [1:27:53]
Reality Escape Pod mission patch logo depicts a spaceship puncturing through the walls of reality.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Guest Bio

  • For more information on today’s guests, you can find them HERE.

Other recommended podcasts

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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

The No Proscenium podcast is a show covering everything immersive.

Support REPOD

Thanks for listening!

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

REPOD S2E4 The King of Smash – Ken Hoang on Competitive Gaming

In season 2, episode 4, we discuss possible futures for competitive escape room playing with the King of Smash, Ken Hoang.

Ken was the world champion of Super Smash Bros. Melee for five years and helped create much of the high level competitive gameplay. Ken was also an extremely strategic player on Survivor: Gabon

asian man wearing a blue t-shirt with a white jacket standing in front of a blurred crowd.

Smash Melee was originally designed as a party game, not for competitive play. However, by exploiting glitches and mechanics that were built into the system, whether intentional or not, Ken was able to develop an expressive and unique style within Smash Melee, and become a top competitive player. This same strategy of exploitation has caused much of the recent evolution in Survivor.

With this perspective, we discuss whether there is room for competitive play in escape rooms, and what that evolution could look like. Episode 4 is a bit of a smashup mashup, but it was fascinating to look at escape rooms through a competitive lens.

Thank You to Our Sponsors

We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season, SEO ORB and Buzzshot. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.

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SEO ORB

Marketing and SEO optimization created specifically for escape rooms by an enthusiast.

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Telescape by Buzzshot
Virtual escape room game creation and interface software. Bring increased functionality to your virtual escape rooms.

Escape from Mibo Island by Sherlocked
Virtual escape room played on a uniquely immersive web-based platform. First-person point of view avatar using your own webcam video that is ideal for anyone from families to corporate events. Try out Mibo Island for 20% off with the code MARVINRULES.

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • Peih-Gee and Ken talk about how they bonded over Survivor and playing custom maps on StarCraft. [00:37]
  • David talks about how neither Smash Bros. nor escape rooms were created for competitive play, and yet the communities have turned them into competitive sports.
  • Ken explains what Smash Bros. is and how it works. [1:35]
  • Peih-Gee compares it to a challenge from Survivor China, then talks about how well known Ken is in the gaming world. [2:55]
  • Ken talks about how Smash Bros. started off as a party game, and somewhere along the way, it evolved into a competitive sport. [3:45]
  • Ken explains that the game was released with many glitches that the players learned to exploit, which allowed for more creative gameplay. [4:20]
  • Peih-Gee compares it to how Survivor wasn’t originally intended to be a strategically heavy competitive game either, but the players themselves managed to exploit the mechanics of the game. [5:56]
  • Ken talks about how the game needs to be played on CRT televisions (the old heavy style) because of lag, and talks about player idiosyncrasies. [7:12]
  • Ken discusses the difference between the West Coast and East Coast competitive scenes, and the different viewpoints on using items in game. [8:52]
  • David compares the luck of items to skill sets in escape rooms, and certain things like disc spinning or brute forcing a lock when you’re only missing 1 digit. [13:33]
  • David discusses puzzle bypassing when you can jump out of the sequence of the expected flow of gameplay. [15:56]
  • David and Peih-Gee debate competitive conditions for escape rooms. [17:09]
  • Ken talks about how the competitive scene in Smash Melee evolved over time and how the rules adapted accordingly. [19:05]
  • David talks about how George Mikan, a 6’10” basketball player in the 1940s, changed the rules of basketball with his unbeatable strategy – to just stand under the basket and smack away any shot that anyone made. [19:56]
  • Ken compares it to “planking” in Smash Melee. [20:55]
  • Ken talks about the schism between Smash Bros. Melee and Smash Bros. Brawl, and how Brawl removed many of the glitches that pro players exploited in Melee.[22:55]
  • Ken talks about figuring out how to game the glitches, and how different counterplays were created. [24:56]
  • David compares this to the escape room world and some of the different play styles within the industry. [26:04]
  • David, Peih-Gee, and Ken discuss the concept of the metagame and how game strategy evolves over time. They start by discussing how the meta for Survivor has evolved, and how even production has had to change because of people exploiting the system. [29:31]
  • David and Peih-Gee discuss changes in the escape room scene and how rooms have evolved over time. [33:10]
  • David says he actually thinks that the escape room scene has shifted away from a competitive meta towards higher entertainment value. He recommends puzzle hunts like the MIT Mystery Hunt for people looking for competitive puzzling. [35:29]
  • David talks about a few different attempts and approaches at competitive gaming for escape rooms, including Red Bull Mind Gamers. [37:52]
  • David talks about EGO—The Escape Room Olympics. [38:41]
  • David and Peih-Gee discuss again the need for a set of rules for competitive play within escape rooms, and Ken mentions that it took 15 years to finalize the rules for the competitive Smash scene. [41:29]
  • Ken talks about how for years, Smash was ridiculed as a party game, not a fighting game, and they eventually had to form their own competitive scene as a platform fighter. [42:26]
  • Ken talks about his strategy going into Survivor, and why it all went down the drain after meeting his fellow players. [43:03]
  • We discuss how one of Ken’s strong points is separating his emotions from his gameplay, and we discuss the mental game. [44:03]
  • Ken talks about his coaching career. If you’re interested, you can message him on Twitter @liquidken [45:42]
Reality Escape Pod mission patch logo depicts a spaceship puncturing through the walls of reality.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Guest Bio

Ken Hoang is an American professional Super Smash Bros. Melee player and television personality. Ken plays Marth in Melee and is known for his comparatively aggressive style of play. His dominance with the character has led to his becoming the namesake of the “Ken Combo,” an effective combo used in gameplay. He also largely brought about the implementation and popularization of “dash dancing,” a movement technique involving rapid side-to-side dashing that has since become integral to all levels of competitive Melee.

Ken was the highest-ranked Super Smash Bros. Melee player in the United States. He was also the world champion for several years, having defeated reputable players from around the globe, including top Japanese players.

Ken possesses the highest major tournament win-to-loss ratio of any Super Smash Bros. Melee player from 2003 to 2007. His five years of dominance earned him the nickname “The King of Smash” within the community.

He was part of MTV’s True Life: I’m a Professional Gamer. Ken retired in 2006. In 2012, he officially returned to the Melee scene. In 2014 he and fellow Melee veteran Daniel “KoreanDJ” Jung joined Team Liquid as the team’s first Smash Bros. players. Ken was also a contestant on Survivor: Gabon, which aired in the fall of 2008. He was the fifth-place finisher and sixth member of the jury.

Follow Ken Hoang

Other recommended podcasts

escape this podcast logo, microphone with a puzzle

Escape This Podcast

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

Support REPOD

Thanks for listening!

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.