Great Gotham Challenge – CTRL/ALT/DECODE Chapter 2 [Hivemind Review]

CTRL/ALT/DECODE Chapter 2 is a puzzle hunt game created by Great Gotham Challenge in New York City. This review covers only Chapter 2, which took place in July 2020. (Chapter 1 took place in May 2020.)

A person in a cyber-punk scene whereing neon goggles, obscuring his identity.


Style of Play: puzzle hunt

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 4

Play Time: 3 hours

Price: $40 for a team of 4 players

Booking: This event has concluded, but you can subscribe to the Great Gotham Challenge to learn about future events.


CTRL/ALT/DECODE Chapter 2 began and ended in a group Zoom call. Then teams used a specific Great Gotham Challenge website – and the rest of the internet – to solve the puzzles laid out before them, working on one puzzle at at time. Once a team solved a puzzle, they input the answer into the online app and if correct, automatically received the next clue.

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ERIC Presents 2 Featured Talks at RECON

The Reality Escape Convention (RECON) believes that collaboration grows our industry and the community around it. To that end, RECON recently announced that the annual UK Escape Room Industry Conference (ERIC) would present two featured talks:

Charlie Bond and James Hamer-Morton of Deadlocked Escape Rooms in Reading, England, will talk about diversifying escape room business offerings.

David Middleton of Bewilder Box in Brighton, England, will interview Sera Dodd, one of the two most experienced escape room players in the western world. (She is tied with her lovely partner Sharan.)

Collaborating with ERIC

ERIC is the UK’s annual escape room conference. Last year, David flew to the UK to speak on the ERIC stage and host a panel.

ERIC's cross keys logo.

While there, he fell in love with ERIC’s energetic, community-focused approach to escape room conference production.

The folks behind ERIC love and support this industry as much as we do.

Diversifying Your Puzzle Products

Charlie & James of Deadlocked are actors and escape room owners. Over the past few years they have created games in multiple media including:

  • Real-life escape rooms
  • Escape room puzzle books
  • Digital games that blur the lines between escape room, alternate reality game, and light puzzle hunt.

They will be sharing the lessons that they learned designing for each medium, focusing heavily on how these differ from one another. The session is both funny and informative.

Charlie & James

Charlie & James

Charlie and James are the masterminds behind boutique escape room chain Deadlocked – the pioneering powerhouse of the hit episodic online escape rooms The Insiders and The Cyphstress. They created these two experiences in a lab specifically for the world of immersive experiences. While cutting their teeth starring in art house films and moonlighting as games level designers, they soon turned their hand to the world of ‘alternative reality games’, devoting their lives to transporting their audiences into the center of their own artisan adventures.

A Conversation with the Western World’s Most Experienced Escape Room Player

The title says it all. Together David Middleton and Sera Dodd will explore the observations and evolution of a player through 1,500+ escape rooms.

Sera & David

Dave & Sera. Sera is speaking into a bullhorn.

Sera Dodd has played just over 1500 rooms. This makes her almost certainly the most experienced escape room player in the Western world alongside Sharan, with whom she’s played every single game. Together they have a 99.8% escape rate, have played in 17 different countries, and once played 615 games in a single year. Sera has been a member of Team UK during both Red Bull Escape Room World Championships, co-founded the UK Escape Room Industry Conference (ERIC), worked as a UX and Design Consultant within the escape room industry, and has generally been a pillar of the UK escape room community. Her real hobbies include bouldering and befriending wild animals. In her spare time, she’s a doctor.

David Middleton is co-founder of both ERIC and the Brighton-based escape room company Bewilder Box. Bewilder Box has produced an assortment of highly regarded games ranging from traditional escape rooms to online puzzle video games, and a beachside pop-up escape room in a box.

Join us at RECON

RECON ’20 is a free digital event with curated talks covering aspects of experience design in physical and digital media.

The RECON team is excited to collaborate with ERIC, and have them present these two talks on the RECON stage. This collaboration furthers our goals of community and building a sustainable industry together.

RECON is less than one month away. Pre-register today so that you receive all information about registering to get your virtual badge, the full schedule of talks, and how to meet other folks at RECON. All this information will be available to pre-registrants really soon!

Eric Berlin – The Social Distancing Puzzles [Hivemind Review]

The Social Distancing Puzzles is a print-and-play word puzzle game played collaboratively with a partner, created by Eric Berlin.

A puzzle grid of interconnected hexagons each made up from 6 triangles.


Style of Play: print-and-play word puzzle game played collaboratively with a partner

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, printer, pen and paper

The documents are meant to be printed and split between two players.

Recommended Team Size: designed to by played by 2 players

Play Time: anywhere from 3-10 hours

Price: a donation to Feeding America

Booking: Make a donation to Feeding America. Take a screenshot of your receipt. Upload your receipt, then enter your e-mail address. You’ll soon receive an e-mail with links to the puzzles.


This is a series of ten independent word puzzles with an eleventh metapuzzle that relies on the answers of the previous ten. The puzzle collection is designed for two players (or two teams.) Each player receives the same instructions per puzzle but a different set of information. You must communicate with your partner to share the necessary information.

If English is not your native language, these puzzles will be incredibly challenging, and at times tedious, especially when phonetics and pronunciation are relevant.

A puzzle grid of hexagons, many of them numbered.

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Agent Venture – The Heist [Hivemind Review]

The Heist is a digital escape game, designed for livestream play, created by Agent Venture in London, The United Kingdom.

Theresa, Richard, Matthew, and Kathryn in Zoom with Dispatch.


Style of Play: digital escape game with audio roleplaying, designed for livestream play

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 4-5

Play Time: 60-90 minutes

Price: $13.75 per person

Booking: book online for a specific time slot


The Heist is an audio roleplaying escape game with defined player roles, verbal NPC interaction, and extensive digital interactions. It is played over livestream. Communication and information sharing are keys to success. Interactions with the performer are all verbal and solving puzzles takes place through Zoom and PDFs.

A terminal screen

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Escape Room Directory Updates: Please Contribute Local Knowledge

As we prepare to release this summer’s industry report at RECON, we are pushing a lot of updates to the Room Escape Artist Directory, located on our “Find a Room” page. This directory includes all of the brick-and-mortar escape rooms in the United States.

You can see last year’s industry report here.

How you can help

In order to provide this information, we rely on input from folks all over the United States who are playing and creating escape rooms.

Please check your local area for:

  • Newly opened facilities
  • Permanently closed facilities*
  • Mergers/ acquisitions
  • Outdated information (changed URL, changed name, moved location)

You are our best resource for escape rooms near you. Please send us your updates!

*Many facilities are temporarily closed right now. If the facility plans to reopen, we are currently keeping them listed in the directory.

REA logo with a photo of a pinned map of the USA in the background.

2020 Challenges

There are a lot of escape room companies struggling right now. As of this writing, different businesses are facing different challenges, depending on whether or not they can operate on location, and the comfort level of the public in their area.

We know that many escape room businesses have already faced insurmountable challenges, and have had to close their doors. Our hearts go out to these business owners and their staffs.

Other businesses are working hard to increase their visibility at this time when they can service customers, for any customers who want to experience these games in person.

It continues to be a challenging and unpredictable year. Please help all of these businesses by sending us updates about your local area. You know your local market best.

Thank You

Thank you to our team of map maintainers, especially Melissa from Connecticut, who dedicates a large amount of her time to keeping this directory accurate.

Thank you to the players who send in local updates and the companies that share their changes with us.

We can’t do this without you.