David Kwong’s Inside the Box [Reaction]

I love words. During this year at home, I’ve really embraced collaboratively crosswording with friends, family, and especially my coworkers (Crossword Meeting is the best meeting).

Inside the Box was the show for me. In so many ways.

Background

Cruciverbalist and magician David Kwong strung words together over Zoom… in, around, and through puzzles, both for and with his audience.

Kwong told a story of the history of puzzles, and presented puzzles along the way, in both obvious and more obscured ways.

A red book, a griffen game piece, a mechanical pencil, and th inside the box puzzle pack.

Reaction

The show is intimate and genuine. While it’s scripted and performed, it’s also interactive, and in this way, more human.

We solved along the entire time. Like a gameshow, we could play from our side of the Zoom. Not only did I get to try to solve faster than others, I got to meet them.

We had tickets for a (West Coast) matinee, packed with families… and impressive kids eager to solve! It happened to be Oscar’s 11th birthday and we were all thrilled to be celebrating something together – whether we were his old friends, or, as was the case for me, meeting him for the first (and likely only) time over Zoom.

The puzzle types in Kwong’s show weren’t novel, but the Zoom adaptation enabled new tricks that we truly enjoyed.

The show’s biggest miss was leaving out a piece of the narrative, one that seemed to have lent the most inspiration to the puzzles we solved in the show.

Additionally, the pre-show onboarding emails were aggressive and confusing. Emails told me to download and print my puzzle packet at least 24 hours before the show, but not why… until I scrolled significantly further. Don’t bury the lede! And somehow the theater made a mistake and the multiple emails had different show times on them.

That said, the in-Zoom onboarding was stellar. The representative from the Geffen Playhouse took the time to make sure each participant was prepared to have the optimal Zoom experience, and wouldn’t detract from the experiences of others. This introduction went a long way towards making the audience feel comfortable and ready to participate.

If you enjoy puzzles – especially word puzzles – and magic, Inside the Box is a wonderful way to spend an evening.

Booking

Inside the Box has been extended through February 14. Extension tickets go on sale to the general public this Friday, November 27 @ 10 am (PST). Visit the Geffen Playhouse website for details.

David Kwong @ RECON 2020

We invited David Kwong to speak at RECON because of his deep knowledge of puzzles and magic. If you enjoyed Inside the Box, or are eagerly awaiting an upcoming performance, I recommend you check out David Kwong’s RECON ’20 talk. All RECON ’20 talks are free to watch!

In fact, one person who learned about David Kwong at RECON was at the same performance of Inside the Box as we were.

Dancing with the Digital Club Drosselmeyer

Note, supplies are limited and they need to be shipped in advance, so if this is something you’re interested in, act now.

Lisa and I are a couple with few annual traditions; we like trying new things and visiting new places.

However, for the past 4 years we’ve made an annual trip to Massachusetts for Club Drosselmeyer. We adore this reimagining of the Nutcracker as a World War II era techno-conspiracy. (Past reviews)

This event blends so many of our favorite things into one giant spectacle… puzzles, immersive theatre, music, swing dancing. When we went to the first one I said, “It felt like someone made this specifically for us.”

Lisa and David dressed up and swing dancing on the Club Drosselmeyer floor.
Yours truly tearing it up on the dance floor.

Well, we can’t travel to Boston this year. There is no real-life Club Drosselmeyer, and the last time we went out dancing was at last year’s Club Drosselmeyer.

The Good News

There is a digital Club Drosselmeyer, the Drosselbox.

I really have no idea what to expect from this. I know that it will be a profoundly different experience, simply because it can’t be a giant puzzle and dance party. I am just happy that any amount of Club Drosselmeyer will be bottled up and sent to warm our home and keep up our annual tradition.

This is a ticketed event, not just a boxed game. There will be one show on December 12 and two shows on December 13.

I can’t wait to see what it’s like.

New Video: Manda’s Brilliant & Bonkers Character Talk + Guest Star Errol

I love this talk so much. It was as hilarious as it was informative! And I can tell you with confidence, no one worked as hard on crafting their talk at RECON as Manda did. She put her heart, soul, and knowledge into this thing, and I am so thankful to her (and Errol).

Most escape room creators could learn a lot from this session.

Featured Talk Information

Characters in Escape Rooms

Details: Originally presented on Monday, August 24 at 14:15 (New York)

Speakers: Manda Whitney

Company: Room Escape Divas

Abstract: Manda always puts character at the center of her creations – in escape rooms, large-scale narrative-driven puzzle productions, and her own writing. In this talk, Manda provides you with key components of creating and representing a compelling character. Whether you’re starting from scratch or seeking to retrofit characters into existing games, Manda’s tips provide an effective and inexpensive way to lift the quality of any immersive experience.

Manda Whitney's headshot.

About RECON ’20

RECON ’20 was Room Escape Artist’s digital escape room convention featuring 15 pre-recorded talks, live Q&As, and over 30 exhibitors. We had over 900 attendees from 62 countries watching and participating live.

We’re releasing each of the 15 talks for free on our YouTube channel this fall. More than half the featured talk videos are already available there!

Please subscribe to the RECON Newsletter to receive updates on RECON ’21 – we are just getting started.

New Video – Going Full Circle to Explore The Video Game Roots of Escape Rooms

I loved producing all of the talks at RECON, but this one was by far the most fun for me. Talking about game design with the folks from Sweet Baby Inc was so much fun; we could have done it forever. I think the joy that we were all feeling shines through. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we loved making it.

Featured Talk Information

The Video Game Talk That You Want To Attend Even If You’re Not a Gamer

Details: Originally presented on Sunday, August 23 at 14:00 (New York)

Speakers: Kim Belair, Ari MacGillivray, David Bedard

Company: Sweet Baby Inc

Abstract: Escape rooms emerged as a real-life embodiment of video games. Here we examine the relationship between escape rooms and their most significant ancestor through an interview with the narrative designers from Sweet Baby Inc, a consultancy for some of the top video game studios. In this conversation with RECON’s David Spira, Kim, Ari, and David unpack the lessons that escape room creators can learn from video game design, and in turn, examine one thing that modern video games really should learn from escape rooms.

Kim, Ari, and David from Sweet Baby Inc.

About RECON ’20

RECON ’20 was Room Escape Artist’s digital escape room convention featuring 15 pre-recorded talks, live Q&As, and over 30 exhibitors. We had over 900 attendees from 62 countries watching and participating live.

We’re releasing each of the 15 talks for free on our YouTube channel this fall. More than half the featured talk videos are already available there!

Please subscribe to the RECON Newsletter to receive updates on RECON ’21 – we are just getting started.

Strange Bird Immersive’s RECON Video & New York Times Feature

“This show couldn’t happen in person. This is a new artistic frontier,” artistic director Haley E.R. Cooper told Alexis Soloski of The New York Times about Strange Bird Immersive’s newest immersive piece, The Strange Secret of Mr. Adrian Rook.

In Escape Rooms in an At-Home Era? Here’s the Key, Haley and other escape room industry veterans explain how they changed the nature of their products in 2020. They had to get creative to build worlds for the players and deliver immersive experiences.

Haley and Cameron Cooper’s RECON ’20 talk about creating immersive experiences was incredibly popular. Whether you’re creating experiences in person or online, there’s a lot of value in this session.

Featured Talk Information

Make It Immersive: Turning Walls into Worlds

Details: Originally presented on Sunday, August 23 at 11:00 (New York)

Speakers: Haley E. R. Cooper & J. Cameron Cooper

Company: Strange Bird Immersive

Abstract: Haley and Cameron explain how they craft immersive experiences with an eye for details instead of a massive budget. They give you a tour of their immersive toolbox, a collection of approaches and techniques that all creators can draw upon, at any level. They’ll take you through many of the details that are easily overlooked in room design and teach you how to pay attention to these in order to breathe life into an experience.

Haley Cooper on the left and Cameron Cooper on the right, both in costume as actors in Strange Bird Immersive's The Man from Beyond

About RECON ’20

RECON ’20 was Room Escape Artist’s digital escape room convention featuring 15 pre-recorded talks, live Q&As, and over 30 exhibitors. We had over 900 attendees from 62 countries watching and participating live.

We’re releasing each of the 15 talks for free on our YouTube channel this fall. More than half the featured talk videos are already available there!

Please subscribe to the RECON Newsletter to receive updates on RECON ’21 – we are just getting started.