Kickstarting The Nest 2.0 – An Interview

When we visited Scout Expedition Company’s The Nest in June of 2017, during its first run in Los Angeles, we were so moved that it left us truly speechless for hours after the experience.

We were so impressed with how the puzzles served as gates for telling a story that we started to think differently about what escape rooms could be. The Nest wasn’t an escape room, but it used elements of escape room-style gameplay to deliver an emotional, personal, and impactful story.

As Scout Expedition Company closes in on the final days of their Kickstarter to relaunch the show, we caught up with Creative Directors Jarrett Lantz and Jeff Leinenveber to learn more about version 2.0.

A man with a flashlight searching a storage space filled with cardboard boxes.

REA: The Nest is coming back!?

Yes, we’re taking everything we learned from the 2017 production and remounting the ultimate version of the show – kind of like a director’s cut. We’re really excited to be bringing it back!

How would you explain The Nest for someone who hasn’t experienced it?

In the story of The Nest, a woman named Josie recently passed away, leaving behind a storage unit filled with decades of her belongings. Audience members are equipped with a flashlight and explore Josie’s storage unit, searching through objects and listening to audio tapes to piece together her story.

We’re huge fans of immersive theater, narrative video games like Gone Home, Firewatch, or What Remains of Edith Finch, and escape rooms. The Nest mashes up certain elements from each. In its functionality, the show has a fairly similar framework to an escape room – experience a physical environment for a set period of time – with a little less focus on puzzles and a little bit more on story.

A view of an old freight elevator shaft with dramatic shadows being cast against the walls.

Tell us a bit about the new location. How does that change the piece?

The remount takes place in a beautiful, 1920s-era former storage building in Los Angeles. It really is the perfect location! Audience members will ride a freight elevator to one of the upper floors, where the show takes place.

Luckily, we have a bigger space to work with than before, so we’ll be able to create a few more distinct parts of the storage room while keeping the same rich, intimate environments that made the show so special.

What else will be different this time around?

A lot!

We did 250 shows of the original version of The Nest, so now we can take those learnings to create the ultimate version from scratch. Since we’re in a larger space, the layout is completely different. Some of the scenic design is going in a slightly more abstract direction.

We’re also making each puzzle more of an interaction where we’re walking in the footsteps of Josie. Although the general story is fairly similar, we’re rewriting the entire thing to flow better

A man with a flashlight off in the distance down a long hall of storage units.

Who is The Nest for?

Originally, we’d targeted fans of immersive theater, but as the show went on, it was clear it resonated with a more general audience.

We had tons of enthusiasts of immersive theater and escape rooms, but also people who’d never done anything immersive before.

Visitors included lots of video game developers, parents with their adult children, and people on dates.

It seems that The Nest was really enjoyed by a broad spectrum of audience members.

How should escape room players, in particular, approach The Nest to get the most out of the experience?

Even though it shares some of the same elements as escape rooms, The Nest is something different.

There’s no countdown clock. Everyone gets to the end. The puzzles aren’t the most challenging. Instead, they are small interactions that place you into the shoes of Josie.

Our best advice is to approach The Nest like you’re about to experience a story. Feel free to slow down and enjoy it.

Closeup of a man with a flashlight searching a hallway of storage units.

Why did you decide on Kickstarter as your platform for launching this?

The Nest really is a labor of love. We want to focus on executing the best creative vision rather than making a huge profit. As you can probably guess, this isn’t the best pitch for investors!

So, we decided to self-fund a big chunk of the show, with the remainder coming through Kickstarter. This will really help us to create the ultimate version, because we’re accountable to you, the audience, instead of to investors.

When will the remounted The Nest run? And for how long?

Our initial run will start in late summer for three months, but if ticket sales are healthy, we do have the option to extend. We’ll send extension announcements to those subscribed to our mailing list.

What made this the right time to bring back The Nest?

So much of immersive theater relies on finding the right space for your ideas. It was always our intention to bring back The Nest farther in the future, but we could not take this show just anywhere. Then the right opportunity presented itself… and here we are!

REA Conclusion

As we think back to our visit to The Nest, we have to agree with Jarrett and Jeff. The intimacy of the space and the way Josie’s story spilled out of it… that really captivated us.

We’re excited Scout Expedition Company has found the right next space for The Nest.

Jarrett and Jeff did an amazing job with the first iteration. We hope that this iteration will run long enough for us to see where they’re taking it.

Back The Nest on Kickstarter and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you. There’s less than a week left to do so!

Broken Ghost Immersive – The Bunker [Review]

Legally distinct apocalypse.

Location: New York, NY

Date Played: August 11, 2018

Team size: 8-15; we recommend 8-12

Duration: Between 120 – 150 minutes

Price: $55 per ticket

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Bunker was a wild ride of an immersive game. It mashed up roleplaying, tabletop gaming, puzzling, and storytelling into a sprawling post-apocalyptic epic that was both compelling and funny.

We loved The Bunker, but caution that people should only book tickets if they are willing to embrace whatever the game throws at them and play. If you’re too uncomfortable or too cool to play in The Bunker’s fiction, then this experience is decidedly not for you.

Similarly, if all you want are puzzles, or an elegant story presented to you… there are plenty of escape rooms or immersive shows that will scratch that itch; The Bunker is not what you’re seeking.

Your mileage will vary based on whom you’re playing with and the choices that you make. By total happenstance found ourselves teamed up with Kathryn Yu from No Proscenium & Michael Andersen of ARGNET, which was the most amazing random teammate assignment possible.

For those that showed up with their imagination and a willingness to play, The Bunker presented countless opportunities to explore within a strange world and build our own unique story.

In-game: David's shirt with a empathy sticker on it.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Best for players who are willing to embrace the game
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every scene

Why play?

  • Fantastic gamemastering
  • Open-ended interactive storytelling that relied heavily on player decision
  • Unique moments for every player who desires them
  • Opportunity to leave your mark on your group’s story
  • Humor
  • Brilliant game mechanics
  • Each group receives a unique ending

Story

As backers of a crowdfunding project to create a series of apocalypse survival bunkers, we had gone for a tour of one of the facilities when the world ended. The bunker had locked down and the shelter’s AI DeBUNK had put us into stasis for over a century.

When DeBUNK revived us, things weren’t so great. The world had been transformed into a post-apocalyptic wasteland of familiar yet legally distinct horrors, our bunker’s life support systems were starting to fail, and we were low on food.

In-game: A laptop sitting on a counter in a red lit kitchen.
DeBUNK, our Bunker’s AI.

Setting

The Bunker was staged in Wildrence, a NYC experiential space and consulting studio that helps provide other creators with an immersive space and the tools necessary to bring their experiences to life. Previously this facility has hosted RefugeContagion, and Six Impossible Things (which is an exceptional close-up immersive magic performance. Get tickets if you can!).

Our bunker and homebase was staged in the Wildrence kitchen set. Leaving the safety of our bunker required a hazmat suit (holding a hazmat suit card). Outside our bunker, we met a character who facilitated our exploration of the rest of the game’s expansive world.

In-game: A mechanical bug on some papers.

Gameplay

The Bunker was an immersive game with a variety of game mechanics, a tabletop crafting game, some puzzles, and a lot of free-form roleplaying.

In the bunker we could ask questions of our AI DeBUNK (a gamemaster character over Google Hangouts), attempt to build things via the crafting tabletop game, use the tablets that we found across the wasteland to communicate (text) with other bunkers, and manage our resources.

In-game: cards representing duct tape and a hazmat suit.

Resources were drawn playing cards: rations, Twinkies, hazmat suits, tools, medicines, and whatever else we found while exploring the world. Some resources were reusable; others burned as soon as we committed them.

In-game: The world map, revealing the names of different locations.
Our world map.

Exploration involved going out into the wasteland and telling the character which direction we wanted to go. Along the way, he told us which structures we had encountered and we made choices about which to visit. Once we had made a selection, he described the encounter and we decided how to react using only our wits and whatever resources we had onhand.

When the exploration ended, our gamemaster informed us of how everything had resolved. This included what resources we had found and what terrible physical and psychological afflictions we had picked up along our journey through the hellscape… and some strikingly bad things happened to our people.

In-game: a hobbled sticker, player can't explore as effectively.

When things happened to us, we received stickers depicting our abilities or afflictions. Some stickers gave us additional powers to help us; others represented physical or psychological damage that diminished our abilities. Some of these afflictions could be cured; others couldn’t… and some we simply didn’t want to cure because they were amusing.

Ultimately, each player had to take responsibility for their own good time.

Analysis

The Bunker had a massive amount of story content and opportunities for us to explore, create drama, or stumble into trouble.

+ More than just about any immersive game that we’ve played, the choices that we made in The Bunker had immediate and logical consequences. We were never totally shocked when something happened because it flowed out of a decision that we had made either in that moment, or earlier.

+ The more each of us put into the game, the more the game gave back to us. Many of us had some wild experiences. The Bunker rewarded those of us who embraced the game and its fiction.

+ For us, the best parts were the adventures that we had when we left our Bunker. The game world, the choices, and the implications were endlessly entertaining.

+ The stickers signifying afflictions and abilities were brilliant and amusing. The illustrations on them were funny. It was especially clever that they could be quickly applied or removed (if cured).

+ The gamemasters were interactive, funny, and effective at facilitating the game. Their mastery over their own story and content was perpetually evident.

– There was a 3-person staff managing the entire game. As the scope of the world grew, it became a bit chaotic. They were surprisingly adept at wrangling everything that was going on, but there were times where it was clearly a bit too much.

– Our teammates who hung out in our bunker and made no effort to embrace the experience clearly didn’t enjoy themselves. On one hand, during the game I was annoyed with them because it seemed clear to me that they were doing themselves a disservice and all that they would have needed to do was volunteer to do anything at all to jumpstart a better experience. On the other hand, there truly was no mechanism for pulling these wayward players into the experience if they failed to show initiative. This really was a flaw in the game.

+ Broken Ghost Immersive had created some really smart afflictions to prevent strong personalities from overpowering the game. I saw this happen in real time at least once and knew exactly what was going on. I was dumbfounded by how brilliantly and elegantly our gamemaster used the mechanic.

– While we didn’t have any problems, I am confident that one hyperaggressive player could severely damage the entire The Bunker experience for all involved. Although the same could be said for escape rooms, since The Bunker was entirely social, the human element was even more critical.

– Lisa and a few of our other teammates spent a lot of the game off on their own journey away from the main story. While Lisa enjoyed her experience and the part she played in that narrative, by the time her narrative reconnected with the main story, too much had happened in the bunker for her to even begin to follow what was going on. She was pretty confused by the events of our end game.

+ The puzzles, for those that encountered them, were solid and thematic.

– The level of physical immersion was spotty and required a lot of suspension of disbelief and a willingness to embrace imagination. Broken Ghost Immersive delivered storylines that were clearly less immersive with a wink and a nod and a dose of humor, but sometimes it wasn’t necessarily enough.

+ At the end of the game we were given the opportunity to choose a long-term strategy for our bunker. Based on that decision we immediately received an epilogue describing the conclusion to our story. It was intriguing, deeply rooted in the decisions that we had made throughout the game, and sensical. The epilogue put a lovely bow on our apocalypse.

Tips for Visiting

  • Show up willing to interact, explore, and play.
  • Bring a group of people who all want to play.
  • When you’re playing, be bold, imaginative, and decisive. Great and terrible things will happen to your group regardless.
  • It’s not an escape room. Leave your searching skills at home.
  • A few of our favorite restaurants in the area include Russ & Daughters Cafe, Vanessa’s Dumpling House, and Mission Chinese Food.
  • By subway, take the F to East Broadway. Street parking can be challenging in this neighborhood.
  • The Wildrence is located down a flight of stairs.

Book your session with Broken Ghost Immersive’s The Bunker, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Broken Ghost Immersive comped our tickets for this game.

Mister and Mischief – Escape from Godot [Review]

A real-life actor’s nightmare.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: June 17, 2018

Team size: 8 tickets per time slot

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket (limited run during the Hollywood Fringe Festival)

Ticketing: public

REA Reaction

At its best, Escape from Godot felt a little like that dream where you’re on stage and you can’t remember your lines… only exciting and fun. A refreshing blend of escape room and immersive theater, Escape from Godot used puzzles and gameplay to drive the stage production forward. The experience was appropriately absurdist… being based on Waiting for Godot (synopsis).

The actors blew us away with their commitment to delivering their lines while managing game flow.

Escape from Godot broke away from escape room conventions. What emerged was fun, engaging, and impressive. We left feeling entertained and energized. If Escape from Godot is revived in another form, it would definitely be worth checking out.

In-game: Three actors performing a scene. One actor looks very surprised.
Photo credit: Anne Rene Brashier

Who is this for?

  • Theater fans
  • Players who enjoy interacting with actors
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Quirky puzzles integrated with a live theater production
  • Talented and enthusiastic actors
  • Unique, playful experience
  • Bowler hats

Story

Upon arriving at a theater to attend a friend’s play, we learned that everyone involved in the production was being threatened with a lawsuit if they continued the play without permission – including the audience. We had one hour to fill in for the stage manager and help the actors complete the play before the lawyers arrived to shut it down.

Setting

Escape from Godot was an escape room intertwined with a theater production. Rather than relying on scenery and effects, the immersiveness of Escape from Godot unfolded mostly temporally, via actors and props on the stage. The set, a relatively ordinary theater, was secondary to the puzzles and interactions.

Gameplay

Mister and Mischief’s Escape from Godot was an escape game and theater blend that revolved around theatrical cues, dialogue, and actor interactions. We participated both as audience members watching the actors and as crew members puzzling out how to guide the play (and the escape room) to its final curtain.

Escape from Godot included medium-difficulty escape room puzzles involving logic, observation, and wordplay.

Two actors standing on stage while another actor whispers to a player
Photo credit: Anne Rene Brashier

Analysis

+ Escape from Godot was fun for theater buffs and theater newbies alike. Those of us who were more familiar with Waiting for Godot got extra enjoyment from certain details and interactions, but we didn’t need to have seen the play.

+ The absurdist theme meant we weren’t always sure what we were supposed to do, but orienting ourselves was part of the challenge. It felt like being in an actor’s nightmare, with all the chaos and confusion of being thrust on stage without our lines – but in a good way.

+ The puzzles were whimsical and integrated with the theme.

+ Escape from Godot involved actor interaction, but some players were in the spotlight more than others. Shy players didn’t have to worry because interaction was limited and only as involved as each person wanted it to be. Accommodating different audience member personalities made the show approachable to extroverted players as well as people who were less comfortable with interaction.

+ The actors went all out. On top of their solid acting, they delivered hints subtly and seamlessly, right when we needed them. By calibrating our timing with thoughtful cluing, they had the ability to control the flow of the experience and make sure each group felt victorious at the end. This kind of improvisation must have been tricky to pull off. We were impressed with how effortless it felt and how much it added to our enjoyment.

– The venue wasn’t perfect. The space near the stage was a bit cramped, which made it hard for all eight of us to participate equally at times when we were in the audience area.

+ Playing Escape from Godot felt true to the experience of watching a play; it also felt like putting on a play. Even without elaborate sets, the action and the puzzles kept us engaged and immersed for the whole hour.

? Due to the linear gameplay, there were a couple of bottleneck moments. Fortunately, the show was designed so that the least busy of us could always entertain ourselves by watching the actors perform their scenes.

+ The beginning and ending of Escape from Godot were largely unguided, which gave us a feeling of mystery when we entered the theater and triumph when we led the show to our curtain call.

+ Escape from Godot showed that the theater is a natural setting for an escape room hybrid. Solving puzzles to influence the show is a unique and fun game mechanic. We’d love to see more people experimenting with integrating gameplay into stage productions.

Tips for Visiting

  • Escape from Godot had a limited run and is no longer playing. If Mister and Mischief decide to revive it, the venue and other details may change.
  • This experience had live actors. Review our tips for playing with actors. Interaction is minimal if you want it to be; having one or two outgoing teammates should be enough.
  • Since Escape from Godot was an escape room within a play, it was more about enjoying the experience than beating the clock. You might have to wait for the actors to finish their lines before you can progress anyway, so take your time and enjoy the performance.

Escape from Godot took place in June 2018 and is not currently running.

Real Life Gaming – Prison Escape (Exclusive English Edition) [Review]

80 actors, 170 players, 1 actual prison.

Location: Breda, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 10, 2018

Team size: up to 400 players; we recommend ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Duration: 3 hours

Price: €79.99 per ticket

Ticketing: Very public

REA Reaction

Prison Escape was no escape room; it was a massive and intense roleplaying game with 80 talented actors and a gigantic cast of players. Prison Escape was a living, breathing entity, an organism with systems that impacted one another. A disruption here trickled down to there.

From their extensive prison intake introduction, to the various escape conspiracies, Prison Escape was a factory that produced individual moments for its players to experience. Some of those moments were epic; others were dull snippets of prison life. They all came together to form a story arc for each player.

The planning, coordination, and care that went into Prison Escape was mind-boggling. When we stop to think about what they have achieved, it’s impossible to be anything but impressed.Lisa's Prison Escape mugshot in an orange jump suit.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • LARPers or people who are willing to be social
  • Players who are comfortable knowing that they will not experience most of the things that this game has to offer

Why play?

  • Fairly open-ended gameplay where with some luck, you’ll get out of it what you put into it
  • Playing a prison escape game in an actual prison
  • The actors were phenomenal.
  • Prison Escape was truly massive in scope.

Story

We were all new convicts serving 10-year sentences in the Breda Prison Dome. We could either find a way to make a new life behind bars or attempt to escape.

The crowd of 180 players gathered outside of the Breda Prison Dome.

Setting

Prison Escape was played in and around the Breda Prison Dome, the retired prison that also hosted Up The Game. While some key components like prison locks had been removed from the structure, this was an otherwise authentic setting. It would have been impossible to ask more of the set.

The Prison Dome was massive, imposing, and strangely beautiful. While we had just spent two days in this building for the conference, it felt a lot less friendly under these circumstances, devoid of stage lighting, booths, and conference infrastructure.

David's Prison Escape mugshot in an grey jump suit.

Gameplay

Real Life Gaming’s Prison Escape was not an escape room at all. Prison Escape was something between a real life game and an immersive theater.

Core gameplay revolved around observation, conversation, and a willingness to take action.

Exterior of the Breda Prison Dome with barred windows and barbed wire.

Analysis

This is an ever-evolving production so these points may not be relevant. If you’re planning to play Prison Escape, I strongly encourage you to skip the spoiler boxes below as the information contained therein may impact the way you choose to play the game.

Have your own experience first. Then return to read the rest of this review. You’ve been warned. 

+ The Breda Prison Dome was a phenomenal venue. This setting that had felt friendly days before was suddenly foreboding. It was an incredible transformation back to its natural state.

Prison Escape had an imposing introduction. It established the game world. It put us in character and costume. The prison warden delivered a badass welcome to hell speech.

Introduction - Discussion

+ The costumes – both ours and the actors’ – further solidified our characters in this experience. The prison guards had a clever technique for efficiently getting each prisoner into a prison jumpsuit that fit them perfectly, without ever disrupting the intense introductory sequence or breaking the fiction.

– The introduction took a long time. We spent a good portion of the first third of Prison Escape standing at attention. The novelty wore off quickly and discomfort set in.

– The grand introduction didn’t matter all that much. Prison Escape shattered that world just as soon as they had established it. We played the rest of the experience in a much looser, more zany prison world. As players, we had a bit of trouble accepting this transition. For quite some time, we were convinced that the harsh reality of the introduction would return. It didn’t. This dramatically impacted our understanding of the game’s world.

[collapse]

Prison Escape set up epic individual moments. As an individual (or a small group), we’d be dispatched to accomplish a task that would be central to one of the plot threads. We had to come up with our own strategy and proceed. Succeed or fail, Prison Escape created memorable individual moments. For both of us, and most people we’ve talked to, these were the highlights of the experience.

Mid-Game Discussion

+ Prison Escape left a lot of breadcrumbs to lead players into a plot thread of their own. From found objects to the actors, if we observed carefully and made some basic connections, we’d find a plot thread to follow. Prison Escape worked hard to ensure that every player – even those with no experience in this type of gameplay – could engage with it.

+/- The different plot threads affected one another dramatically. When one plot succeeded long before it was intended to, it shattered another plot thread that hinged on an affected character. One group’s win caused another group to fail.

– After a certain point, if a plot thread failed, there was nothing else to do in Prison Escape. There came a point where it was impossible to break into the other storylines. There were no new plots taking shape. When David’s plot was disrupted midway through, there was no more fun to be had at Prison Escape

[collapse]

+/- Many of the escape plots were comically ridiculous. This was a ton of fun. It was strange, however, when juxtaposed with the serious tone established in the introduction.

End-Game - Discussion

– The few dozen people who didn’t escape didn’t get an end to their story. They got to watch another group’s plot resolve, but they weren’t participants anymore, only onlookers. They didn’t get a conclusion. We don’t recommend that everyone win. We do recommend that everyone receive an interactive ending.

– About 80% of the participants in our play-through escaped the prison. This seemed like a high number. It diminished the victory for those who succeed and added insult to those who did not. While the escape was fun, the best moments of the experience weren’t in achieving victory. We don’t think everyone needs to escape to enjoy Prison Escape. There was a missed opportunity to catch some plots in action and bring back the intensity of the introduction.

[collapse]

+ The actors were phenomenal. Furthermore, they were all speaking in their second language. This was the first time Real Life Gaming had run Prison Escape in English. We were seriously impressed with the English and the acting, especially all of the improvisation.

+ In Prison Escape, we were responsible for our own experiences, to a point. If we observed, conversed, played, strategized, and engaged, it could be a truly epic experience.

? In Prison Escape, the game structure was responsible for our experiences, to a point. There was a fair bit of luck involved in getting started. The actions of actors and other players would also affect our experiences, both negatively and positively. We weren’t entirely in control of our own destiny, which made sense in a prison.

Prison Escape is not consistent. It is not a stock experience, David and I had profoundly different experiences. Your game will be unique, as will your individual experiences within it.

The Breda Prison Dome lit at night.

Tips for Playing

  • Wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of standing at attention.
  • Do not wear a skirt or dress.
  • Bring as few personal effects as you can. You’ll be locking them in lockers during the experience.
  • Be open to the highs and lows of the experience.
  • Take action. You have to actively play if you want anything to happen.

Book your event with Real Life Gaming’s Prison Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Real Life Gaming provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

8Players [Review]

A wild 90s teen murder mystery.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: January 17, 2018

Team size: 8; tickets are purchased in singles and pairs only

Duration: 120 minutes

Price: $75 per ticket

REA Reaction

8Players is a LARP. Anticipating and obfuscation blew 8Players out of proportion. It became something larger than it could possibly pay off. We had a great time; we made ourselves a pretty fun show. However, we would have had a lot more fun if we’d approached the evening with accurate expectations. 8Players‘ intrigue was its own worst enemy.

Who is this for?

  • People who like to act
  • People who can think on their feet
  • People who are excited to participate
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Over-the-top 1990s teen horror drama
  • Anticipation
  • Nonstop involvement

Story

Each of us privately received an email describing our character’s age, gender, and style.

The story – our story – took place the night after a massacre at a high school party in the mid 1990s. Each of our characters played some part in a campy 90s high school horror murder mystery.

The only question bigger than who did it was why.

8Players roleplaying experience logo.
Like an idiot, I forgot to get a picture of us decked out in costumes. I blame the cold weather.

Setting

We were given a secret address a few days prior to the game. The location was in Brooklyn, not too far from a subway line.

We played 8Players seated around a small table in a nifty library / classroom environment. I know exactly where we were, but I’m going to withhold that bit of information because it seemed like the folks from 8Players wanted it to be a mystery.

Gameplay

Each player took their character notes, showed up in costume, and played the experience.

8Players didn’t divulge the gameplay structure. Out of respect for this, we’ve hidden it behind a spoiler. That said, we know at least a couple of people in our group wouldn’t have attended if they’d known how this would play out.

Structural Spoiler

After we were gathered and seated around our table, we were each given an opening statement about our character that we read aloud to the group in a pre-determined order.

From there we were given two-sided pieces of paper with our character information. One side contained information about ourselves that we needed to divulge over the course of the act. The other side had personal secrets that we would have to reveal if pressed by another player, but otherwise should be kept to ourselves.

We were given a few minutes to read everything to ourselves. Then our costumed, in-character facilitator began facilitating dialog by instigating conflict between the various characters. We sat around the table taking turns divulging each other’s secrets and deflecting or confessing to our own.

Each act followed the same structure. The key difference from act to act was our level of comfort with the game. This wasn’t a competition. The gameplay was improvisational role play. The objective was to collaboratively generate fun dialog. As a personal sub-game, I tried to say funny things that would make the facilitator crack.

8Players concluded when we were all given a closing confessional statement about our character and their part in the evening’s mayhem that we read aloud in order.

[collapse]

Standouts

8Players excelled at anticipation. Their website, pre-show communication, costume notes, and meeting point/ tactic piqued our curiosity. The lack of any additional information kept us curious. We were intrigued.

8Players nailed our roles. They sent a pre-show survey and relied on our answers to assign us characters. They pegged everyone correctly. The role assignments also allowed our quieter players to hold back a little bit.

Throughout the performance, we received written information about the characters (our own and the others). The written material was concise and digestible.

One actress guided the evening’s interaction. She was a moderator in character. She expertly guided us through the narrative. She also kept us from awkward or quiet moments. This was a well-honed moderation style.

Our group: Everyone went for it. This included both friends and strangers (who, as it turned out, read this website). We were hilarious. We made our own show.

Due to the mysterious and controlled beginning, we entered the game in-character. While we were in the experience, we were our characters. The structure forced us to keep our true identities hidden throughout the event.

Shortcomings

In 8Players, we were the show. Our mysterious moderator didn’t perform for us, she instigated dialog. If we failed to pick it up and run with it in a satisfying way, we were going to have a disaster of an experience. There was no room for passive play.

Pre-show communication made a big deal of mandatory costuming, but our efforts felt like a waste. Almost every player in our group went to great lengths to put together a themed getup from head to toe. The show, however, took place around a table. Anything below the chest didn’t matter at all. We couldn’t incorporate any props. We were enormously frustrated… I was especially annoyed because I had lugged a guitar across two rivers because it fit my character perfectly.

We attended 8Players on a January evening. We approached the meeting point at exactly 7:53, as instructed. Then we waited outside, in costume, in below freezing temperatures… for a least 10 minutes. We were not thrilled.

Although we had a lot of agency to affect 8Players – to speak, joke, conspire, and point fingers – we couldn’t maximize this freedom because we didn’t know enough about our characters. If we invented the unknown, we’d later find out we’d invented incorrectly and be left backpeddling.

In the end, our agency was only perceived. We could not change the outcome of the show. Our participation affected the moment, but not the narrative.

The conclusion was so preposterous and over the top that even those of us who had suspended disbelief throughout the experience were left bewildered by the end of our tale.

8Players cost $75 per ticket. That was a steep price for this gameplay structure. Even though we had a lot of fun, given what else is out there, we don’t think it was worth it.

Tips for Visiting

  • 8Players is currently sold out for its winter 2018 run.
  • The facility is walkable from a subway line.
  • There are ample food and drink options in the area.
  • This is not a puzzle game, nor is it theater. Attend if you want to role play with friends and strangers.

Book your session with 8Players, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.