Attendees traveled from Arizona, California, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Upstate New York… with one brave individual making the journey across the East River from Brooklyn.
Some were owners. All were players.
This is our community.
From our first conversations on Friday, we knew we were spending the weekend with like-minded people. We were still enjoying each other’s company after midnight, long after booked events had ended.
By Sunday morning, it was like a camp reunion. Folks were looking for the people they’d played with on Saturday morning to ask how their afternoon escapes had gone. When the event wrapped up midday, people went off with new friends to escape more rooms.
This event showcased the many different styles of escape rooms in New York City. These ranged from puzzle-focused to adventure-based. Some included context and story. Others presented more straightforward puzzle solving.
One person’s favorite was another person’s not-so-favorite.
Our selections only scratched the surface of what this city has to offer in terms of escape rooms and other immersive entertainment.
Thank you to everyone who came out for this. Thank you for the wonderful conversations, perspectives, questions, and ideas.
We learned as much from you as you learned from us and from each other.
Based on the incredibly strong post-event feedback, we’re going to have to do this again.
We might run Escape, Immerse, Explore again in New York. Or, we might bring this to another city. Maybe both. We’ll just have to see what the future brings.
RED is not an escape room and it’s not immersive theater; it’s an immersive game.
Staged on a large set and filled with actors, you and your friends can enter an apocalyptic West World-esque scenario. There are characters to meet, an environment to explore, mysteries to sort out, and a journey of self examination to uncover. When we played, we became ourselves in crisis mode… and it was so cool.
Time Run will be closing sometime in the near future because their building will be leveled and the site turned into housing. They will be open through the end of 2017 and maybe into 2018… It all depends on a fluid construction calendar. I know that they have plans to create new games, but those plans do not involve their original two experiences.
How do Polish escape rooms compare to other cities in Europe or the United States?
The biggest difference between Polish escape rooms and every other escape room that I have seen anywhere in the world is pricing.
Polish escape rooms cost approximately 150 Zloty, +/- 50 Zloty per team.
In US Dollars, that’s roughly $41 + / – $13 per team.
In the United States and the other European cities that I’ve visited, $25 – 45 per player is normal.
With that in mind, the economics of escape rooms in Poland are fundamentally different from anywhere else that I’ve traveled to date. I have to admit that I did not fully realize this until the end of my trip… and I am quite certain that at least two of the other speakers did not fully appreciate the price difference either.
Most Polish escape room companies build with much tighter budgets than even tight-budget games in the United States. However, rent and labor costs seem considerably lower in Poland.
As with any city that I’ve visited, I saw a wide range of games. Some I loved and will highly recommend when I publish my reviews. Others were pretty average. Regardless of how much I personally enjoyed each game, I saw a lot of ingenuity.
I’ll say this confidently: If we’re talking pure value of cost to quality, Poland wins. It’s crazy how inexpensive escape rooms are in Poland when compared to the rest of the world.
The folks behind WroEscape know how to put on a show.
This event was held in the exhibition hall at Centennial Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The facility and surroundings were beautiful.
The trade show floor was small, but interesting.
WroEscape employed a live translator for the talks. They translated via earpiece. Polish talks were instantly translated into English and vice versa.
Sergey Kuznetsov, the founder of the escape room franchise Claustrophobia, delivered an interesting and candid talk on his business’s triumphs, failures, and future plans. I don’t want to paraphrase him since a video will publish in the future. Also, I have a ton of respect for anyone who delivers a talk in their second language.
Agata Milik gave a fantastic talk from her perspective as a player. Her talk could have been delivered in any country that I’ve visited and been just as accurate and relevant. Also, Agata and I played a few games together. She was a fantastic translator and puzzle partner.
Lawyer Wojciech Wawrzak gave an overview of legal issues that affect escape room owners. I have to admit that I did not watch the whole talk. I found it interesting, but I needed a break and Polish law isn’t relevant to my life. However, I love that this talk happened.
All of this concluded with a crazy fountain show choreographed to music outside of the exhibition hall… because if you have a giant fountain, you should probably use it.
Some final thoughts & thank yous
Conference organizer Ewa Salamon, Jakub and Bartosz from LockMe.pl, and the guys from Exit 19 put on a fantastic conference.
Ewa, thank you for planning every detail of my trip.
Thank you to all of my teammates: Agata, Wojciech, Michal, Marcin, Wojciech, Sergey, Magda, and Michal. I had so much fun escaping with you all, even if we didn’t speak the same language… more on that soon.
Wrocław is a beautiful city. If you have a chance to visit, you should.
… and we spoke with Sidequests Adventures about the experience:
Room Escape Artist: Tell me about Sidequests Adventures. Where are you located? How long have you been in business?
Jonathan Liaw: We’re a tiny local team in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. We make adventures for people! We opened in September of 2016. We’re big on theme consistency, well-tested puzzle design, and inclusive games open to everyone.
You recently lived a real life Onion-worthy experience when two escaped convicts came to visit your escape room establishment. Walk us through how everything unfolded.
At about 8:30pm local time on Tuesday evening, October 3, two ladies walked into our business. They asked the typical escape room newbie questions and asked if they could peek into an escape room.
This is pretty standard for us and I imagine for a lot of markets where escape room awareness isn’t super high. My wife led them around the corner to show them one of our rooms that wouldn’t have anything massively spoiled by peeking in and I went back to minding the front desk.
About a half a minute later, a police officer came down the stairs and asked if we had seen two ladies recently.
“Did they have a prior appointment with you?”
“Not at all. They were walk-ins.”
“Where are they now?”
I motioned around the corner and the officer promptly called for backup and proceeded around the corner. Four more officers quickly rushed down the stairs and around the corner. Shortly after, they emerged with the two ladies in cuffs and walked them out.
It’s actually much less exciting than it sounds, but it was definitely surreal. Once the initial shock wore off, we realized how ridiculously ironic the whole situation was.
How did all of this resolve?
We’ve been on every single news channel locally and a little bit nationally. Radio stations have asked to do interviews and a ton of video crews came to do short stories. It was a little bit nutty. The story has been picked up internationally as a fluffy and funny filler for a lot of morning breakfast shows, radio talk shows, escape room blogs, and who knows what else. We’ve had phone calls from Australia, the UK, California, and New York asking us questions to clarify the facts.
It has been just a bit of a crazy ride.
These women were the first to escape the prison that they were incarcerated within. Do you know how they accomplished that?
Not surprisingly, the police are being rather short on details about their escape. We do know it involved jumping a fairly high fence.
How are you and your team holding up?
Everyone is okay! My wife and I (as owners of the business) got very little sleep in the 48 hours following the incident, but it seems to have mostly calmed down for now.
They were wanted for violent crimes and weapons and drug related charges. In hindsight, it could have gone far worse. Happily it didn’t and we’re just left with an incredibly ironic headline.
Wanted or not, you’ve received a lot of publicity from this crazy experience. Has that impacted your business?
Everyone wants to know the story when they come in. We had a fairly large traffic spike on our website for a few days following the event and the next weekend was quite busy. As a newer business with a little less visibility than a lot of places, it has helped a lot that we’re now “that place” in everyone’s minds. Since the story resolved peacefully and somewhat hilariously, it has been a good publicity bump for us. It put us in front of a lot of eyeballs that we normally wouldn’t have been able to get access to.
It has been an odd thing. We have attention, but it has been a delicate dance to utilize that surge in traffic without being insensitive or crass about it. We’re going with the good-natured chuckle approach without talking directly about the people involved. We’re just having a good laugh about the absurdity of the situation.
I’m incredibly excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at WroEscape, the escape room conference in Wrocław, Poland from October 27-29th.
I’ll be discussing The Player Experience, conducting a Q&A, and generally floating around meeting many people and learning as much as I can about the escape room community in Poland.
This will be my first solo conference appearance as Lisa will not be able to make the trip… but she’ll be there in spirit while I explore the city that her grandfather hailed from (back when it was Breslau, Germany).
Thank you WroEscape for the invitation and coordination.