Next month, together with No Proscenium, we are co-hosting the second Everything Immersive NYC Meetup.
Escape rooms are one form of immersive entertainment. This umbrella also includes immersive theatre, VR/ AR, LARP, site-specific pieces, experiential art & tech, and so many other creations. We encourage you to join us in exploring these other works.
This event is for those interested in, passionate about, or working within immersive arts & entertainment in New York City. We’re calling all creators, storytellers, directors, engineers, artists, designers, writers, performers, event planners, producers, and more.
If you want to meet other passionate souls and exchange ideas about the future of entertainment and storytelling, join us.
We look forward to seeing you there. Please find us and introduce yourself!
We’ve been big fans of Escape This Podcast since it launched last year… and we finally got to play!
What’s Escape This Podcast?
Creators Dani & Bill have merged escape rooms with Dungeons & Dragons-like roleplaying (without the dice rolls) and recorded it in podcast form.
Dani writes and “dungeon masters” the episodes.
Bill plays along with the guests.
You’re free to play along at home (and scream at the players) or simply listen to the episode’s guest(s) play.
Escape This Podcast’s second season told one big story with 10 self-contained episodes.
To quickly summarize the plot:
A mysterious puzzle-obsessed cult had gassed an entire town, making everyone apathetic so that they could implement their evil master plan. A few people had been unaffected by the gas and have been trying to stop the cult.
I loved Time Run. I enjoyed Sherlock. Earlier this week, we were finally able to announce that these two incredible worlds are about to collide in Sherlock: The Game is Now.
I asked Nick Moran, Creative Director at Time Run, more about this collaboration. It sounds to me like a trip to London will be in order. Read on and decide for yourself.
1. Room Escape Artist: Tell us about your new project.
Nick Moran: Sherlock: The Game is Now is our next project, which has just been publicly announced this week. It’s a collaboration between the Time Run team (Josh Ford, Director, Sheena Patel, Producer and myself) and Hartswood Films, the creators of Sherlock. It’s a live game, set in the world of the TV series. This is not a pop-up, or a small-scale temporary event; this is a proper, full-scale escape room experience. We’re excited!
2. How did this come about?
Incredibly organically. Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, and Mark Gatiss came and played Time Run. Conversations started… and it just seemed to make sense. I wish I could say it was some grand orchestrated plan, but honestly, it was just a project we were all excited by. Naturally they love puzzles and mysteries – and have created a show bathed in them. Our business is puzzles and mysteries. It was a natural fit.
3. What was it like working with writers Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss? You can be brutally honest. There is no way that they read Room Escape Artist.
Steven and Mark are great! Obviously, you hear stories about all sorts of projects and collaborations, but honestly, Hartswood Films is an absolute dream to work with. They’re fun and unbelievably clever. They understand we love and respect the show, and that we’re trying to create an experience that exemplifies everything that’s great about the show, but in a live environment. To that end, they’re up for anything. They’re open-minded, generous, and enthusiastic about the available possibilities. It’s been such a satisfying creative process. They really got into the mindset of this alien format. They’re cinematic thinkers – and yet suddenly they were working on something entirely new – and they were totally game, no pun intended.
So, hopefully we’ve come together to make something really cool.
4. Is this ‘alien format’ a traditional escape room? Or more akin to Celestial Chain? Or something else?
This definitely plays more like a traditional escape room than Celestial Chain.
5. Without spoilers, what can people expect from Sherlock: The Game is Now?
So, when you arrive, you go to W- Oh… without spoilers. This is difficult.
You are at the centre of your own episode of Sherlock. You’ll get to step into the shoes of Mr Holmes and be the protagonist in your own adventure. You’ll experience amazing gameplay, beautiful environments (both familiar and unfamiliar) and journey through a world that doesn’t break from the moment you enter until the moment you leave. And (spoiler alert) – you’ll have a whole lot of fun, or at least, we damn well hope so!
6. Is this set in an existing Sherlock episode? Or is it inspired by an existing Sherlock Holmes story?
It’s an all-new adventure in the world of the show. It’s not set in an existing episode. Telling you any more… well, obviously, that’d be telling.
7. Do people need to have seen the show or read the books to enjoy the experience?
If you haven’t seen the show, it’ll be a great experience, but if you have seen the show, you’ll get a lot more from it. The show has dedicated fans worldwide and we want to respect them and the legacy of the show that they love. So, to answer your question succinctly: no, not at all. But it sure helps to have seen it, otherwise you’ll miss some of the fun details, references, and Easter eggs!
8. Since Holmes, Dr. Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, and Mycroft are all characters in this game… who are we, the players, in this experience?
Naturally, you are… you. Once you have signed up, you are willing recruits of the Network. What’s the network? Well, it’s Mycroft Holmes’ web of recruits that seep out under the skein of the world.
Now, as the trailer says – and Mycroft says it better than I do – many of these particular agents suffered rather unfortunate ends. Sadly it’s time to turn to the public, as numbers are low (and the great unwashed are quite expendable). He doesn’t find this a particularly savoury thought, as you can imagine.
9. Many escape room players are over Holmes. They’ve played so many Holmes-themed escape rooms at this point. What are you doing to make this experience really capture the world of Holmes and set it apart?
Well, Sherlock and the works of Conan Doyle are as different as any adaptation can be! The show is the product of two writers who were utterly enamoured with the source material and set out to create their own, unique universe. The usual escape room fare is just slap-on-a-deerstalker-and-hope-for-the-best.
In Sherlock: The Game is Now you step into the world of high-octane, fast-talking, high-functioning sociopath, Sherlock Holmes and his sneering, supercilious brother, a world dripping with humour, pathos, action, and adventure. This game will be so much more than some loose, Sherlock theming: a battered pseudo-Victorian study, assembled from bric-a-brac, as you see in some poor escape games. Here, you are at the centre of an amazing adventure, in not just *a* Sherlock Universe but *the* Sherlock Universe. The show has become a cultural totem in and of itself. It stepped out of the shadow of Conan Doyle the moment it was born. It’s that world in which you play, which is markedly different from the typical escape room fare.
10. You have such a well-defined mythos of your own at Time Run. Is this connected in any way to the Time Run verse?
Haha, sadly no. Babbage and Luna are off gallivanting through time and space, alone. Although, as we’ve poured ourselves into the game, if bits of us didn’t seep in there somehow, I would be shocked.
11. Will people experience the same level of world-building that we’ve come to expect from Time Run?
100% yes. Time Run very much had our game design ethos: a world that never breaks, from beginning to end. A world that makes sense. Games with logic, internally and externally. We try to maintain this ruleset across what we do because it’s our design ideology. It’s all about losing yourself inside a experience, one that just happens to be a game. It just wouldn’t be a Time Run game otherwise.
12. Compared to the high level of detail you had in your original two games, how does this measure up?
Experiences live and die in the detail. Naturally, the same team is behind all of our games, so we sure hope it will measure up. However, these are, naturally, real world environments. There can’t be the same flights of fancy that Time Travel allows. It’ll feel similar in detail, but different in emphasis.
Before we close, let’s expand on a few of the details from the announcement:
13. When do tickets go on sale? When does it open? How long will this run?
We’re currently selling tickets from October 2018 through January 2019 and will open more dates further down the line.
14. Where will this experience be located? (And please let the answer be Baker Street.)
Oh, it’s a top-secret location. Or at least, mildly secret. Well, alright, it’s just a bit secret. But we won’t tell you where yet. That’ll spoil the fun.
15. Your facility will be 17,000 square feet. That’s is huge! How is that space being used?
There are five copies of Sherlock: The Game Is Now. There are also elements we can’t reveal just yet. Let’s just say it’s an immersive experience from beginning to end…
16. Your official announcement mentioned plans for a worldwide roll out over the next 5 years. Can you give me any hints on timing or location? Can I put in a request for New York?
I can’t answer, sorry.
17. What does a ticket cost? Private group booking? Minimum/ maximum group size?
Tickets cost £54 (~$72) per person. You have to book as a group of 4-6 players. And yes, all private group bookings.
18. £54 is a considerably higher ticket price than escape room players are accustomed to. What do you say to someone who’s looking to choose between playing two escape rooms at the more typical price or visiting Sherlock: The Game Is Now?
This isn’t for me a question of “or;” it’s a question of “why.”
When you want to create an experience based upon an existing show – and a premium one, at that – there’s a choice. Do you treat the programme with respect, or not? Do you invest in making it full of beautiful environments, and experiential touch points? Do you ensure that there’s enough staff so that every group has the best possible experience – a ratio over and above that of pretty much any escape game?
I’ve not been to any of the previous brand tie-in events, but I’ve heard tales of experiences that did not do justice to the shows or films concerned. That saddens me. When we say it’s a 90-minute adventure, we’re not lying; you’ll be in the world from the moment you arrive. The entrance will surprise and amuse. There’ll be actor-led elements. We’ve included AV content from the cast of the show. The lovely sets – some small, intimate and detailed, others straight from the series – are created primarily as a gift for the audience. There’s other elements we haven’t revealed, too.
I would say to an enthusiast: trust us. We’re enthusiasts, too, all of us. We are determined to do justice to this show and this experience. If you don’t find my answer convincing, I understand, but it’s the truth. Enthusiasts are smart people. They get that doing this kind of thing well isn’t easy. When you factor in everything – from the A/V elements from the cast of Sherlock to the large-scale production – you’ll understand. I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.
19. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: Time Run closed in April. Are there plans for a new Time Run facility in the cards?
Oh, Time Run is just sleeping – and nothing sleeps forever, does it?
We’ve received some really interesting things from the readers of this site including a number of tabletop games, a postcard with a bespoke puzzle, and a black-light saber. However, we’ve always known who these things were from… until this week.
“Meow Wolf is calling to you and you must go.”
This is cryptic and delightful, and yes, we already wanted to visit Meow Wolf. This has only added to the intrigue.
has our address (but a lot of folks do)
went to Meow Wolf in late May
has a sense of style
Anyway… to whomever sent this, we’re stumped. We’d like a hint please.
Time Run has teamed up with Steven Moffat and Mark “Mycroft Holmes” Gatiss to create an escape room experience in the world of the BBC’s Sherlock.
Wow… I feel better having typed that. I am so happy that this isn’t a secret anymore. A lot of owners and designers tell us about their secret projects, but not one of those secrets has been as burdensome to keep as this one.
It’s been a challenge because prior to this, Time Run produced The Lance of Longinus and The Celestial Chain, two of the most impressive games that I’ve played to date. I’ve been so excited about this next production from this company that pours so much into unbreaking worlds, storytelling, puzzles, and epic adventure.
Here’s what you need to know
SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW is not simply licensed; it was co-scripted with Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.
The game will take players through detailed recreations of Sherlock environments in a 90-minute escape room experience.
Groups of 4 to 6 players will solve puzzles, challenges, and mysteries across a 17,000-square-foot production space where they will encounter some of the most-loved Sherlock characters in new, specially recorded video and audio sequences featuring original cast members.
This isn’t a popup. Sherlock is here to stay.
Tickets go on sale (today) 5th June and cost £54 (~$72) per person.
SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW opens in October 2018 in London, with plans for a global roll out over the next 5 years.
More information to come…
If it seems like I know more… It’s because I do.
We have an interview with the Sherlock creative team in the works. We will publish it as soon as possible.
While SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW certainly isn’t the first licensed escape game, it is, to the best of our knowledge, the first escape room co-scripted by the creators of the property.
This production will rightly capture a lot of attention for escape games, bringing in new players and additional corporate interest. If this escape room experience is anything like Time Run’s previous creations, this should be a game to remember.
We won’t know how this game plays until it opens, and there will be a lot of pressure to deliver.
In the mean time, check out the official website, and stay tuned for our upcoming interview.
While we’re always working to update and maintain our map & escape room directory, each spring we put a little extra effort into cleaning up the data before running our annual industry growth report.
At this summer’s upcoming escape room conference in Nashville, TN, we will give a talk about the state of the industry in the United States and, along with lots of other information, we’ll announce the industry growth statistics live on stage.
We’ll build on the work we started with our industry growth reports from 2016 and 2017.
This year’s report will cover more metrics across a larger data set.
How you can help
In order to provide Find a Room, 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
Outdated information (changed URL, moved location, etc)
You are our best resource for escape rooms near you. Please send us your updates!
Thank you to our team of dedicated map maintainers. Thank you to the players who periodically send in their local updates. Thank you to the companies that share their changes with us. Thank you to the few people who continually dedicate large amounts of their time to improving our data set.
Please note that there is a $25 credit card minimum at Shades of Green Pub… and they really take that seriously. Please bring cash or a big appetite. They are gracious and flexible hosts and we want to respect them.
Please RSVP. We need to provide a headcount to the venue.
RSVP on Facebook or via Email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is a great opportunity to meet other folks who love escape rooms and other forms of interactive entertainment. If you stop by, you’ll be able to:
We recently met up with professor Celia Pearce in an adorable little coffee shop outside of Boston. Celia teaches game design at Northeastern and oh my did we get lost in conversation with her.
Eventually we found ourselves talking about IndieCade, the independent gaming conference that she helped create. IndieCade sounds like a blast… and it turns out they would love to feature more real life games on the cutting edge of game design. We figured that we’d help get the message out there.
Room Escape Artist: What is IndieCade?
Celia: IndieCade events and showcases highlight innovation in independently- produced games and interactive experiences. We provide a venue for games that are on the margins of the mainstream game industry, as a way to acknowledge and reward creativity and originality in interactive media and games.
Since we launched our first events in 2007, the indie game scene has gone from a small niche to a vital part of the larger game ecosystem. Our role has expanded to include facilitating game creation and distribution (such as publisher-developer matchmaking) and connecting new tech companies with creators.
Why are escape rooms interesting to IndieCade?
Innovation is central to our mission. Physical and tangible forms of games, such as escape rooms, are innovating.
In the last couple of years we have seen a movement that I call “Beyond Screens” where people are trying to extend play and interaction beyond screens in the traditional sense. There is a lot of innovation happening in this kind of “post screen” environment. This includes digital forms, such as mobile, AR (augmented reality) and VR. It also includes physical and tangible forms of games, such as escape rooms, performative forms of interactive media, and hybrids, such as Un-Destined, an ingenious Taiwanese escape room where one person in VR collaborates with another player solving physical puzzles, all of which continue to demonstrate variety and creativity.
We tend to gravitate wherever the most innovation is happening. Immersive theater and escape rooms are a big area for that right now.
On a personal level, I started out my game design career in the theme park industry and I have a soft spot for physically immersive, socially interactive experiences. I feel like we need more face-to-face fun in our lives.
Who attends IndieCade?
We have four core constituents:
Indie developers: Any work that is not funded by a publisher is indie in our book. That includes work by game designers, fine artists, university researchers, and students. More recently, it has come to include immersive theatre folks and location-based game designers, in other words, escape rooms and their ilk.
Publishers: Publishers come to see what’s new and take advantage of the market- testing entailed in observing who is lining up at which games. Publishers take advantage of our pre-festival matchmaking event where we introduce developers to sponsors. Matchmaking is now extended to tech platforms (for instance, helping Oculus Rift to identify VR developers). Escape room creators looking for someone to design puzzles or for some cool new tech to license could take advantage of this as well.
Press: At E3, the show floor is predictable. Everyone waits in line for three hours to play the new Nintendo or PlayStation release. Our showcase gets a lot of attention from press because we offer something unexpected. We also offer press the opportunity to talk to developers. Big companies rarely bring designers to expos or festivals. At our events, developers attend, which is a real value-add to members of the press. We also have a Media Choice award that we let the press vote on.
General public: Few international festivals in the US are open to the public. Our events enable game fans to see the hottest new things and give developers exposure. For instance, we’ve had a number of studios time their Kickstarters to coincide with IndieCade events. Many of the games are self-published and they don’t have a lot of money for advertising. An emerging escape room company would get some prestige and public attention at IndieCade. Our Audience Choice Award puts some decision-making in the hands of the general public, which is a lot of fun.
An escape room could submit their work to IndieCade as an indie designer. What would IndieCade look for in a submission from an escape room company?
Innovation is always the watchword; the more inventive and original the better. Since the escape room is a relatively new genre, the ratio of innovation is particularly high.
As escape rooms become more popular, I suppose more and more of them will be derivative, a problem we see with many digital indie games now. People see an indie game they like and make a clone and somehow think they are being innovative by copying someone else’s innovation. So, that’s what we are not looking for.
We are more interested in design than production value (although good production value is always a plus.) We’d rather see an innovative prototype than a slickly produced copycat experience.
I recommend browsing our website indiecade.com to get a sense of the work we’ve shown. A few examples on our website include Un-Destined, which I mentioned earlier, Beautiful Corner, or variations such as Tracking Ida, which is more of a puzzle box, or Escape Room in a Box, with which your readers might be familiar. We’ve also shown Six Ghosts and a Pie by Two Bit Circus, so that kind of gives you the range. Just ambling around the website will give folks a sense of what we are about.
When and where will IndieCade take place?
The IndieCade Festival, our flagship festival, takes place annually in Los Angeles in October. It will be October 11-13, 2018.
IndieCade @ E3, our annual showcase at the big game expo, will be June 12-14 in Los Angeles.
We also host IndieCade East, a conference and exhibition, in New York, as well as IndieCade Europe, which usually takes place in late fall. We’ re currently in discussions to launch IndieCade in Asia.
The Call for Submissions for the fall events, The IndieCade Festival and IndieCade Europe, is now open. When are submissions due?
The Call for Submissions can be found at https://www.indiecade.com/Submissions. The regular deadline is May 28th, the late deadline (with a slightly more expensive fee) is June 25th.
Note that we take great care in jurying. Whenever we get site-specific projects, such as escape rooms, we draw on our pool of jurors to find someone with appropriate expertise to go and play the installation. Creators should not hesitate to submit because they think we won’t be able to jury their game. If you send us a game that is only installed on the moon, we’ll launch someone there to play it!
What are the top 3 reasons an escape room should submit to IndieCade?
Networking with developers and designers
Collaborations are born at IndieCade. We’ve helped cultivate many relationships where indies are hiring each other to work on projects or creating new work together.
What can IndieCade offer escape room players?
Escape room players will be able to:
See some of the most cutting-edge demos in the genre
Put their hands on new tech (including pre-market tech that nobody has seen before)
Experience a wide array of games and different genres of play: digital, board, live/physical, VR, mobile, etc
If you like to explore, play and solve puzzles, IndieCade is definitely a worthwhile adventure!
We’re home from the Netherlands and filled with thoughts and feels.
1: Dutch Escape Games
The escape rooms in the Netherlands continue to impress us. We ventured beyond Amsterdam on this trip and found brilliant and innovative games in many other cities. The bar is so high in the country and the creators keep building better games.
If you don’t believe that it is possible to convey story and emotion while still presenting a strong puzzle game, take a trip to the Netherlands.
We’ve heard talk of crappy games in the Netherlands, but we’ve played about two dozen escape rooms there thus far and we still haven’t found a one. Granted we’re playing based on recommendations, but still, no duds.
2: The Prison Dome
The Breda Prison Dome was a fantastic conference venue. Its layout was a little awkward for a conference, but its personality and vibe more than made up for this. It was charming, imposing, and beautiful all at the same time.
Additionally, we got to play the massive Prison Escape game inside of the Prison Dome, which was an unforgettable experience. Our review is forthcoming.
3: The Talks
Maybe we chose well, but we saw some of the best talks we’ve ever encountered yet at Up The Game.
Yolanda Chiu’s talk on the Asian escape room markets was fun and incredibly interesting both from a game design and a business standpoint… and a little shocking.
The guys from The Room in Berlin delivered two fantastic, demonstrative, and useful talks. One covered how to create a high end experience in 2018 and the other addressed sound design.
The team from Sherlocked in Amsterdam talked about mixed realities and how to create experiences that extend beyond just time locked in a room.
Jasper Wille’s talk on meaningful choice articulated many of our own thoughts on what makes for more satisfying and interesting immersive entertainment, but he did it better than we could have.
4: Discussions on Quality
In big cities, the larger, early-to-market escape room companies can – and frequently do – get by with strong SEO and average or mediocre games. If you aren’t one of these early movers, that playbook won’t work for you.
I walked out of only one talk at Up the Game. It involved a first-in-city owner talking about how he successfully markets games that are only good enough. In 2018, this approach is the fast lane to bankruptcy for new companies. The market is a lot more mature. While the early pioneers had plenty of struggles to deal with, competing for search engine placement, media attention, and market share were not among them.
I have so much respect for the early companies that continue to innovate both in game design and customer care. New owners can learn a lot from these pioneers as long as they don’t blindly follow their strategies.
Many of the wonderful talks at this conference provided helpful guidance for creating higher quality experiences without dropping tons of money. So many details of customer service and game design cost very little.
5: Ubisoft’s VR Escape
Ubisoft Blue Byte will soon release a VR escape game set in the world of Assassin’s Creed Origins. I attended Cyril Voiron’s talk, which demonstrated that Ubisoft is really thinking about the right things.
Actually, I lied. I walked out of this talk too, but that was only because as it wrapped up, I realized that Cyril was about to tell us that the VR escape game was available to play at the conference… I left early to beat the crowd to sign up for a time slot.
I got to play it in full. It was a great game. A full review is forthcoming.
6: Our Talk
We really felt like we came into our own on stage this year. Last year we were nervous. We hadn’t played many escape rooms in Europe. In spite of the research we had done, we weren’t certain that we had written a talk that would resonate with the audience.
This year we returned having played many games in Germany, Hungary, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. We knew the audience and we had played many top tier games in Europe. This allowed us to come back with a stronger talk that we knew would fit in among the other talks at Up The Game.
Coming off of this, we’re psyched to speak in Nashville this summer.
Up The Game had great talks and a really cool venue. It took place in a country filled with outstanding escape rooms. The reason to attend, however, wasn’t any of these things. The true reason to attend was the community.
I don’t know if it was luck or design or some combination of the two, but the people attending this conference were incredible. Our favorite moments all involved one-on-one or small group conversations. We got the most out of talking about game design, the business, and people’s successes, struggles, goals, motivations, likes, and dislikes.
If we have a request for next year, it would be for Up The Game to further foster this dynamic. Have more dinners where people are free to move around and converse. Turn the music way down at the party so that people can speak comfortably. Create more places where people can go during the conference to simply get to know one another.
For us, escape rooms are primarily about sharing an experience with other people, and conferences are an extension of that.
For all of you that we met, we hope to see you again next year. If we didn’t get to meet, let’s make sure to connect next year.