Raymond Reints, Co-Founder and Production Manager, Gloeidraad, Utrecht, Netherlands
Cyril Voiron, Executive Producer for Ubisoft Escape Games, Ubisoft Blue Byte, Cologne, Germany
We’ll challenge these panelists to think about the impact of their work on their own businesses and the industry as a whole. Together with the panelists, we’ll consider what all creators can take away from their victories and their defeats.
Don’t have tickets to Up the Game? Use our discount code: UTG19REABLOG
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.
Lovers of immersive entertainment are certainly welcome as well.
Wonderful conversations. This is a chance to give and get recommendations for escape rooms, shows, LARPs, games, VR, AR, and other fun experience in New York City. This is a chance to find collaborators, consultants, and beta-testers.
We encourage you to bring your work. At our February meetup, we had a tabletop game in beta. If your project is compact, or can be made compact, please feel free to bring it with you.
We appreciate Shades of Green and their hospitality. Please support them by purchasing food and drinks… and sharing checks to make it easier on their servers. Please make use of Venmo or PayPal… or hand each other cash.
Escape Room players Jasmine and Stuart Wheaton from Washington, DC recently played Puzzle Break’s Escape The Rubicon on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. We chatted with them about the experience.
Room Escape Artist: Can you give us a little background about yourselves as escape room players and cruise takers?
Jasmine & Stuart: We’ve done about 40 escape rooms, which includes our first and only escape room marathon in New Orleans last year with Room Escape Artist’s Escape Immerse Explore. We were nervous for that event but ended up having so much fun. We literally doubled our escape room count that weekend! We do escape rooms whenever we can now… but as you know it’s an expensive hobby and so we can’t all do over 700 *cough cough*.
We have been on a handful of cruises, but this one was by far the largest ship… huuuuuge!
Was the escape room a factor in your decision to go on the cruise?
We were already planning on doing a cruise. Having an escape room on board was a cool novelty that pushed us to choose that particular boat over another.
What was the process for booking the on-board escape room?
There were multiple booking times throughout each day, spaced out by 90 minutes. You could book online through the same web portal where you could purchase all other excursions and events. You could also book at the entertainment desk.
Whom did you play with? Tell us a bit about your teammates’ backgrounds in escape rooms and how they ended up playing this game.
We played in a mixed group of 8 people, composed of 4 groups of 2.
One group had played a few rooms in Kansas City before coming on the cruise. The other two pairs were completely new to escape rooms.
One beginner couple had heard of escape rooms before and wanted to try it out, since there was one on board.
The couple with experience had the same mindset as us: excited to see what a cruise ship escape room would be like.
One unique aspect about playing with strangers on a confined living space is that we saw them again over the course of the week.
Was that awkward?
Not really… it was such a big boat that we didn’t have to interact again if we didn’t want to. We could just say “hi” and move on.
What were your impressions of the experience? How did this game compare to what you expect from an escape room?
The set design was impressive, given it was on a boat. There was only one room (space is at a premium!) but it had a good look and feel to it, consistent with the theme. It was certainly more scenically impressive than many other escape rooms we’ve played.
The room was advertised in one video as having some of the “best technology in escape rooms.” There were a few big puzzle moments revolving around tech, but we had problems with some things being broken or too confusing. RFID tags and maglocks are standard tech, as far as we can tell. It’s cool tech, but not the “best technology in escape rooms.”
The gameplay was clearly intended to be team-oriented, as many puzzles required multiple people to complete them. We were given “tasks” to complete that fit in with the theme, but in reality we would just do a bunch of puzzles and then be told – either by the game or the gamemeaster – that we had somehow completed the task.
Either the room was extremely challenging, or usually everyone’s day-drunk by the time they make it to the escape room. The gamemaster told us that we were only the 7th group to beat it in 4 months!
Some of the puzzles were decent, but the cluing was poor for most of them. There was also one long, repetitive process puzzle… and the more we did of of it, the more we couldn’t help but think, “come on, why would all the crew members on the ship SPOILER REDACTED?!”
Who was “gamemastering” the experience?
One of the entertainment staff members was the gamemaster. We recognized her from other events around the ship. She stayed in the room the whole time, unenthusiastically giving hints and minor plot progression. Having multiple jobs to do around the ship every day is probably detrimental to quality gamemastering.
It was evident that the gamemaster didn’t have passion, hint-giving skills, or thorough knowledge of the game. (She had to call someone at one point to get the answer for a nonfunctional puzzle.)
Did the gamemaster give the players any background on Puzzle Break, the creators of the game, or other escape rooms?
There was a video-based introduction to the scenario and standard escape room gameplay (i.e. don’t use force.) We don’t remember any mention of Puzzle Break or the existence of escape rooms outside this one on the ship.
If you were on another Royal Caribbean cruise, would you book another escape room? And will the existence of an escape room on board impact your choice of future cruises?
Yes, we’d book one again… because it was a good deal at $20. It’s more affordable than most escape rooms and a fun thing to do when too sunburned for anything else! However, we would certainly consider it a nice-to-have rather than a selling point for a cruise. The chance to experience a different room aboard another ship would sway our decision only slightly.
Room Escape Artist Conclusion
Thank you, Jasmine and Stuart, for thinking through this unique escape room experience for our readers! We aren’t big cruise-takers… so the odds of us covering this game ourselves are near zero.
Escape rooms are a specialized business and a major undertaking. We respect Royal Caribbean for installing a game at all, let alone investing in something that looks good and adheres with current trends in escape room technology.
On the other hand, gamemastering is as hard as it is essential, especially when there’s a good chance that the players are a few drinks deep. It is a specialized job that necessitates training and requires practice. Maintenance should be assumed.
We love that there is an escape room available on these ships. We wish that the gamemastering and maintenance were more in line with the set design.
Finally… why in Poseidon’s name was the win rate so damn low? It’s on a cruise ship!
Last month I had the chance to run a private webcast for some of the college students participating in the Themed Entertainment Association’s National Design Competition.
These students were given 7 weeks to design and build an original 500-square-foot escape room… and they could only work in teams of 1 or 2.
During the conversation, they asked many great questions. I had set aside 45 minutes to talk to them and we ended up talking shop for 90 minutes.
Stream the Event
The presentations will happen on Friday, April 26th at noon Pacific (3pm Eastern). The awards are scheduled for 2:30pm Pacific. (This is a change from the original time of 3:30pm Pacific.)
You’ll be able to stream this on YouTube Live:
I genuinely have no idea what to expect, as based on their questions I only have vague ideas of what some of these students were hoping to create… but I am excited to see what they have produced.
What’s TEA NextGen?
According the organization’s website, “The NextGen Initiative of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) helps students and recent graduates find their way into the themed entertainment/ visitor attractions industry and facilitates TEA member companies’ ability to recruit from this fresh talent pool.”
Where is the line between what we will and won’t cover on Room Escape Artist?
We’ve grappled with this quite a bit over the years. Sometimes it’s really simple and straightforward. Sometimes it has required a lot more thought.
Ok, this one is a no-brainer. If it’s an escape room or relevant news about the industry, it’s our bread and butter.
I’m not going to belabor this.
We love immersive theatre, conventional theatre, and magic. We don’t write up these experiences, however, unless they meet some specific criteria.
The questions that we ask ourselves are:
Did we have agency?
Was the experience different because one of us was in it, instead of if someone else had bought that ticket?
Should the escape room community be aware of it?
If we don’t have agency and the experience was so on rails that substituting different participants would have zero impact on the show, then it’s not for us… unless we feel that the experience is doing something that escape room people should know about.
If it’s purely immersive theatre, then it’s the territory of our friends over at No Proscenium.
If it’s puzzley, we’re interested. We might not cover it, however, because there are lots of puzzles in the world, but we’re down to investigate it.
That said, we tend to steer clear of some of the more extreme or specialized puzzles and experiences. We might occasionally write about this kind of stuff, but there are more knowledgeable and experienced people writing about crossword puzzles or puzzle hunts like The MIT Mystery Hunt.
We’ll cover tabletop puzzle experiences… or tabletop games that really feel like puzzles. We also cover tabletop escape games, a growing category of tabletop games.
We’re big board gamers, but we don’t write about them often unless they meet the criteria above.
Video games are great… but whether or not we will cover them comes down to how much puzzle content is in them.
We started reviewing mystery flavor stuff mostly as a joke… but people seem to enjoy the content. While we usually hate the flavors of this stuff, we do have a lot of fun writing about them.
All Subject To Change
We’ll continue covering what we enjoy writing about and what people seem to respond to when we publish it.
We’ve evolved quite a bit over the past few years. I’m quite confident that much of this will change over the coming years.
It’s important to define what we are and what we aren’t. This is where we are today (1,222 blog posts over 4.5 years).
I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be delivering a talk on day 2 of The Escape Summit, a conference for escape room professionals.
Unfortunately, I’ll be traveling alone as Lisa has other commitments… so I’ll only be speaking with half of our collective brain.
599 Brealey Drive, Peterborough, ON, K9J 7B1, Canada
May 27-28, 2019
The Player Perspective
“In this talk, David Spira of RoomEscapeArtist.com will provide context and recommendations for anyone opening or operating an escape room business in 2019. People enter escape rooms from a diverse array of backgrounds. This talk will cover how the bar has been raised in this industry and pitfalls you need to look out for. It will also address strengths and weaknesses of industry players from other backgrounds; painting a picture of where this industry has evolved from and where it might go. “
Our dear friends Errol and Manda of the Room Escape Divas will each deliver talks. (If Errol doesn’t sing something, I’ll be disappointed.)
One of my favorite escape game designers, Rob Leveille from The Crux Escape Rooms, will be giving a talk as well. I’m a bit sad that we’re scheduled for the same slot because I would have liked to hear his talk… such is conference life.
There are a number of other knowledgeable folks speaking as well. It should be a great time.
Call For Teammates?
I’m trying to put together a dense schedule of games in the greater Toronto area on Sunday, May 26th.
If teaming up with me sounds like something that you’d be interested in… drop a comment or send me a message.
We’ve had many variants of this conversation over the years. I’m hoping that sharing this will reduce the frequency of this dialog:
Hopeful Creator: “Hey Room Escape Artist! I have this super awesome game concept and I’d love to get your thoughts on it!”
Us: “Sure, we love talking about nifty things.”
Over-protective Creator: “Huzzah! So… before I tell you about my super awesome thing, I need you to sign an non-disclosure agreement.”
Us: “Yeah… that’s not going to happen.”
Confounded Creator: “Wait… what?”
Us: “It’s nothing personal… we just don’t sign them. NDA’s are almost always painfully broad and we don’t have any idea what idea you’re going to tell us, so we don’t know how it would affect us. We’re not gaining anything besides interesting conversation and you’re asking us for our thoughts. Take a look at our site. We don’t publish gossip… and whatever you’re going to tell us, I can guarantee we’ve kept far more sensitive secrets that other creators have shared with us.”
Hopeful Creator: “I see… so you won’t write about it or tell anyone?”
Us: “Yup. We don’t trade in gossip. We sat on this story even though it was to our own financial detriment to do so. We’d love to hear what you’re working on, but if you can’t tell us, we totally understand.”
Creator: “Ok. So here’s what I’m working on…”
We’re down to talk. We aren’t introducing legal entanglements to our conversations.
We’re going to cover a range of ethical issues and I’d expect some good… productive arguments.
We’ll be on stage early again to talk about operating an escape room in 2019.
This seminar is also free (included with your ticket.)
Setting Expectations for Escape Room Design in 2019
9am – 10am
We will cover how haunted attraction owners have raised the bar and pitfalls they need to look out for. We will also address strengths and weaknesses of industry players from other backgrounds, painting a picture of where this industry has evolved from and where it might go.
The talk is written. It’s been rehearsed. We’re ready for this.
Find us at the escape room mixer on Saturday evening.
5:15 pm – 7:15 pm
Holiday Inn, Broadway/ Washington Rooms
Free to attendees; cash bar
Stop by the San Antonio Escape Room Conference Lounge, booth 3029, located in Escape Room City. We’ll be hanging out there in between seminars and exploring the show floor.
We’re looking for interesting conversation. Come find us. We’d love to chat.
Throw Throw Burrito is coming soon. It has far exceeded its Kickstarter goal… and you can still back it. Game designer Elan Lee is an avid escape room player. We beta tested it at an escape room enthusiast gathering we attended in Los Angeles last summer.
The 2019 Cryptex Hunt begins on Friday, March 1 at 9pm Eastern. Play online and through Cluekeeper. It’s free! And yes, there will be prizes! The first person to complete the whole hunt with no hints wins a Nevins Bolivian Rosewood Cryptex. There also will be a drawing among all those who complete the full hunt by March 31 for a standard Cryptex.
Ticket sales are open for Escape, Immerse, Explore: The Palace. Visit Palace Games with us June 1-3, 2019. On this tour you will play 4 incredible escape rooms, including the Golden Lock-In Award-winning The Edison Escape Room. If you’re a traveling player, this is your chance to visit Palace Games!
Escape Effect just opened a new 2-hour game called A Knight to Escape.
New Orleans, LA
Ticket sales are open for Escape, Immerse, Explore: New Orleans 2019. Join us July 12-14, 2019 to visit some of the most amazing escape rooms in the world including multiple Golden Lock-In Award winners such as 13th Gate Escape’s Cutthroat Cavern. Last summer’s tour to New Orleans sold out, but we didn’t want anyone to be left out, so we brought it back again for 2019!
Hidden Key Escape Games is opening its third game Saving Camelot. King Arthur and the Knights are away when Mordred attacks. Can you unlock the secrets to release Excalibur for the King?
One Before is now open in Brooklyn. This is a non-fiction genealogical escape room/ fine art gallery is in the heart of a thriving Jewish community. The ideas project universally and they welcome players of all backgrounds and faiths.
Halo Outpost Discovery is going to have a traveling Halo experience that will include an escape room-style experience called Covenant Escape where players explore a reclaimed section of a Covenant ship. It will travel to Orlando, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, and Anaheim this July and August.
We agree with this list of escape room pet peeves, compiled by Nate Martin, owner of Puzzle Break in Seattle, WA.
We expound upon one of them in this longer piece about red herrings.
Niall Horan & Julia Michaels must escape a room on the Late Late Show with James Corden to perform their song.