The latest links

A golden chain of linksRather than contrive a connection, perhaps it’s best to be blunt and just say that this site thinks the subjects of these links are cool and hopefully you may do too. Let’s start with some interactive theatre.

  • The Lowland Clearances has been running at the Camden People’s Theatre daily at weekends for the last two weeks and does so again this weekend; indeed, the Sunday performance is sold out already, so it’s Saturday or bust, hoping for repeats down the line. This is explicitly playable theatre, happy to describe itself as live role-playing, safe in the knowledge that the intended audience knows that live role-playing doesn’t necessarily imply rubber weapons in the woods, as fun as that is. It’s a game about city-building and use of space and this review makes it sound spectacular. Kudos to Hobo Theatre for putting it on and to Camden People’s Theatre for hosting it; more, please!
  • Further down the line, A Door In A Wall Have announced an attractively-priced preview for their next public event. This one is set indoors, rather than being a trail around town as they have used in the past. This preview has no marking of answers and declaration of a winner, which hints that you will effectively be invited to decide whether your interpretation and understanding of the story is sufficient for you as a metric for success. It’s not yet clear whether this non-scoring system is a one-off for the preview or the plan for the final version of this piece.
  • Further still, the Sedos theatre company are putting on Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On for two weeks in mid-April, billing itself as an “immersive adventure through Shakespeare’s final play“. In this, “The Docklands Shakespeare Society has invited respected Shakespeare historian Dr. Bianca Corbin to speak at an evening of recitation, interpretive dance and song ((…)) Four hundred years after William Shakespeare’s death, his final play, The Tempest, and the Bard himself both come to life on a lost and forgotten island… only, not quite in the way he remembers writing it… ((…)) Sedos’ first immersive theatre production takes 15,000 sq ft of a building in London’s Docklands and brings the world of The Tempest to life in a celebration of Shakespeare’s life and works. Audiences will be able to explore the island unguided, hear its sweet and sinister noises, sit in Prospero’s armchair, drink with Stephano and Trinculo and follow the spirits of the island as they torment and entertain the island’s mysterious inhabitants.” Sounds like this may pack a punch. *blows dog-whistle*

What else is cool right now? This little lot:

  • A Kickstarter campaign that has recently funded but still has a week left to go is Puzzle Your Kids! promoted by Eric Berlin, who has a long and storied track record. Subscribe and receive weekly word puzzles for kids aged nine and up! Might be a little US culture-specific, but that’s the worst thing that’s likely to be said about it. If the campaign reaches a stretch goal, everyone will get weekly logic puzzles as well, and there are occasional kid-friendly puzzle hunts (six to ten thematic puzzles plus a meta-puzzle) planned as well.
  • This site wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as a preview site for crowdfunding projects, but apparently there is and a crowdfunding project called Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment is coming soon. (Very soon, depending on time zones and how quickly Kickstarter move.) US$45 plus potentially considerable shipping and you’ll get a box of puzzles sent to you for you to solve with your friends in a self-assessed hour time limit. The makers have anticipated replay concerns and are heading them off at the pass with plans for a refill pack so that multiple teams might each be able to enjoy the same single box. As Liz Cable pointed out, this is something of a renaissance of play-by-mail gaming. Back in The Day, if you wanted to play a game designed to be played by far more people than you could fit around a table, you had to play games postally; it was a little like a MMORPG with a latency measured in days rather than tens of milliseconds and bandwidth measured in… well, in elastic bands. These days games are playing to their strengths by sending through serious physical artefacts that cannot be transmitted electronically. Looks exciting, anyhow. Many thanks to Ken for pointing this out.
  • World of Escapes is another UK exit game directory with the distinguishing feature that you can provide user ratings, not for sites as a whole but for individual rooms at each site. It also looks rather smart. Many thanks to Ken for pointing this out.
  • It would be an exaggeration to suggest that this site has wish-grumbled this into existence, but an entertaining exaggeration. The Logic Escapes Me now has a beta version of a reviews aggregator for London escape games – and, if you’ve played more than a handful of them, you can have your ratings included in the aggregation as well. This is a very exciting development and a suggestion of what the future might look like – perhaps a more critical TripAdvisor where you can have reason to take the reviews without a large pinch of salt. Many thanks to Ken for working this out.
  • Intervirals recently pointed to Somewhere Secret in Fort Collins, Colorado; this pay-what-you-want exit game (cool for the pricing alone!) sees people try to open a treasure chest. Inside the chest is a map; winning teams get to take a copy away and are then invited to follow it to obtain a token hidden somewhere in Colorado that might be exchanged for a real prize. This doesn’t need monetary value; by the height of adventure alone, this is beautifully cool already.

Surely something there to tickle your toes!

News round-up for mid-January 2016

News round-upThis site is off to the unconference called The Great Escape UK today, so here are some news stories that have been queued up for a little while. There may be live coverage on Twitter with #EscGamesUK, but no guarantees.

  • Congratulations to Kelly and Alyson who became engaged to each other before Christmas at Escape Rooms Scotland! A report on Facebook suggests that Kelly had no idea, making the surprise proposal even sweeter. The best of health and happiness all round!
  • Clue HQ have already revealed that their next branch to open will be in Birmingham; even before launch, the Birmingham Post have a big piece on the forthcoming site. The suggestion that it might hold 36 guests gives a clear hint as to the ambition behind the location, suggesting it’s clearly one to watch.
  • Puzzlair of Bristol are also in the news as the Bristol Post visited the attraction and had “a great night out“. The reporter also noted that they had played Locked In A Room a few weeks earlier, so this site now has a favourite Bristol local newspaper. Some day the national press will start reviewing rooms and games…
  • Escape Asylum of Leicester are planning to launch in March but are already being covered in a piece in the Leicester Mercury that gives good detail about the founders’ backgrounds and starting-points and – along with the video – will give you a clear idea whether it’s the game for you. The site is set to launch whether or not its crowdfunding campaign reaches its goal; East Midlanders who like darker games should get in early and perhaps quickly pick up a discount.
  • Thanks to Ken for that one and for this: speaking of Kickstarter, there’s a campaign for a site in Preston called Timed Trap. While the campaign hasn’t got off to the best of starts, it’s far from unknown for an exit game to struggle with crowdfunding and then thrive in the fullness of time, so it’s definitely one to keep on the radar.
  • Further afield, the Brantford Expositor of Canada – and compare Expositor to Post and Mercury! – featured a piece on the BreakoutEDU Game Jam this weekend. Looks like an excellent time was had by all; it’s also exciting to read that there are more to come.
  • Even further afield still, Intervirals points to a panel on exit games at the PAX Australia convention in Melbourne. It takes a little listening, but fun to hear how they do it down under!

Good news for mid-December 2015

Cartoon of people reading newspapers and a bookToday feels like a day where three cheerful news stories would not go amiss.

The Room of Glasgow are distinctive for reasons including the sizes of the largest games that they offer; their Mansion Room game is designed for teams of 8 to 16 (though there may be some wiggle room) and their Party Room for teams of 10 to 16. Throughout December, there are a number of promotions being launched “by the resident elves”, notably a discount code available for those playing up to December 20th. The most delightful initiative is this one; as discussed on Facebook: “On the 16th of December, we will be hosting a Charity Day. We are offering 3 Party Room games for free for groups of disadvantaged children (from an orphanage, care home, or from poor families). We would like to give the gift of fun to these kids for Christmas, the way we can. We want to give back to the community, and thought it would be great to surprise kids with some caring and fun.” How kind! Exit Games UK commends the site on this thoughtful – and original! – gesture.

Breakout Manchester have launched a second site within the city centre, on the High Street near the Arndale shopping complex. (It’s about eight minutes’ walk from their first location, which remains open.) The new location will feature another John Monroe’s Detective Office, with a new room entitled Vacancy opening tomorrow – “Exhausted after a long journey, you place your bag down on the freshly made bed, ready to relax. Suddenly, an ominous sixty minute countdown begins. No matter what you try, the door will not open. Welcome to Crimson Lake Motel. You check in, but you NEVER check out…” – and a horror-themed Facility X room for players aged 16+ opening soon. “You arrive at an unknown location for a once in a lifetime opportunity; a conference held by the critically acclaimed, Dr. Andrews. His work is widely known throughout the research circles, but he has remained hidden in the shadows for years. What you don’t know, is that Dr. Andrews has gone mad, creating a string of tests that have gone disastrously wrong. He has brought you here for his final experiment.” A fourth room on the site is promised for January, and that’s not all; this new location is a big old space and there may very well be more to come.

Jackie from Locked In Edinburgh got in touch to enthuse about their second room. “Our theme has stemmed from having Pickering’s Gin Distillery sited directly below our escape rooms.” Exit Games UK loves games with local flavour, no pun intended, so the localism here is hard to beat. “The distillery reported a breakin which is thought to be an inside job. Which employee is plotting the distillery downfall and to where are Pickerings planning to move their gin stock for safe keeping? ((…)) A tour of the distillery can be incorporated, although probably best after players escape as the tour includes gin samples which may cloud people’s thinking heads!

Here’s a bonus cheerful news item, not related to exit games: while the shortest day of the year doesn’t happen for nearly another week, we’ve already reached the point in the year where the sun is starting to set later and later. Indeed, the UK is at a point in the year where both sunrise and sunset are getting later in the day, and which one is moving more quickly determines whether the day is lengthening or shortening. Take it as a sign that we’re already making it through the winter!

Good news for the end of November

"Good News for a change!" - adapted from Rick Warden, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence

Adapted from an image by Rick Warden, released under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence,
originally created using a Flickr Commons non-copyrighted archival photo

Never enough good news stories. Never, ever enough of them.

  • Congratulations to Sofija and Artur who recently became engaged at Locked In Edinburgh; the story even made it onto STV! If you’re in the UK, you can enjoy the couple’s moment by watching a later part of this episode of The Fountainbridge Show within the next 30 days – and aired on St. Andrew’s Day, no less! This is the ninth UK exit game proposal of which this site is aware; this is the point at which these stories will continue to be joyously celebrated, but perhaps no longer counted.
  • On the subject of TV, Nick Gates of Bother’s Bar passes on a suggestion that Race to Escape is due to be broadcast in the UK, on our version of the Discovery channel, available on Sky and Virgin. A few months ago this site discussed covert ways to watch the show but this will be much more convenient, as well as – ahem – legal. This site considers it a varied, imaginative and entertaining show, though criticisms that it requires (and thus risks encouraging) horrible behaviour from exit game players do have a point.
  • Still on the subject of TV, though here it’s TV inspiring live games rather than the other way around, the live The Crystal Maze attraction is whirring into life with Indiegogo backers being able to select their tickets today and sales surely being opened up to the rest of the world very soon. With so many booking options sold during the campaign and literally thousands of people booking tickets, the booking process appears to have been a little bumpy in patches, but only a little and largely quickly resolved.
  • It’s been a bumper year for Rubik’s cube speed-solving records. Back in May, Collin Burns clocked a 5.25 second solve of a standard 3x3x3 cube to break a World Record that had lasted two years; on 21st November, Keaton Ellis improved on this with a 5.09 second solve, a new World Record. Unfortunately Keaton may go down in history alongside legendarily transient record-holder Olga Rukavishnikova, for his landmark achievement was overshadowed only about an hour or so later when Lucas Etter clocked a 4.904 to break the five-second barrier. Far better to have been the fastest that the world has ever known, even if only briefly, than never to have held the crown at all.
  • On the subject of records and prizes, Escape Manor in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, have announced on their Facebook that they’re holding an exit game design contest with a buxom prize pool of six thousand Canadian dollars; five finalists will be selected to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. “The top 3 contestants will be awarded a cash prize and a chance to help have their room developed at one of the Escape Manor locations!” This site contacted Escape Manor for comment, which has not yet been returned, as to whether entrants have to be Canadian and whether it might be possible for a finalist to pitch by videoconference should travelling to pitch in person be uneconomic. At the very last, perhaps it’s a model for design contests in the future.
  • A less geographically constrained, less competitive endeavour is the forthcoming Breakout EDU game jam on 9th-10th January 2016. Breakout EDU is a standard collection of equipment intended to help people create classroom games with something of the exit game nature to them – though normally breaking into a box, rather than breaking through a locked exit door. The standardisation of the platform means that if you design a game, anyone around the world will be able to play it; there aren’t many games available in this way yet, but this event will hopefully get people creating – and then using the created games. While the tools may be relatively frequently found, there’s no limit to the puzzles and ingenuity that might surround them; you can create games for four- and six- year olds, or anywhere up the scale to being for adults. Get designing games wherever you like, but the focus on one weekend will inspire physical events at which many people with a common goal can get together to get creating. Exciting times, and – again – perhaps a model for another part of the future!

More good news

good newsI’ve had some very bad news. It’s not relevant what it is, for those of you lucky enough not to know it, and it doesn’t affect my ability to continue keeping this going. Instead, time to share some good news.

  • Congratulations to Clue HQ Sunderland for opening their first game! The planned opening was discussed two months ago yesterday and has – very unusually – come ahead of schedule. Bunker 38 is now open, with The Vault set to follow soon. Tyneside has proved a popular location – more news to come on this soon – so hopefully Wearside works just as well. All the very warmest of wishes to them!
  • Also the very warmest of wishes to a couple whose proposal took place at Cryptic Escape of Norwich. This might be the seventh UK couple to propose at an exit game of which this site is aware; let’s hope they all remain locked tightly – no, unbreakably, together.
  • The Escape Room have been welcoming the stars: both stars on two wheels at their Manchester location and stars of the screen at their Preston branch. Their third location, planned for Birmingham, is close to announcing a launch date; who knows what stars they might be able to attract there?
  • Lastly, and further afield, this site very much enjoyed reading about the latest SCRAP Real Escape Game event in Tokyo, this one “a puzzle-solving game played while walking through the streets of Tokyo. To find your next destination, you will need to solve the mysteries you find along the way.” In other words, a self-paced puzzle hunt, running at your convenience until December 27th. Cutely, there’s a tie-up with the Tokyo Metro, and the game kit comes with a one-day travel pass to get you from location to location. “English and Traditional Chinese versions are available for this game so non-Japanese speakers who can understand English or Traditional Chinese are welcome to play the game as well!” To give this claim a try, Escape Room Directory’s Dan Egnor posted his review to Google Plus and was rather impressed. Certainly it’s among the most mainstream puzzle hunts yet!

Pop-up Round-up

Monochromatic Jack-in-the-Box graphicWho knows what you’ll find inside boxes in exit games? Ken does and this site thanks him for the information, as happens so often. Pop-ups are relatively hard to find, so here are two past stories and two future stories.

The University of Reading, for the last two years, have run a competition called Ideafest in which the university’s students pitch business ideas, first by video and then – for the five finalists – in person. This year’s competition awarded cash and mentoring prizes to the best three proposals and a proposal for an exit game claimed third prize. The proposal was for a game called Survivor for two to four players, with the distinctive feature that it would be played in a van. Sounds plausible – and if it were set in a non-roadworthy fixed van with sufficiently long wheelbase, sounds very plausible, though cold.

That was, sadly, months back. However, as recently as a week and a half ago, there was a pop-up exit game at Crawley Library as part of Geek Week. Charming – but, yeah, that’s a cap that happens to be about the right size.

Looking ahead to pop-ups that people might still have a chance of playing, the Game Development Society of the University of Essex, who have a pleasingly catholic purview of media in which they design, are putting up their “first Escape Room event“, known as Winter Escape Room, at their Colchester campus. At time of writing, if this site interprets the event’s ticketing page correctly, spaces are available at noon on Thursday 3rd December and Saturday 5th December only, but perhaps there might be Spring or Summer Escape Rooms to follow?

Lastly, again looking ahead, perhaps the most pop-up sort of game of all is one that moves around: as the URL suggests, Escape Party is an escape game for hire that will come to your party. The game can be set up either indoors or outdoors; a 15m2 space is required, perhaps a smallish back garden. Setup takes half an hour, then the moderator will run the game multiple times for up to five teams of five. If you can book for five groups of five, the price is pretty reasonable, especially if you’re in the Midlands, with groups in the south-east or London attracting a higher fee for a longer journey. The experience can’t be the same as going into a dedicated environment, but there may well be circumstances where people physically can’t get to the exit game and may well be delighted by the exit game coming to them. Thumbs firmly up for the “If You Don’t Like The Game, You Don’t Have To Pay!” guarantee, too!

Nous sommes tous Français

&heart; FranceThis site sends its love and warmest thoughts to the www.escapegame.paris and www.escapegamefrance.fr blogs – and, indeed, everyone in France, whether they’re part of the exit game industry or not.

While there’s no pretending that this is in any way, shape or form any sort of compensation for the horrid developments of the last 24 hours, this site needs to share some good news for its own benefit.

  • Congratulations on their opening to Clue HQ’s new location in Brentwood and to Extremescape of Disley in rural Cheshire. The latter is a particularly pleasant surprise as prior suggestions were that it would open in 2016, but its Pirate Ship room is already open and taking bookings. Two rooms are open in Brentwood; The Logic Escapes Me has reviewed them and raved about the location.
  • Congratulations also to Escape Live of Birmingham for winning the “Business Start Up and Enterpreneur” category in the Birmingham Post Business Awards. (Other sites have also recently made it to the final shortlists in regional business awards and also deserve their own congratulations.) Escape Live have also recently been featured in The Guardian, in an article about the genre; news of their expansion, both at their original location and at a forthcoming Essex branch, has also made the press.
  • Escape Quest of Macclesfield are celebrating their first birthday today, with three celebrated games and more on the way. Hooray!
  • Much younger, Code to Exit of Altrincham are opening their second room, The Test, today. No locks! No furniture! No other games quite like it, by the sound of things! Definitely one where this site is looking forward to the reviews.

All of this is, at best, distraction from the real issues of the day. Sometimes a little distraction isn’t so bad, though.

Good news from early November

another-adventureIt’s been a few days since the real world has permitted a chance to catch up with things here, so to get back into the swing of things, a few quick good news stories:

  • This site has covered proposals at exit games before. This site has even covered proposals at Breakout Manchester before… and more than one of them, from memory. (Can’t get enough of them, though!) However, this site hasn’t had one quite like this before. The groom, who popped the question, wrote about his day, and the moment itself has been caught and shared both as a still photo and as a video clip, in the very rare instance where sharing camera footage from the rooms is actually properly cool. Hooray! Many congratulations to the joyous couple!
  • Two and a half months ago, this site posted about Red House Mysteries and their involvement in the Chatroulette First-Person Shooter. If you happened to be on Chatroulette at the right time, perhaps you might have been lucky enough to be involved in the recently-released level two, much more spectacular still, being filmed in an abandoned power station. Congratulations all round, not least to Red House Mysteries for the timely opening of their site in Exeter.
  • Over in Leeds, Locked In Games celebrated their first anniversary not only with some rather spectacular cakes but by donating the day’s profits to a local charity. Many happy returns of the day!
  • In London, the granddaddy of them all, HintHunt are hiring an experienced site manager. Jobs are also going in New York, Vienna and Budapest, which sounds extremely exciting.
  • Having started at Breakout Manchester, a good place to end is at Breakout Liverpool, where one Daniel Sturridge and friends broke out of their Classified room. Fingers crossed that more injured footballers use exit games as part of their rehab routines.

Late October news round-up: the Foreign Office

Stylised globe encircled by a bolt of lightCloser each day… Home and Away. Following on from yesterday’s home news, here’s the remaining news from around the world.

  • Today sees the sold-out Ontario Escape Room Unconference 2015 at Ryerson University in Toronto. It is being chaired by the irrepressible Dr. Scott Nicholson, the foremost academic in the field – but, being an unconference, all fifty ticketholders are expected to actively participate. While unconferences don’t stream well, there’s a Facebook group, the Twitter hashtag #oeru15 and hopefully documentation to follow. If the unconference model proves to work well, perhaps it might be the first of many.
  • Carrying on from yesterday’s discussion of bespoke amateur games (and that’s no insult at all; the word amateur essentially derives from the Latin verb amare and refers to someone who does something for the love of it), while MIT has been famous for its annual global-cutting-edge Mystery Hunt for decades, it was delightful to see that the Next House dorm at the university have their own two-storey pop-up exit game, within a basement, over Hallowe’en for a second year. It could well be fiendish!
  • Speaking of student puzzle hunts, hadn’t previously seen mention that registration is now open for the 2015 SUMS Puzzle Hunt for teams of up to five, run in the traditional five-daily-rounds-of-increasingly-difficult puzzles Australian style with the first round being released on 2nd November.
  • Sanford, FL is a part of the Greater Orlando area possibly best known for its airport. However, they also have an exit game on a cycle limousine. Say what, now? Up to fifteen people bring their own beer and wine (in plastic containers) or soft drinks onto the human-powered vehicle and must pedal with their feet, as if on a bicycle, to propel it along. (A pilot steers the contraption.) While they’re doing that, and drinking, they have two hours to solve the pirate-themed puzzles – and get the clues from the locations to which they will pedal along the way – which will lead them to save their kidnapped captain. Can’t say it’s not original…
  • Finally, many belated congratulations to Lisa Radding and David Spira of the excellent Room Escape Artist blog on their engagement! Mission Escape Games of New York City helped by hiding a custom box made for Lisa as they (and their team!) played the location’s brand new Nemesis game (see their review) – but the fun only started there. Happily, the second half of the story has been impeccably caught in a series of photos. The very best of joy and health to you both!

Late October news round-up: the Home Office

News round-upAfter the recent round-up of sites adding new games, there are plenty of other stories that couldn’t fit in there but are far too interesting not to print. There are so many stories, in fact, that there’s got to be a home-and-away basis, so here’s the domestic news.

  • Breakout Manchester had a charity night on October 13th in association with The Big Do for The Christie cancer centre. It looks like there were two or three rounds of play, each with multiple teams taking on the rooms, and all the proceeds going to charity; in the end, the @ideasbymusic team were declared the night’s winners. Congratulations all round!
  • Exit Games UK really loved this Facebook update by Clue HQ‘s original Warrington branch. By way of backstory, in The Vault, their third game, “Your heist appears to be going smoothly until the security system comes back on! You’ve got 60 minutes to grab as much cash (in casino chips) as you can and escape!” Teams were scored by how many chips they were able to grab. Several teams were able to grab all the chips in the game except for one particular high-value jackpot; it appears that one team was so enchanted by the challenge fo trying to find all the chips that they came back again and again and were the first team to perfectly clear the room… on their fourth attempt. Kudos to them – and to the site for a game that perfectionists want to come back and play again and again.
  • Geeks in Wales have a fine article that addresses the long-standing anomaly of the principality being an exit game-free zone; Escape Rooms Cardiff have their web site up and suggest they’ll be opening in December, with early-bird discounts available by booking through their crowdfunding campaign; Breakout Live Swansea haven’t announced an opening date but may not be far off either. The Escape Rooms Cardiff has a really sensible and appropriate question that was new to this site: “What language is used? It’s kind of an international game really, as most of the puzzles and codes work without using any language.” No reason why English has to prevail, after all.
  • Also on fire is the stunning The Logic Escapes Me blog, having all sorts of fun. (Find your previews here and your reviews there… works for both of us!) Drawing attention to just two articles, you’d have had to have a heart of stone not to fall for the story about creating a tiny little game so that some kids might break open their pocket money (though, admittedly, if my folks had done that when I was six, there would probably have been tears) and the puzzle hunt created for work also sounds like a beautiful pieve of craftsmanship. Super cool!