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Why An Escape Room?

Why did we make an Escape Room? There are certainly a lot of them! Worldwide, Wikipedia has the number at 2800 venues as of 2015 and that number is only increasing. That number is scary for a new business, especially one with relatively few barriers to entry. We detailed what our company values are in our Manifesto page, but I wanted to speak personally about what the business means to me and why I wanted to open one.

My favorite gaming experience growing up was a game of How to Host a Murder that I played at my best friend's birthday party when I was 13. There were many things to like about this game, including the fact that girls were present, well OK fine, mostly because there were girls present. But I also loved that the action of the game, the engine that drove it, was social interaction (with, for instace, girls...) For those who have never played, it's part role-playing (each person acts a part in a mystery) and deduction (find the killer who is one of the participants or avoid detection if it's you.)

This generated a very different experience than arcade games or even board games. The social dynamic added two things. It made the experience shared, but it also gave the game another dimension. You could think during and afterward about how people interacted with each other and with the game itself in a robust way. You could think about what they would say, their body language, what topics they would approach other people to discuss. It was the type of experience I always wanted to repeat, role-playing, but in goal-oriented context. Homo Ludens, anybody?

Escape Rooms (or is it Escape Games? Is there a difference?) typically offer the social aspect as you have to work together to "escape" the room but I felt there was something missing, even as I enjoyed them. Escape Rooms so often felt like a team effort to do a bunch of arbitrary tasks (find the hidden code in blue light!) in an arbitrary context (to escape the room!) and so the experience was fun in the moment, but would leave me feeling hollow.I wanted that experience from my childhood, that feeling that I was somewhere else, with my friends helping to transport me there.

Going back to escape games, I liked the "group working together" aspect, but we were working together for what? So often, there was no context for our activity. The context I wanted was to feel a part of story, a world that was magical and not my own.

At Enigma HQ, and specifically The Lazarus Crystal, my desire has been to take the world-building that came from the acting parts of the How to Host a Murder and build them into the physical things we can offer our customers. Instead of relying on my friend's acting (better than mine, but that's not saying much) we generate an immersive experience through world-building in our physical sets, in our videos, and in the narrative content that we would weave through the puzzles. 


 

Brian has been in the games industry for over 20 years, first as a professional Magic player. He went on to become a professional poker player and game designer. In an effort to understand obscure technologies and lose what remaining free time he had, he opened Enigma HQ!