A big hello to any first time readers borne out of our meeting on Wednesday. I used to post here quite regularly. Please have a rummage through the archives, you might find something of note. An only slightly smaller hello to everyone else.
What happened on Wednesday? I attended the first ever UK Escape Games Unconference, dubbed The Great Escape UK, and tweeted about using #EscGamesUK. Heading there with intrigue but unsure what to expect, I was delighted to find a couple of familiar faces and a whole group of new friends keen to talk about all kinds of interesting topics. Exit Games has already given a great account of how the day played out, so instead I’ll summarise some of the discussions I was involved in (the ‘official’ accounts will hopefully follow soon):
How else to start than forming into teams and solving puzzles? Mainly mentioned because our team won. *gloat* With thanks and props to Ed from Breakout, Brad from Escape Newcastle and John from Museum Games.
1. What other puzzles adventures exist?
AKA, what are other fun things that you’re aware of that fellow escape enthusiasts might like?
Puzzle hunts – Like treasure hunts, but with all the answers/next instructions locked behind puzzles. The MIT Mystery Hunt is perhaps the most famous example, but I know from having friends who have played (and won) it, it’s at a difficulty level beyond mere mortals. Maybe one day. Much more accessible are things like DASH, which is hopefully returning to London in April (in which case hopefully I’ll be returning as well, if I can find some team-mates).
Puzzled Pint – Like a pub quiz, but with puzzles instead of questions. It happens in London and many other cities around the world. There seemed to be some genuine interest in expanding it to other cities. I might even be taking it on in Manchester…
Megagames – It’s a loosely defined term, but it’s basically trying to play some kind of game with a crazy number of players (20-300). Some of them are wargames, some are political. Some are historical, some are fantasy/sci-fi. They happen quite frequently in London. In the future they’ll be more frequent in the North of England. They happen in other places across the UK and all around the world as well.
2. Mobile Escape Games
People are making them work in all kinds of different ways. Agent November can take a game to any room or play in the great outdoors. Pop Up Puzzle Rooms has been offering experiences at county fairs or can even come to your home. Our German visitors from Exit Games (no, not that one), Mystery-Rooms and Exit Ventures are having success with corporate clients, setting up at their offices or other venues to suit. Time Games have worked with universities in both a social and educational capacity.
All great examples of what can be achieved by slightly tweaking the idea.
3. Escape Rooms and Geocaching
This topic could possibly have been included in discussion #1, but did allow us, thanks to Exit Games Scotland, to go into a bit more detail. Geocaching is about finding things hidden in the world all around us. Usually a little book to write your name in and say you found it. But beyond just scavenging via GPS there are hunts you can go on, and puzzles to break both online and in the real world. Those make it even closer to the world of escape gaming.
Enthused by the idea, I actually went geocaching as part of my bike ride on Thursday. Unfortunately, despite looking for two separate caches, I still haven’t found my first. But I’m interested enough to try again at some point.
4. What’s missing from the Escape Game community?
Probably the highlight of the day for me (and not just because I came up with the heading). We have escape game operators. We have news sites. We have review sites. We now have an unconference. But what don’t we have what people would like? It turns out quite a lot actually:
A trade show – A chance for operators, suppliers, possibly-related industries and enthusiasts to get together on a grand stage. It turns out a venue in London has already offered to host something like this, so now we just need to fill in the blanks.
A national/international competition/championship – A chance to claim the title of best escapers in the UK/world, and gain publicity and interest for the topic. Not sure exactly how it would work but seems interesting.
An escape game social network (Strava for escaping) – Publicise your escapes and their times to your friends and vice-versa. Add ratings for difficulty and enjoyment and start to generate more reliable crowd-sourced rankings rather than just Trip Advisor reviews or one particular reviewer’s thoughts. I’d be happily rendered redundant by this as it sounds awesome. Just need someone with the knowhow to take it on.
A UK-specific community – There are a number of Facebook groups already but they tend to get a little US-dominated (it’s almost like there’s more of them). A UK escape room owners group has been created already. I’d like to see a UK Escape Enthusiasts group follow it shortly. I’m not sure what we’ll talk about but I’m sure we’ll come up with something.
A podcast or video channel – Not sure if there’s an audience for this or not, but it sounds like fun so let’s make it happen!
And that’s just what I picked up from the tables I was at. Lots and lots to think about and discuss further (please continue the discussion below or on Twitter). Thanks to Liz and Toby for organising it. It really was a great day.