Escape Room Owners September Meetup in Leeds

This third meet-up for the UK Escape Room Industry welcomes anyone involved in running, designing, or creating Escape Room Games in the UK, or associated industries. We also welcome keen players, as long as they promise not to rip out the fixtures and fittings in search of clues. We also allow suppliers to attend in the spirit of sharing not selling. So in that spirit please pass this invitation on.

Our quarterly Unconference returns to Leeds. Everyone can propose a session on the day, on anything they like, people signup for whatever tickles their fancy, then the agenda is decided as we go along.

Cost will be £28 including lunch and refreshments. If you have special dietary needs let me know.

Some offerings include a report back from the first Chicago Escape Room Conference, and an offering (from me) on Curiosity and Player Motivation and how it impacts Room Design – a summary of a week-long symposium on Game Design at Utrecht University (actually more fun than it sounds).

If you have any other ideas for presentations, workshops, or just round table chats (and everything becomes a round table chat) please let me know.

Dock 29 will be our home for the day, there’s plenty of parking at the Royal Armouries car park. Or arrive by train and catch one of Dock 29’s free water taxis from the south entrance of the rail station. If enough of us book we will have exclusive use, otherwise we’ll have a section cordoned off like the VIPs we are.

There will be a free evening game and workshop on creating pop-ups for a location by Time Games the day before (Monday 5th) for those interested. PLEASE MAKE IT CLEAR YOU WOULD LIKE TO ATTEND on the booking form.

The last conference sold out at 70 people, so grab your place.

Book for the Escape Room Owners unconference here.

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Code-X Leeds Escape Room – sneak peak!

Can you defeat our team challenge? Live Escape Room booking now.


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12 Reasons to Love a Briefcase (I’m talking Escape Room Design)

I never thought I’d be writing a blogpost with this title. In fact, I’m really letting my inner nerd out here. But I have to share.

I just love a briefcase. Even though I have a garage full of plain boxes with just a hasp and staple alongside every permutation and combination of padlock available, the briefcase is the prop I turn to for teaching Escape Room Design.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s mobile, easy for the players to move around with them, so you can give them it early and let them run with it.
  2. Speaking of which, you can even give it to them before the game starts, or pass it on to them to carry during a mobile escape game or urban hunt.
  3. They know what to do with it, and though one three digit lock is simple to brute force, two makes people pause for thought.
  4. It is naturally a container, so can keep papers and other contents neat and tidy, and it looks important too. e.g. If you have to have a book as a clue, putting it in a briefcase gives it a bit more respect and relevance.
  5. Room for lots of other helpful stuff such as packets of sweets for motivation and dry wipe boards for solving problems, tools or a calculator (how often do your players forget what 2+2 equals in the heat of the moment?)
  6. You can use more complicated puzzles because you can work through an example problem and solve for the left hand lock, so then they can work through the problem to solve for the right hand lock.
  7. It’s a “character” prop – prompting: who did it belong to? what stickers and markings are on it and why? is there a label? what else do the contents reveal about the owner? Fake passports, plane tickets, mobile phone, locked USB drive, etc. Lots of opportunities for expanding the narrative.
  8. They are a relatively cheap prop. They can be bought new from less than £15 from Amazon, ebay and elsewhere.
  9. The combination locks are easy to change.
  10. Put a light inside one, and then take a picture of someone opening it. Very Pulp Fiction/Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  11. You can use them for storage when they are in storage. I label up my briefcases and keep my smaller props and padlocks in them.

And finally . . .

  1. Put a whole “Escape Room” inside a briefcase. I’ve run pop-up events and classroom sessions armed only with a briefcase full of other padlocked containers and puzzles, and they’re easy for me to port about too. It’s a great way to start people off on escape room narrative design, giving them a briefcase with the brief “What’s in it?” and “Why?” and “How are the players going to get it open?”

(Might try this one as an ice-breaker at the next Escape Room Unconference.)

Have I missed a cunning trick for using a briefcase in an Escape Room? Let me know in the comments.

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Escape Room Leeds play-testers – Thank you!

So many of the playtesters for our new escape room in Leeds are bloggers, escape room owners, and escape room addicts, that we wanted a place to share their work.

Alongside a big THANK YOU! we thought we’d add links to their blogs, reviews, twitter accounts etc, so we can continue to share our escape game habit.

You can also leave a review or link in the comments below, and we’ll scoop it up into the main article.

Up first BritOfAnEscapeHabit written by the puzzle-mistress herself Amy Elizabeth Duggan – a new blog but building fast. You can also find Amy on Twitter: @Britofanescape and Instagram: @britofanescapehabit



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Announcing our latest Escape Room in Leeds

We’re excited to announce our pop-up escape room at Leeds Dock: Code-X.

Running from 15th July throughout the Summer, bring your friends and family to unearth a mystery.

What have a group of builders discovered beneath Leeds Dock?

Why are they trying to hide what they found?

Will you solve the puzzles, crack the locks and escape in just 60 minutes?

Whether you are new to escape rooms, or an escape room addict, you’ll find this immersive adventure a fantastic escape from the real world, and tonnes of fun.

Book Now.


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Games: 3 Ideas from the new kid.

Being new to developing and making games I have learnt many lessons in the past few months. One thing I have come to believe is that people have to win.

Whether you are making a game as a induction into a library or designing an hour long escape game, you have to ensure that it’s possible. The feeling of joy when walking out from a building knowing you have completed the game and that it’s all over is something that the player needs. On rare occasions a “if I just did that a bit more…I could have just about done it!” is a good feeling, but it never tops the “YES!” I just finished that. The feeling you get Happy team
when you finally end the challenge that was set can be gratifying because of the effort and time you put in or the nice feeling when the narrative is over and all loose ends are tied. In the end a game is something designed to be completed (eventually), so finding a point where you either complete it or almost do is something that’ll get good reviews.

Another thing not to forget; it’s better for a part of your game to be too easy rather than too hard.

When designing a game, your thoughts can often turn to how you don’t want it to be over in a flash. That’s true, but from the perspective of someone new to games, they don’t want to get frustrated at something too hard. Again, whether this is aEscape room angry puzzle with clues that people can’t get their heads around or one where there is a huge difficulty spike (whatever format your game is in), players hate the feeling of being stuck on one problem with no way of solving it, even if it makes sense to some. So this is again finding the point where people can look at something or grab a controller and have enough time with that section without losing their cool or giving up.

Another piece of advice is always test a game. No matter what you make, something will probably go wrong eventually and better in a test than Talkingwhen in full swing. Whether it’s only a hiccup or a full blown catastrophe, being around people who understand that what you have made isn’t finished will provide a much more conducive atmosphere to getting your game back on it’s feet. Even if nothing goes wrong, once you’ve seen what happens and how people play it you can rest a little easier.

Most things on this list may seem simple, but they are what makes a good game great and a great game even better. By using these points to ensure people aren’t put off you can focus on making the experience the one you want to deliver to everyone.


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Go analogue talk and thoughts

Having watched this fascinating TEDx talk by Matthew Duplessie on how to create a truly interactive experience, Toby Jones voiced some of his ideas.

* The cost of the experience (amount of technology) doesn’t correlate to the enjoyment
* People love torches and light beams, as much as huge effects like droping ceilings
* People do not like having to have courage or strength, and they don’t much like mazes
* People love spectacular experiences – large scale visuals
* People love “being the hero”
* People love being challenged, but not too much


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5 cool things at Random String

Random StringWe sent our newest member of the team, Farne, to Random String. A symposium hosted by Ludic Rooms, where creative professionals and artists came together to learn how technology could be used within their process and field of work.

Having arrived at Warwick Arts Centre, it was clear that this was an event for creative people to use technology, because even the badges were produced by selecting an algorithm on a macbook and then using this to create a pattern of dots, with everyone’s being different.

I found that technology can be used by writers, musicians and artists, sometimes covering all three at once like in Algoraves, a feature shown by Dom Hett. Dom is now a freelance coder and artist, having quit his job that week (so get in touch!). Algoraves combine coding, music and artwork in a live event which is all controlled by code. It certainly shows something considered boring and dull can be a creative outlet.


The talks by Leila Johnston involved her telling us about how when working with the crème of the creative crop at Rambert Dance school (one of the top dancing schools in the country), technology can still be used in a way which they find interesting, such as using an infra-red camera to capture their movements to help them with co-ordination and to show other very creative people how they use technology to create something alongside what they normally make.

Antonio Roberts uses technology to create works of art. ‘Glitch art’ is something that blurs the lines between tech and creativity. It is very detailed artwork, often with an underlying political context such as how artist relate to copyright. This caused Antonio to be commissioned to create a MTV logo video used on national television, a video worth watching to see how artistic complexity can be shown via technology.

Why does a circuit have to be straightforward? Paint that can be a part of a circuit, making the paint a button, is something has been developed at Bare Conductive. This paint can be fully integrated into any circuit. The touch board is another innovation, a board which controls sound, a certain connection when triggered will make a certain sound. This technology can work very creatively as shown by the video above showing both the sound board and paint in action.

random-string Random String was a day full of creative people showing how to make the most from technology. Key ideas about what to do was a key feature with savvy advice, like to always start a project with the people and not the technology. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and will be there again next year. Until then I highly encourage readers to sign up to the newsletter and have a look at their blog. Thank you Ludic Rooms and thank you Dom. 

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How to create a Puzzle Room in a Box

Learn how to create your own Locked Box Mystery Game

Sunday 6th March – 11am-1pm

£6/4 in advance, £7/5 on the door

Otley Courthouse on a sunny day

We’re excited to be leading a workshop at Otley’s “Courthouse Words” festival in March.  Attendees will get to try a locked box mystery in teams before having a go at creating their own.

Led by Liz & Catherine Cable, this 2 hour workshop will get you making your own locked box mystery game.  Learn how Escape Rooms create their puzzles, and then make a set of five puzzles to confuse and confound your friends and family.  Will they discover the secrets within your Locked Box Mystery?  Or will they run out of time…?

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#EscGamesUK – a roundup of our first Escape Room UnConference

Just a quick note to give a shout out to all the great guys who travelled to Leeds for the inaugural Great Escape Unconference. We had a buzzing room, and I was delighted with the levels of honesty and generosity from everyone attending. The sheer scale of peoples’ achievements, ambitions and hopes for their rooms was inspiring. In particular, I felt a deep connection with all those discussing the importance of narrative and immersion alongside customer service.

So in no particular order, here are the Escape Room folks I talked to on the day:

Nathan, the man with a plan from Agent November  – running London-based outdoor spy trails, indoor escape rooms, and planning the break the Guinness World Record for organising the world’s biggest treasure hunt this August. Two other mobile room runners argued the business case for no-fixed-address: Steve who runs Puzzle Rooms –  the first and only escape room experience in East Anglia, and my Time Games colleague Toby who got on his bike to launch his business in Utrecht.

We had four folks from Breakout in Manchester and Liverpool including Ed & Chelsea who volunteered to host us in future – so we may get the chance to do a full puzzle room as part of a Manchester event.

Thank you to Zoli of ClueQuest London, who we should all thank for being one of the first to bring the Escape Room concept here from Europe – as well as his impromptu and very welcome sponsorship of the event in the form of free pens!

Jas and Jordan were representing Escape Live Birmingham – one of their Birmingham-based games is a hostage rescue mission, which I’m tempted to travel and try.

Elaine and Mike from Escape Quest shared their experience as seasoned Escape Room owners, and as well as being very generous with their advice for newcomers, they aren’t afraid to shake it up a little closer to home: their infamous scary “Bad Clown” game has been redesigned and revamped as a 90-minute version with live actors for adults, and a toned-down 60-minute game for the younger audience, just relaunched in Macclesfield.

Loving the steampunk vibe from Escapologic, Matt and Simon spent time with Jackie of Escape Games Scotland talking geocaching whilst our german visitors from Exit Games, Mystery Rooms and Exit Ventures caught up over that North of England speciality – fish-finger butties.  Tia from Timehunter spent much of the time scribing  (Thank you Tia!) – we hope to get all your notes gathered soon.

Honourable mention to top blogger Claire of Girl Geek Up North with 30+ live action games under her belt, whose opinions on what makes a good experience were practical and useful – I’m looking forward to her blogpost about the day.

Similarly Chris, whose data-collecting and crunching sets the stage for serious industry conversations – find him and all the latest Escape Room News at the Exit Games blog.

It was good to meet John Sear and talk about immersive theatre, massive group games, and all the cross-overs between the arts and live gaming. My passion is creating immersive stories, so this is a conversation I hope to continue soon.

We’re aware that the Escape Room Industry is young, and the majority of customers are first-timers treating rooms as tourist attractions or fun fairs. We know that for the industry to grow we need to encourage repeat visits – and this is one of the reasons we have set up UK Escape Room Owners on Facebook – do come join us to continue the conversation.

Last but not least, good luck to Dan and his erstwhile builders Matt & Luke whose “Hour Escape” game is launching soon.

If I’ve missed you, let me know – so many people, so many ideas.

Thank you all, see you on the UK Escape Room owners group, and at the next one?


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