The Good The Bad and the Ugly about Escape Room Tech
There’s the bottom basement standard lock and key in one singular room with paper puzzles and hardware store combination locks, versus the high tech, high production value, multi room, expensive escape rooms. Will we keep this diverse escape room industry picture, or will we soon be forever changed by the million dollar players club?
I’m an avid escape room enthusiast (read total escape room nut job), as well as an escape room owner. In March 2016 I opened up Exit Strategy Games in Elk Grove, CA. I have over 55 escape rooms under my belt at this point and I’m still going strong making my way toward 100 escape rooms in record time. That being said, in the short amount of time that I’ve been doing escape rooms, I’ve seen this business wildly change.
People have been rushing into the market (myself included), because you could build a relatively cheap escape room and start making money. Some goodwill furniture and some Home Depot locks would do the trick. Add a Groupon and you could start churning out happy escape room customers. I know and like most of the escape room owners in Sacramento, so due to my multiple bias thoughts I’ll keep my examples strictly to Los Angeles, CA, home to so many escape rooms I lost count.
The battle lines have been drawn and war will continue to rage on for high and low tech escape rooms. Here are some examples of this on going tech battle.
GOOD HIGH TECH: 60out in Los Angeles is a wildly popular escape room, named by Forbes magazine as one of the best in LA. Considering I’ve done the majority of their rooms, I’d have to agree. Rumor has it, they allegedly spent upwards of about $140,000 per room, and let me tell you, IT SHOWS! The tech and set design couldn’t be beat. Want to know the issue though? When you’re spending that much on tech, you can’t have 1,000 puzzles like the lock and key places. I did half of their rooms with only one other person, and the other half with a big group. When it was just the two of us, I felt like a rock star solving their maybe 6 total elaborate puzzles. I marveled at their set designs and coveted their tech. When there was a group of about 5 of us, my tiny slow pea sized brain couldn’t keep up with my smarter counterparts and I twiddled my thumbs with nothing to do for most of the game. Want to know another issue? Two of their rooms had somewhat major tech malfunctions. The guy had to come in to reset the rooms, or open the door for us. Total bummer, but sometimes that happens in high tech rooms. At the set design more than made up for the tech malfunctions.
GOOD LOW TECH: Then you take a place like Horror Escapes LA which has virtually no tech, it’s in a scuzzy warehouse place in LA, (a place after my own heart!) and the production value is relatively low (wooden build outs and tons of locks can still get a little pricey,) with a very home made feel to it. BUT you walk out of there feeling accomplished and excited. The clever thoughtful lock and key puzzles are interesting, someone always has something to do, and there are no tech malfunctions to ruin your game. If there’s no tech, then the puzzles rely on their sheer numbers and cleverness to solve. Even with an unpolished barely put together feel, the emotional pay off for completing a room like this can’t be beat. We walked out of here happy as little clams, despite there not being any tech.
BAD HIGH TECH: Then you have the bad examples of tech (supposedly). Escape Hotel Hollywood allegedly spent $2 million dollars on their entire build out. And they have the WORST escape room reviews I’ve ever seen on Yelp. They paired with a media giant and produced the ever popular Exorcist room for a very expensive ticket price. Granted, I’ve never actually been there so this synopsis might be premature. I almost went to one of their escape rooms, but after reading their reviews I decided not to. Their prices are high, and apparently they threw all of their money into the lobby and making tech puzzles that were not tested and they didn’t think of clever puzzles but rather made tech and threw in the puzzles afterwards. I might spend the money eventually to go visit them at least once, but their Yelp reviews have me running pretty far away right now.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Well, there is none. We’ll have to sit back, relax and watch the exciting world of Escape Rooms unfold before us. We’ll see if the low budget lock and key places will find their niche with possibly lower ticket prices, while the giant million dollar rooms pop up here and there and we test their tech against the low tech Groupon rooms.