It’s been almost a year since my first escape room experience, and what a ride it has been. I started blogging in September when there was maybe 10 or so escape room businesses, but the market has boomed to ~45 in Ontario. With the rising popularity of escape rooms, the popularity of this blog has also increased several fold! I thought it was a good time to ‘touch base’ with readers and re-introduce myself, what I find important, and other random observations I’ve made over the year.
When I started reviewing escape rooms, I was the only doing it, and initially had the goal to review every single escape room business in Ontario. There are 4 or so dedicated groups of escape room reviewers now, so I now have the luxury of not needing to anymore. I’m in contact with the majority of them, so if I’m relatively certain a place is going to be a waste of time, I’m just going avoid it.
I picked the name EscapistTO because I thought it sounded official and rolled off the tongue. If anyone had the dedication for it, my real identity isn’t very difficult to discover.
That being said, I don’t think my identity really matters. I mean, what can they do? Make their game malfunction less?
I use parentheses way too much (and incorrectly).
I prefer 60 minute games over 45 minute games. I’m sure the logistics of making time slots is easier for businesses with the 45 minute game model, but hour-long games just feel more fufilling to me. Although most people I know feel the same way, I imagine it’s still a matter of preference, and I’m sure there are people who might enjoy 45 minute games more,
I prefer playing escape rooms with the minimum number of players. You get to see more of the game, and feel more useful! My agenda is to have fun. Businesses have the agenda of making money, and will tend to push for you to bring larger groups. Not all escape room businesses are like this, but most are.
I strongly believe that with such a large number of escape room businesses in Ontario and Toronto, giving advice on where to go is more helpful than giving advice on where not to go. Nowadays, I generally don’t bother reviewing a place that is bad (which isn’t to say that all places I don’t review are bad). I do make exceptions sometimes when I have an experience so terrible that I feel they’ve robbed me twice (making me pay money to waste my time).
I don’t like using a number rating system. Other reviewers use numbers, and power to them, but I think something is lost this way. To give an example, Claustrophobia at Trapped! is on my recommendations list because it has an interesting and unique setup. If I were to give a numerical rating to how well dressed the set-design is, it would really pale in comparison to the Haunting of Noriko at Escape Games – but that’s just not a very important aspect of Claustrophobia!
My recommendations are what I think people will enjoy. Most of the list are games for beginners, but one or two are more difficult. There are many rooms that I had fun at, but won’t necessarily recommend. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means that I’m not confident the general public will enjoy them.
I have absolutely zero patience for any business that knowingly lets players play a malfunctioning or broken game. It’s tantamount to stealing. People often tell me when they play in games with parts/mechanics that didn’t work. It’s not exactly rocket science for me to connect the dots and realize that particular places aren’t bothering to fix things.
I hate unfair games. I would describe fair as winning (or losing) based on my own merit. Losing because of something outside your control is not fun.
I like narrative. I wish more escape rooms would have a story unfold as you played. I love talking about escape rooms, so I’ve talked to people all over the world about their respective escape rooms, and it’s a consistent complaint almost everywhere. Hopefully this improves in 2015!
A lot of escape room businesses are run by Chinese staff. If your staff does not speak English well, then English speaking customers are just generally not going to have as good of a time. If a business is limiting their revenue to only Chinese speaking customers, it’s really missing out. Hire English speaking staff! For the record, I am Chinese.
Surprisingly, I think escape room designers do not visit enough of their competitors. I don’t think there’s anything underhanded about it. It only makes sense that you know what the market is like, and what customers can get for X amount of dollars. You can call it your R&D budget and have a legitimate excuse to have fun.