My name is Nate Martin. I am the co-founder and CEO of Puzzle Break. And tonight, I am packing. More accurately, I am preparing to pack, which is at least 50% of the process. For what am I packing? Good question.
Back in late 2014, I entered discussions with the folks at Royal Caribbean Cruise Line about putting our games on their ships. To my mind, it was a great fit. Having cruised several times in the past, I knew first hand how hard it can be to meet like-minded folks on a floating cityscape. Escape rooms and team puzzle games are enormously fun group activities and a great way to meet new friends. The Royal folks wanted to take our stuff for a test drive before they made any decisions, so we packed up an entire escape room in a few boxes and flew to beautiful, exotic, and tropical New Jersey to do a demo game for their Captain and Cruise Director conference.
This was a real trial-by-fire. You see, each captain and cruise director are effectively CEOs of massive organizations. They answer to no one, and generally have extremely strong personalities.
EDUCATIONAL ASIDE: You might call them “Type A” personalities, but I hate this term. True fact: Type A and Type B personalities were invented by doctors hired by the tobacco industry as a way to demonstrate people who smoked a whole bunch were having heart attacks because of their personality, rather than, you know, smoking a whole bunch.
ANYWAY: Strong bullheaded audience. This is particularly relevant because a successful and entertaining room escape experience is almost always hallmarked by prodigious teamwork facilitated by the willingness to take orders. These folks were not in the habit of taking orders, and their having a great time was going to matter a great deal; Royal wouldn’t want our games on their ships if we couldn’t demonstrate how amazingly fun they are (which, as it happens, they are).
My team and I schlepped our escape-room-in-a-crate all the way from Seattle to the deck of Quantum of the Seas, docked in Bayonne, New Jersey. After some confusion with the security checkpoint (we brought a lot of metal with us). We set up the game in one of the dance halls, and after a not-terribly-long wait, the first group of captains arrived. They were grumpy. This was not unexpected; spending all day at a conference can often rate “Kafkaesque nightmare” on the fun-on-a-bun scale. And let’s not forget: We were in New Jersey.
After a quick intro, they trudged into the room, reasonably determined to not have fun. I was starting to get nervous, but I had failed to make a critical assumption. You see, playing an escape room with your peers is a stupendous opportunity to demonstrate how smart you are. The captains instantly latched onto this fact, and immediately bought in to the experience. They tore into the game with a fervor, exhibited amazing teamwork, and escaped the room with a healthy margin.
Our game was a hit, and we shortly inked a deal with Royal Caribbean to offer Puzzle Break: Escape from the Future on their Anthem of the Seas ship. We launched in early 2015. I type this on an uncharacteristically warm evening in April 2016, as I pack. Or rather, am preparing to pack. In two days, I am flying to Germany, where I will be overseeing the installation and training for Puzzle Break: Escape from the Future and Puzzle Break: The Mansfield Museum Mystery, coming soon to Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas (not to be confused with Harmony of the Seas’ Puzzle Break: Escape the Rubicon, which rates several blog posts by itself).