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Escape Rooms and Team Puzzle Experiences: The Ultimate in Teambuilding

Almost exactly 3 years ago from our Seattle HQ, I wrote a treatise on Why Escape Rooms are the Best Teambuilding Activity in the World. Since then:

It’s high time I revisited my bold claim that Escape Rooms are the best teambuilding activity in the world.

I like this picture because I took it at the exact changover from 49:21 to 49:20. And the jets.

I like this picture because I took it at the exact changover from 49:21 to 49:20. And the jets.

In many ways, I’m happy to report I nailed it. When I wrote the first teambuilding article in 2016, we had only been serving customers for ~2 and a half years. I knew from my experience as a Microsoft and Electronic Arts exec that Escape Rooms were filling a gigantic need in the corporate teambuilding / morale space. However, we still didn’t know if Puzzle Break experiences would stand the test of time. We hoped, but did not know, the often-fleeting corporate activity zeitgeist would remain focused in the world of interactive experiences for teams as a way to both build new relationships and strengthen existing ones. It has, in spades. We serve more corporate customers than ever before at all of our locations, including our original Seattle spot.

However, it would have been foolish to rest on our laurels. Puzzle Break was the best teambuilding activity in the world in 2016, and it would have taken a special kind of hubris to assume we would remain so with no effort. Since then, we’ve spent more money than ever crafting one-of-a-kind team experiences that are painstakingly crafted to maximize team engagement and improvement.

Additionally, we’ve doubled down on our efforts to bring Puzzle Break Escape Experiences to offsite events across the country. Too often, we would get requests for 50, 100, 300, 1000+ players. Have you tried cramming 1000 folks into an escape room? It ain’t a pretty sight!

Got a conference or meeting space? Puzzle Break’s got an unforgettable teambuilding experience.

Got a conference or meeting space? Puzzle Break’s got an unforgettable teambuilding experience.

We are now proud to offer multiple large-scale offsite experiences that capture 100% of the magic that makes escape rooms special in a way that scales infinitely in any space. Not only that, but we can effortlessly run our offsite games in any space, for teams of any size, at any time in the middle of any agenda, all with minimal disruption or planning required. We deploy a team of specialists to corporate meetings, global team offsites, morale events, product launches, you name it. Anywhere in the US. We set up quickly, temporarily take over any space, run an unforgettable escape experience for an unlimited number of simultaneous players, and vanish. Our ever-increasing portfolio of portable experiences has been a smash hit, and we couldn’t be more excited about the future?

Want to bring Puzzle Break to your next big event? Head over to our Portable Teambuilding page, or shoot us an email at booking@puzzlebreak.com to get started!

-Nate

Nate Martin
Dubbed the "Founding Father of Escape Rooms," Nate Martin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Puzzle Break, the first American escape room company. Puzzle Break is headquartered in Seattle with locations in Long Island, Massachusetts and on Royal Caribbean ships. Prior to Puzzle Break, he was a senior executive at Microsoft and Electronic Arts. He has shipped software used by billions of users as well as some of the most beloved video games of a generation. @GuyFromTomorrow on Twitter.

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Why do all escape rooms do these things?

When Puzzle Break opened its doors in Seattle in August 2013, it was the first American-based escape room company. When we were designing our first rooms and the operating processes for our players, we didn’t have a lot of proven precedent to go on. The few international companies at the time gave us some inspiration (fun fact: the very first escape room I ever played was SCRAP’s Escape from the Mysterious Room), but the lion’s share of everything we did had to be figured out as we went.

Escape room entrepreneurship, Nickelodeon TV show edition.

Escape room entrepreneurship, Nickelodeon TV show edition.

As such, many of the early decisions we made were either arbitrary or driven by unique-to-Puzzle Break variables. We opted to deliver the pre-game briefing outside the room because our first location had access to a large lobby perfectly suited for the task. We designed our first room’s content & flow to take advantage of the massive square footage available to us. We started with a public-ticketing model that was vital to the success of a room that supported up to 14 players. We offered a comprehensive game debrief and walkthrough (intensively so for our teambuilding clients). We took a post-game photo and uploaded it to social media.

Fast forward to 2019. I’ve seen estimates that there are over 3000 escape room companies in the United States. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number is higher than that. And as the years have passed since Puzzle Break began in Seattle, a curious, if unsurprising, trend has emerged in the explosive growth of escape rooms: Arbitrary emulation.

Pro-tip: Save hours of time by using “ctrl-c”

Pro-tip: Save hours of time by using “ctrl-c”

Whenever a new escape room company launches, they can look to every escape room that came before them for inspiration. Thankfully, we haven’t seen too much evidence of outright content plagiarism (I’m tremendously proud of the industry for this), but there’s a staggering amount of process plagiarism. Escape rooms across the United States are riddled with operational processes that have been blindly copied and copied and copied. By and large, I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with the lion’s share of this (though you’ll find the exact wording found on the Puzzle Break FAQ page on a curious number of escape room websites), but I find some of these to be strange, if not downright stupid.

Examples of escape room operational processes that are often implemented for no other reason than “other escape rooms are doing this”:

  • Group photo – OK, there’s objectively several good reasons to do a post-game team photo, but it’s insanely ubiquitous. I’ve personally played ~400 escape rooms and I have always had a photo opportunity afterward.

  • Worded sign props for the group photo – 3000+ escape room owner-operators did not independently come upon the idea of offering whimsical slogans on 2’x1’ foam core. Literal meme made manifest. I hope to see an epidemiological study on this phenomenon someday.

  • 60 minute game length. I’d estimate that 99% of escape rooms have exactly a 60 minute time limit. 5+ years after escape rooms came to America, I’m deeply surprised I’m not seeing more 30, 45, 75, 90, or 120 minute games.

  • Confiscating players’ cell phones – This maddening practice needs to stop. Giving players a safe place to optionally store their valuables (including phone) is a great idea*. Arbitrarily forcing paying customers to give up their phones is pure nonsense that invites disaster. Doctors on call, parents with children, real-life obligations don’t always stop for 60 minutes on command. Obviously, we want to enhance immersion and prevent illicit photos of sensitive content, but there’s better solutions to these problems than mandatory confiscation.

Pictured: Game masters taking several kilos of dangerous cell phones off the streets.

Pictured: Game masters taking several kilos of dangerous cell phones off the streets.

 

-Nate


*NOTE: On August 5, 2017 I forgot the face of my father when I lost the key to our valuables’ locker at Wicked Escapes in Boston. I am deeply & forever ashamed.

Nate Martin
Dubbed the "Founding Father of Escape Rooms," Nate Martin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Puzzle Break, the first American escape room company. Puzzle Break is headquartered in Seattle with locations in Long Island, Massachusetts and on Royal Caribbean ships. Prior to Puzzle Break, he was a senior executive at Microsoft and Electronic Arts. He has shipped software used by billions of users as well as some of the most beloved video games of a generation. @GuyFromTomorrow on Twitter.

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