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We have started a series of interviews with escape game enthusiast from all over the world. With their experience, they provide practical advice, fun stories and valuable information for business owners and enthusiasts. We talked to Alex Souter, the owner and game master of The Panic Room.
Escape rooms are not just popular games, they are also addictive. Some people are simply sucked into the game of puzzles. They go to their first escape room and immediately after finishing it, have to try the other games of the place. Then go for another one. Then go for 50 games. Write a blog. Or even open an escape game themselves. These people are called escape game enthusiasts.
If we want to understand the popularity of escape rooms, we should listen to these fanatics. At escape-rooms.com, this is what we do every day. That’s why we started a series of interviews with enthusiast around the world. We really hope that these articles will help bringing the thrills of escape games to an even broader audience.
Our first interviewee is Alex Souter from The Panic Room. He shares his enthusiasm with his wife as the couple was sucked into the escape world in their honeymoon, and later they even opened their own games. Having played over 50 different games, Alex had some great insights for us.
Escape-rooms.com: You are an escape room owner and an enthusiastic player at the same time. You definitely know a thing or two about these games. What we’re really curious about is the begining. What was your first escape room experience? Have you become an enthusiast right away?
Alex Souter: Me and my wife were on our Honeymoon in the US and kept seeing signs advertising escape rooms, having never heard of them before we eventually gave one a go. We went to Paranoia Quest in Atlanta and did their Zombie Apocalypse room. We ended up completing the room in 59:59, it was such an adrenaline rush that we had to do another so we straight away booked their next room which ran 30 minutes later. It was instant addiction, throughout the rest of our 3 week honeymoon we ended up doing 25 different escape rooms.
Escape-rooms.com: I’ve read that you had some really long escape room tours before. What was the most extreme? I bet it was pretty awesome!
Alex Souter: We have done 2 different “escape room” days this year when we made some time off from running our own. Each day we did 7 rooms in one day, it definitely takes a toll but it is so much fun and especially to experience so many different types of rooms. It also makes it almost like just doing the day is challenge and trying to win them all!
Escape-rooms.com: The next question might be tricky: how many escape rooms have you visited so far?
Alex Souter: We are up to approximately 55, 25 in USA and 30 in Europe. By the end of this month it will be 65 as we are going to Oslo on Holiday and ofcourse doing all the rooms possible between sightseeing.
Escape-rooms.com: Are you playing with other enthusiasts and experts or with family/friends?
Alex Souter: We always play as just the two of us, we know how each other tick. Although sadly after being together for the last 10 years our brains are too much in sync that sometimes an extra pair of eyes would see something we can't.
Escape-rooms.com: There are many types of players out there. Some are like athletes: it is all about the time. Others like to tune in and take out as much from the experience, as possible. Where do you see yourself?
Alex Souter: We like to completely soak up what the room has to offer and really get into it, if you try the room a million miles an hour you will miss all the little details the designer has put in. We have paid for the hour so we will use the hour, although we still end up trying our absolute best to make sure we still take home the win.
Escape-rooms.com: As an experienced player, what practical tips / tricks do you have in mind for beginners?
Alex Souter: Don't overthink it, sometimes things can be simple and right in front of you. As an experienced player people often ask if it makes the rooms easier, we still struggle with solving puzzles but the main thing is to know how to use your time effectively. Mostly knowing what not to waste time on and using your clues if they are available. Don't wait 10 minutes till end of the game to use a clue because you are too proud, the clues are there to be used and you are there to have fun.
Escape-rooms.com: Alright, let’s move on to the owner/manager part of yours. What does it take to build a great escape game?
Alex Souter: To build a great escape game you need to have interesting puzzles/challenges that fit the theme of the room. For some places we have been to it is clear to see they think of a puzzle and then force it into the room, we find items and get inspiration from those items and apply puzzles to them. It seems a little backwards but leads to a more authentic experience. We also look at psychology of the players, what will they find fun, what will give them morale boost etc. For our latest room, The Witch House, players were really struggling with getting through it. However we then added extra simple puzzles dispersed throughout the game, this then gave them a morale boost and of course momentum boost which kept them in a better frame of mind for the rest of the room.
Escape-rooms.com: When you are visiting other escape rooms, do you implement the best ideas, techniques to your games?
Alex Souter: When we visit other places we get inspired and love to see where the bar is set and that we need to reach that and higher, we don't copy ideas from other places but their ideas lead us onto other paths of puzzles. They may involve similar elements but it's a matter of evolving what can be done with those items and how they are implemented.
Escape-rooms.com: Apart from The Panic Room, what other games can you recommend to our readers?
Alex Souter: We highly recommend ClueQuest, Time Run and Archimedes Inspiration. ClueQuest is more of a traditional escape room setup and does it so well. Time Run is more of an adventure escape game but their production values are through the roof! It's like being in an actual movie. AI Escape threw us a curveball when we went there, completely automated and no locks. It was such an incredibly new experience for us and the room itself actually felt quite calm (except for the last 10 min). Tech is on the rise, much like in many other markets the tech is the focus on improving what can be done, more wow moments of really cool electronic props.
Escape-rooms.com: Escape rooms have been around for a few years now and it gives owners some perspective. What do you think are the major trends in the industry right now?
Alex Souter: Over saturation is something that comes up a lot in discussion, too many places being open and not enough people to spread the love to all the companies which does mean that as much as there may be a lot opening we could easily see places closing down too. Not due to lack of general demand but simply because the demand that is there for it is having to be divided into chunks not large enough to keep some places afloat.
Escape-rooms.com: Do you have any predictions regarding the future of escape rooms?
Alex Souter: I can see rooms getting more and more high tech however in my opinion I would like to still see a lot of low tech rooms remaining, people are wanting these live gaming experiences to get away from screens. Would be a shame if they then still have to stare at pixels to solve yet another room.