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What happens when a group of escape room enthusiasts decide to work together? In Matt Silver's case, the popular review site, Esc Room Addict was the result of focused teamwork. Matt and another member of the team, Jessey Rice told us about the exciting escape rooms of Toronto.
Toronto is among the coolest cities of escape rooms. Blogs, podcasts, reviewers, innovative games - the list goes on. Enthusiasts frequently approach us, because everybody is excited about the Canadian city. Earlier this month, we sat down with Errol Elumir, the famous blogger from Toronto. This time, we talked to Matt Silver, the founder of EscRoomAddict.com and Jessey Rice, another member of this great team.
The site officially launched in January of 2015, but the beginnings of ERA started several months earlier in Spring 2014. It was then ERA’s founding member Matt Silver, ventured into Toronto’s only escape room company at the time and couldn’t believe how incredible the experience was! After visiting several more escape room companies in the span of a few weeks, it became evident owners were entering the marketplace without adequate information about other companies, current industry standards and trends, or how to improve upon their customer satisfaction levels.
Owners and enthusiasts started asking for Matt’s input about escape rooms and the industry as a whole. It was also at this time he was encouraged to form a team of qualified reviewers, social media coordinators, and consultants who would travel across Southern Ontario and the USA providing online reviews, and consultation for owners. While the beginnings of ERA were being formed in Toronto, Jessey Rice (Ph.D student in Waterloo, Ontario) was also busy having fun at Canada’s first escape room company located about 1.5hrs from Toronto. Jessey couldn’t get enough of escape rooms and contacted ERA very shortly after it began to join the team!
Neither Matt nor Jessey could have imagined the popularity ERA would gain after only a few short months (to the point where ERA is often referred to as Canada’s most popular choice for escape room reviews & consulting!) Approaching its unofficial 2nd year anniversary, the ERA team now has several core members including Jeremie Wood, Danielle Height, Adrienne Colletto, and Kyle Bruce. Alongside dozens of guest reviewers, friends of ERA, and online contributors, ERA is still expanding and doing what it does best: Helping owners improve their customer experience, and providing honest online reviews for their followers.
Escape-rooms.com: What do you think are the main characteristics of Toronto-based escape rooms? Are there any patterns?
Matt: Toronto escape rooms have two distinctive ‘streams’ from my observation, with a small percentage being a hybrid of both. First there are what I’d call the ‘mainstream’ businesses which are generally known the public, advertised through several media platforms, and frequented by customers of varied demographics. The second stream is what I’d call the ‘Chinese’ businesses which are primarily known, advertised to, and attended by Toronto’s Chinese population. As a whole, I’d say both of these streams are still primarily focused on first generation escape room experiences (sequential-linear puzzles, multiple locks, and not much emphasis on storylines). However we’ve recently started to see a move towards more adventure rooms and/or hybrids of escape-adventure rooms within the mainstream businesses.
Escape-rooms.com: Toronto has been really hot in terms of escape rooms, the city has numerous businesses. What are the reasons? What are the numbers? Any cultural, geographical, economic reasons?
Matt: Because there hasn’t been comprehensive market research done in the Greater Toronto Area for the industry, it’s hard to know precisely why Toronto’s escape room rooms are numerous, thriving, and still expanding. It seems reasonable to assume a cultural link due to the original popularity of escape rooms in areas of the world like Hong Kong, China, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. With Toronto having the world’s largest per-capita population of Asian residents outside of Asia, Toronto proved to be a good launch point for companies. This is further supported by our earlier observation of Toronto having a distinctive Chinese stream of companies.
It’s also my personal belief Toronto is the perfect breeding ground for entertainment options that provide a deep sense of connection to others. As mentioned in our ‘fun facts’, Toronto is a city noticeably divided along cultural and economic lines. Entertainment that not only draw people together in the same physical space, but also requires intellectual and emotional collaboration, fills a deep rooted need for connectedness that simply isn’t being satisfied in our everyday lives.
Toronto’s entertainment industry as a whole also seems to have been thriving for quite some time now. There’s been a huge boom in the growth of live theatre over the past decade. Consistent movie attendance numbers. Even recent niche entertainment choices like axe-throwing and archery-tag companies are growing rapidly. By the end of 2014 there were only a handful of escape room companies in the GTA. As of our current date, approximately 60 escape companies are in operation with several more scheduled to open in the next couple months.
Escape-rooms.com: What are the best 3 ‘’fun facts’’ you can share about Toronto and the industry?
Matt:Toronto is North America’s 4th largest city (behind , the world’s most culturally diverse city, and as mentioned before has the largest number of Asian residents per-capita outside of Asia.
Toronto has an interesting challenge when it comes to marketing companies, services, or products due to our multicultural and mosaic diversity. Some people have described Toronto as a network of small cultural villages that come together with tourists in the downtown core.
Toronto’s escape room marketplace is still very young. The very first companies only opened their doors to the public in 2014. It’s estimated only 15-20% of the population are even aware of what an escape room is which means there’s still a lot of growth to come!
Escape-rooms.com: What do you think are the future trends for escape rooms in Toronto?
Jessey Rice (member of ERA): We believe the Toronto market is trending towards higher quality, more immersive, experience based escapes. There’s an evolution from simple rooms with locked boxes to elaborate and immersive experiences where players must work through stories and mysteries to solve their way out! It’s a term we call ‘hybrid rooms’ which are part adventure room and part traditional escape room.