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Have you heard about Escapers 4G? In case you are an avid fan of escape games, we think the answer should be yes. These guys from Toronto created a cool, now renowned review page. Read our interview to find out more about games and else!
Escapers 4G represents the rich escape game culture of Toronto. Along with Esc Room Addict (you can read our interview with them here), they are a renowned team in the industry. While both site provides quality insight and great reviews, they slightly differ in terms of style. 4G is short for "four girls", as the team consists of four very knowledgeable reviewers, with each of them having their own ways of rating games.
Escape-rooms.com: Girls, you have chosen a hobby that is quite different to what most people are doing. Tell us about your very popular review site, 4G!
Escapers4G: Yes, even though escape rooms are gaining in popularity, it’s not exactly everyone’s hobby. Give it time though, and it will be! The four of us discovered escape rooms separately, but by chance, after playing together on one occasion, we discovered that we played really well together and agreed that we should form a team.
The idea of a review site came when we started reading other review sites to decide where to play next. At that time, there were around 3-4 review sites for escape rooms in Toronto. Escape room reviews are important because you only get to experience most rooms once and don’t get your money back, even if you didn't like it. Companies will obviously promote their rooms in a positive manner, so the only way for players to get an idea of the quality of a room is through reviewers or word of mouth. With the cost per game ranging from $15 to $50 CAD (and price does not necessarily reflect the quality of the room), our hopes are to help readers choose the right rooms for themselves so that their money is not wasted.
Escape-rooms.com: How did you put the site together? Was there a point where you all agreed on something strategy-wise?
Escapers4G: We've observed that escape review sites typically provide one review per room played. After playing together a few times, we noticed that even though we experience the same game, our impressions of the game can vary. This is due to several factors, like tackling different puzzles for example, or focusing on different aspects of the room (e.g. puzzle flow vs. decor). Since one review would not sufficiently represent all our viewpoints, we decided to each write our own review, then average the scores for the overall ranking table.
In addition, we know that there is a big Chinese population in Toronto that play escape rooms. Since the four of us are Chinese-Canadian girls, we felt that it would be helpful to have reviews written in Chinese, which is something that no other Toronto escape reviewer offers.
Escape-rooms.com: Having reviewed so many of the escape rooms, you surely have adopted certain methods that help you compare one game to another. What are the main indicators when it comes to room quality?
Escapers4G: We currently score the following areas: Atmosphere, Equipment, Creativity, and Puzzles.
The Atmosphere score is based on how well the decor suits the theme of the room. Whether it be visuals or sounds, the setting should immediately place players into their roles. Props, clues, and hints sometimes require the use of various equipment like flashlights, blacklights, tablets, etc.. It is essential that such Equipment is well-maintained and does not delay escape time due to malfunction or any other kind of issue. A good Creativity score is given to rooms that have unique puzzles, methods of unlocking doors, or game flow. A bonus is given to games with a surprise factor - such as an unexpected passage to another room. Lastly, we evaluate the quality of the puzzles. Players should find puzzles challenging enough, but not take overly long to solve. Puzzles should not become too task-oriented such that players get frustrated in doing vast amounts of tedious and/or brainless work to get it done.
Escape-rooms.com: People have different views on pretty much everything. How do you see each other’s taste when it comes to escape games?
Escapers4G: This is true - we are human after all! We don’t always agree on what we like and don’t like, whether it be a particular puzzle/task or the overall impression of a game. But for the most part, we do agree on most aspects. It is rare for us to come out of a game with some of us absolutely loving it, and the others wanting to rip it to shreds. But even when we do disagree, we fully respect each other’s viewpoints, and write our reviews freely without having to worry about what the rest of the team may think of it.
Escape-rooms.com: How do you review a game? Do first impressions and the feelings right after you escaped heavily influence the overall score? You have a sophisticated system on the site but there are obviously a couple of elements that matter more than others.
Escapers4G: We conduct a debrief after every game, stepping through the whole game from start to finish. This helps us piece together the room and story as a whole, so that we have a better picture of the design behind the room. Following that, we sit on our thoughts for at least a week, to fully think through the game and give it a proper evaluation. So, in terms of reviewing a game, we try our best to be objective and not let feelings affect the score.
Where first impressions do matter though is in regards to Customer Service. Even though we don’t score this area, we will mention (either in our individual reviews or the company overview) if the staff were exceptionally friendly and helpful, or if they were rude or demeaning.
Escape-rooms.com: We talked to Matt Silver before, and he told us about the Toronto escape room scene. It’s an exciting mix. How do you see the future of the industry in Canada?
Escapers4G: Indeed, the Toronto escape room scene is very much talked about within the escape enthusiast community. The growth has been phenomenal in the past couple of years, and companies that have sprung up during this time were hitting a wide range within the Quality spectrum. While the “quick and dirty” rooms are fine for most inexperienced players, as escape games gain popularity in Toronto, we’re seeing a shift in preference towards higher quality games. Subsequently, there are more and more Toronto escape rooms closing down, as this market slowly matures.
It’s not possible to speak to the future of the escape room industry in Canada as a whole. With each province (and city) being so diversified and having its own unique economy and population, we can see it growing in some places, and not so much in others.
Escape-rooms.com: The escape room community is getting bigger by the day. What are the newest trends? Is an escape room themed TV show possible in your opinion?
Escapers4G: There was actually an escape room game-show called “Race to Escape”, in which two teams of 3 would compete against each other in an identical room. Not a bad idea, except it made escape room owners everywhere cringe, as players had to break open props or rip wallpaper off to get clues. Sony is also making a movie about escape rooms, so we’ll see how that fairs. For us, the thrill of escape rooms is in playing them, so a movie or TV show about them doesn’t exactly pique our interest.
Some companies are testing out Virtual Reality versions of escape rooms, but we also don’t see this as a trend that’ll stick. While entering a digital world means flexibility and endless possibilities, the cost of producing these games are high, not to mention all the required equipment. More importantly, part of the fun of escape rooms is physically exploring the room, and interacting with your teammates.