We thought we might learn a few things on our recent trip to the big O. We did, but, it's not what we expected.
We had some family going to see the Mouse for a few days so Jen and I took off for Orlando to see them and do some escaping. When we play escape rooms, we usually try and hit the "small" shops. That is to say, we like to give our business to the "mom and pop" escape rooms out there. That's for a few reasons, #1 that's what we are and that's what we like to support, #2 it's usually a better experience overall. See if you own it, your heart and soul is usually in every drop of it, and that makes the visit better overall. You also get to meet the owners most times and chat with them about business and the like. Heck, maybe even make new friends.
Well we broke from our norm this time and hit some of the "Big Players" in the escape room world. You know those mega escape room companies with locations through out the country. It was...kind of a mistake. A mistake in one sense, a learning/reassuring experience in another.
We've done quite a few escape rooms so when we pick random games to play, we look for things you don't see everywhere. They are usually little things we notice in the descriptions or reviews. We've never done a room where "X" happens before, that kind of thing. With that in mind, we chose two rooms at two different "Big Players" on two different days.
Day #1: Big Escape Room A
Just Jen and I in this room. The scenery was really good, there was a logic leap or two but overall, a pretty good room. It didn't blow our minds or anything but it was fun and kept the two of us busy for most of the hour.
As we finish the game, we realize something strange. From the beginning, through the rooms story, we were told that there were several of two types of items that were really important. We found those items in different places through out the game and carried them with us thinking they were going to be key to solving the final puzzle. One of the sets of items was unusual in that each one was magnetic, normally they wouldn't be magnetic so we figured those were super important. Guess what, none of those items did anything or had any sort of importance in any way shape or form! I hesitate to call them red-herrings but. Nope never-mind one of those sets was a huge red-herring and towards the end we could have wasted a bunch of time trying to work with them based on other things in the room that related. Thankfully we didn't or I would have been less than thrilled. More on red-herrings later.
This room was the real reason we came to this place. The room was reported to be loaded with tech and it's stated to have "0 locks used". Again, great scenery. This time Jen and I were joined by a nice lady and three young boys...see how I said the lady was nice and only mentioned the boys were young, can you see where this is going? Let's just say that this was not a good "playing with strangers" experience. I think the design of the room played into this quite a bit. Due to all the tech and the way it was laid out, it was very much a stand directly in one spot and figure it out while entering the solution in the same spot. Most of the "puzzles" were done in a way that no more than one person could be involved in even attempting to help with the solution at any given time. So lots of tech, yes, no locks....eh, no pad locks but..... More on non-private games and making claims that aren't exactly true later.
Check back in a few days and we'll sum up our day at Big Escape Room B. Then we'll go over what we learned as both players and owners, I mean I'll rant about some things.
Keep on escaping!
Ryan and Jen
Jen and I are not only owners, we are also customers. We love playing escape rooms and though we don't have the time to do as many as we would like, when we do go, it's usually just three or four in our group. With a smaller group we don't fill up the room. Since we don't, we are completely aware that we may end up playing with strangers. It's common practice in the U.S. escape room industry and it happens frequently, but why?
As we see it, there are only two possible answers to this question.
One is money. (Spoiler alert, this is the real reason)
The other, One puzzle in the room requires X number of people to solve. The puzzle is usually physical in nature and just isn't possible to do without a certain number of players. You don't come across this very often though and we only know of one escape room near Largo where this is the case.
So we're back to chasing the almighty dollar again. We get it, we're business owners. No matter how much we love escape rooms, love doesn't pay the bills. But, trying to suck every dollar out of every minute of every day, that, well.....sucks.
As players we've been paired up with strangers before and as owners we've paired groups up. Fortunately, we never had a bad experience in either scenario however we also know it didn't allow for the best possible experience.
Something happens when you get stuck playing with even the nicest group of people you don't know. Everyone becomes at least a little reserved, they don't act how they normally would, one group dominates most the room. One part of a mixed group has a lot more fun than the other. This means that the other part didn't have very much fun.
For us, escape rooms are always about having fun. We know they aren't exactly cheap but when you play a good one with people you enjoy being around it is totally worth it.
We listen to our customers here at Escape FLA. Not only do we listen to them, we have become pretty good at hearing what they aren't saying. We also try and listen to ourselves from time to time!
So after watching this play out in our escape room here in Largo and after really listening to ourselves and what we wanted from a customer perspective, we came to a determination.
All our rooms are now private.
It just makes sense for us because we want all our guests to have the best time possible. Are we going to loose money? Maybe. Will we have a group who didn't have a great time because the "others" were controlling, dominating, rude, etc? Nope.
Can you get a private game at other escape rooms in the Tampa Bay area? Sure you can, just buy all the tickets. If your group happens to be the same size as the room maximum then that's great. If it's not, then you've just spent more money than you needed to. Our prices did not change when we decided to go private, we just tweaked the experience to help ensure you have the best possible time.
Hope to see you sometime,
Ryan and Jen
Escape FLA Puzzle Pop-Up at Arkane Aleworks, not an escape room but still a lot of fun!
One of the great things about our location, other than the fabulous weather, is our neighbors. We have some awesome ones for sure. Just two doors down are our friends at Arkane Aleworks, Joe and Dan. They have been super helpful and supportive since we began our quest to build our escape room here in Largo, Florida. They recently had their 1st Annual Smoke Out and Bake Off. Because Joe and Dan are so great, we decided that we wanted to partner up with them on some things, luckily they felt the same! We are working on several event's, special promo's etc. with them and this was the first of, what should be, several fun and productive partnerships.
No a "puzzle pop-up" as we call it, isn't the same as an escape room but it is similar-ish in that we created an environment where players use many of the same skills needed for a successful escape. Logic, critical thinking, observation, team-work etc were all required. The differences, no locks to unlock, no scavenging through stuff for hidden items and no time limit. Well there was a time limit but you had 2 1/2 hours to work out a puzzle that took most about 30 minutes.
We had initially considered placing some items around the brewery but rejected that plan because I know how, shall we say, exuberant, experienced escape room players can be. We didn't want to encourage people to go routing through Arkane's stuff plus there is some outstanding local art in the place and sure didn't want anyone messing with that.
We did have a little bit of Arkane worked into the puzzle and there was an element, near the end that did involve having to combine some Arkane information with the puzzle we provided to come up with the final solve. This did add a bit of, at least, "discovery" to the event. The Arkane information was in plain sight, not out of the ordinary, and it wasn't apparent that it was needed until almost the end of the puzzle. I think it was a great way to tie the two businesses together which is what most of our upcoming combined ventures are about.
There was a great crowd, not everyone participated but a good number of people did. We got to hang out with some super nice people, talk puzzles and escape rooms. Promoted our business at Escape FLA a bit, brought some new people to Arkane Aleworks so it was a win win. Also had some great food, some great beer (after the puzzling of course) and met some great people. Gave out some awesome Escape FLA and Arkane Aleworks prizes to three lucky winners. What more could you want for a Sunday?
If your near here or visit here be sure to check out Arkane Aleworks on Facebook or www.arkanebeer.com
We have some more events coming soon-ish so follow us on Facebook to learn more and if your in the area, stop by and play our escape rooms, or just come by and chat.
Ryan and Jen
Every day we run into someone who asks the question "What the heck is an escape room?"
A basic answer to that question goes something like this:
"It's an interactive group gaming experience where we lock you and your friends in a room and you have to solve puzzles and riddles to try and get out in 60 minutes."
That's a very quick way of attempting to explain an escape room but it leaves out, what we feel are, the two most important parts.
Fun and excitement!
Think Clue (you do remember Clue right?) meets Da Vinci Code with a little treasure hunt and a sprinkle of magic on top. For an hour or so you get to be part detective, part explorer and, if you make it out, part action hero! Who didn't want to be one of those things at some point in their lives?
We work very hard here everyday at Escape FLA to make sure our guests get to have a total blast while they're here. Fun is the whole reason we're here.
I think we covered the whole "why would I want to do that" question. If not, stop by and see us, give us a call or shoot us an email firstname.lastname@example.org
A few other questions we get asked:
Do you have to be super smart?
Nope, you just have to know how to have fun.
What type of people can play?
Everyone can. We see young people, people of, shall we say, "Mature" age, Mostly groups of families and groups of friends looking for something fun to do.
Am I really locked in? That seems scary.
You can get out whenever you want. It's totally safe.
I'm afraid of small spaces. Will I be scared?
Only if you have claustrophobia in your bedroom. There's always plenty of space to move around.
We hope to see you soon,
Ryan and Jen