In the Beginning - Starting Up an Escape Room
Article by Bill Parslow
Lady Chastity’s Reserve, variously and colourfully described with gratuitous reference to psychedelic drugs, as “Crystal Maze on Crystal Meth” is a rather naughty, very atmospheric and very immersive experience currently available in Brighton and London. I talked to founder and owner Ben Tucker about starting up an Escape Room from scratch, right from the very beginnings, the germ of the first idea. (Their blog is here)
Which happened in Thailand. Ben was away on a recuperative holiday, uncertain of what he was returning to. Mid stay he and his friend encountered two older couples who said “You should do THIS - it’s just like being inside a computer game” .
Laying aside the obvious irony that most computer games are seeking ever and greater realism, so why would you want to simulate something that’s simulating what you’re living in in the first place, Ben and friend ventured into their first ever Escape Room experience. And found it was fun, but possibly a bit clunky. Got an idea that maybe he could do it better. Came back with the idea and after four months of obsessive overwork, Lady Chastity’s twisted persona was delivered to a public who really didn’t know what they were getting into, but seemed to like it when they did.
Four months eh? What went on in those first four months? Well the answer lies in the obsessive overwork, in creating and building the set of puzzles round which the room is based. There was a lot of learning to do far and above the craftsmanship and creative skills needed to create the game itself (which you can read more about in their blog: Creation! ).
Lady Chastity’s Reserve, and Poppa Plock’s Workshop are bespoke handbuilt rooms but the everyday business of running and financing a small business is still ever present. (He recommends The E-Myth Enterprise: How to Turn a Great Idea into a Thriving Business, by Michael Gerber)
It was in the middle of all this that he realised he really did want a business partner - and as it happened he had met James Addy a few months before, someone looking to get involved in some kind of interactive adventure, and a partnership began.
Their first room focused around the mechanical mayhem and inventiveness of their puzzles, but then they started getting more ideas about how it all should run. More next week on how a business like an escape room grows in all sorts of directions - some of it is all going with the flow, some of it is heavy going up stream when the logs are coming down the other way and it’s cold and wet - you know, I don’t want to labour the point, you get the picture.