The event took place on August 21-22 in Boston, Massachusetts USA. The main venue was the Marriott Cambridge hotel. Already a few days earlier, it was possible to bump into escape room enthusiasts there and socialize while playing games in the rooms or chatting in the hotel lobby. The conference was organized by a team assembled by David and Lisa Spira - creators of https://roomescapeartist.com/
Player experience is the theme of 2022!
How should the industry approach the design of the entire player experience? Both before, during and after a visit to an escape room? You could say that this year's Recon revolved around this topic. There was a lot of emphasis on role-playing and immersive experiences - you can see that this is the direction our industry is consistently moving in. I have been under the impression for some time now that puzzles or technical solutions are less and less important in rooms, and it is immersion, role-playing and experience in the broadest sense. This time at the conference there were no topics related to, for example, what kind of technicalities we should use when building rooms. This shows that the industry already has the stage of learning the basics behind it and is on its way to the next level.
However, I'm not quite sure what to take away from the speech that concluded the entire conference. It was, in its own way, a case study of the construction of Level 99. The main conclusion was that building escape rooms as they are now is not profitable and they should change their formula so that more groups can be accommodated in much shorter time slots. This generated quite a bit of commentary among participants. It is a rather controversial claim - one that I have to disagree with. Escape rooms are as much a business as possible, - but if the goal is only to maximize profits we will lose the soul of the whole enterprise. The formula of escape rooms has something magical in it and you can't lose it.
The organizers thought through the formula of the event very well and matched it to the theme of the whole conference. The key word was - journey. And taking this slogan literally during the event we travelled. On the first day, we could listen to speeches on topics related to designing the right experience for customers. Importantly, all the speeches were held one after another in the same room, so participants didn't have to choose between them. There were also no side events like a trade show during the event - so the attention was always focused on just one topic.
In the evenings, the organizers invited everyone to Boda Borg and Level99 - places that gently refer in their formula to an escape room. However, they focus more on quick fun in solving simple problems or arcade tasks in a specific theme. On the second day of the conference, participants were divided into groups and could either play in them or take part in thematic workshops or discussion groups. Each day ended with a lavish meeting in the hotel lobby - but what happened in the lobby stays in the lobby :)
Departing from the standard conference formula, the organizers allowed us to experience various forms of entertainment built around the theme of escape rooms. This allowed us to try different approaches to customer experience design and see different business models.
People, people and more people
This conference showed how needed such events are and how important it is to be able to meet people from the industry. The most important thing for me - and I have a feeling not only for me - were the talks and meetings that lasted until late hours in the hotel lobby. I hope that in the post-pandemic reality, more such events will start to be revived and created.
Escape room enthusiast with over 550 visited rooms. Co-founder of escape room marketplace lock.me, escape room board games series Escape Tales and Escape Room World Championship Er Champ. In his spare time guitar player and lover of psychedelic progressive rock.
The ceremony of Bullseye Awards 2022 will start on January 28 (that's tomorrow!) at 5 PM (EST). The gala will be held for the fourth time this year. The organizers are Cici Cao and Brandon Chow, who run together the ESCAPETHEROOMers blog.