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Geeks as athletes!? Interview with David Spira and Peih-Gee Law (Room Escape Artist)

Geeks as athletes!? Interview with David Spira and Peih-Gee Law (Room Escape Artist)

Jakub Witosławski |

What is it about escape rooms that has made them a sport, and should escape rooms really go mainstream? Two cool people who really know this industry see it in a really interesting way.

Jakub: Sports discipline for geeks. This is what is said about competing in escape rooms. What is it about escape rooms, what their phenomenon is all about, that some people have started to form their own teams and visit even 15-20 rooms over the weekend for practice?

David: Escape rooms are social, challenging, and have measurable results. This is the alchemy that you need for competition. They are the kind of thing that are fun to do with your friends, and you can improve your skill level both individually and as a team.

Peih-Gee: Many of the puzzles in escape rooms are about pattern recognition, so the more you play, the faster you can solve them.

David: Whether you’re playing a tabletop game or a physical sport, that mix of social engagement and mastery is alluring.

Jakub: What qualities do you think an escape room "athlete" needs to compete for top results? How different is visiting escape rooms for fun from training for competitions?

Peih-Gee: Playing for performance is fundamentally different from playing for fun. When we play for fun, the most important skill is making sure that everyone on the team is enjoying themselves and seeing the entire experience. This is usually how we play… we’re looking for a good time. We take it slow and call everyone in to see something cool happen or the final puzzle solve.

David: If we’re playing for performance, everything is about maximizing time gains. The fun is in the speed.  Someone has to “solve the room,” and by that I mean they have to figure out how all of the individual puzzles and challenges come together in the game. This allows them to coordinate the team, get solutions into the correct inputs immediately, and seek out shortcuts.

We pay a lot of attention to having the right person solving a given puzzle. The mathematical teammate should be solving the math puzzle, and the language teammate should be solving the language puzzle.

Finally, in competition, we’ll take any edge we can find that is legal per the rules. This might involve spinning disks on partially solved puzzles, exploiting weaknesses in locks, bypassing puzzles if we see a way to jump sequence. These can be risky maneuvers, especially for inexperienced teams, as they may get lost and not know how to recover.  

Jakub: Some people still say that curling is nonsense - but it's an Olympic sport. Now indoor skydiving is slowly earning a place at the Olympic Games. Do you see escape room competitions as an international event with great publicity?

David: First of all… I love curling. It’s a really interesting sport that requires a high degree of strategy, skill, and precision.

There are so many incredible games that aren’t traditional physical games with thriving competitive scenes.

Off the top of my head, tabletop games like Magic the Gathering or Warhammer have had amazing competition for decades. Chess… present drama notwithstanding… should have been in the Olympics for decades. And how about the overwhelming success of competitive video gaming? From first person shooters, to strategy games, and fighting games. If you’re unfamiliar with Moment 37, you’re missing out on one of the most impressive moments in competitive sport history.

All of that is to say, if a competitive escape room format has enough depth to keep the best players in the world engaged, then I think that there is an opportunity for thriving competition.

Jakub: Even at first glance, the escape room community is very close-knit, with its own vocabulary, sense of humor etc. What can you say about escape room enthusiasts from the US? What do they have in common, what traits do they have in common, what backgrounds do they come from? Is it possible to define?

David: Escape room communities are like any community, some are closer to the middle of it, and in the US, those that are seriously engaged know one another, play with people from the community, and have that shared language. To me the defining trait of a great community member is that they are engaged and play often, but don’t act entitled.

Peih-Gee: I think that some common traits I see in escape room players are love of mental challenge and love of adventure and fantasy. These are people that are competitive, but enjoy collaborative play and working together as a team.

Jakub: In your opinion, are escape rooms already mainstream? And if not, what is missing, what needs to be done to make it happen?

David: I don’t think that anything is mainstream anymore. We live in a niche world. Even the most mainstream musicians in the world only reach a comparatively small audience relative to what mainstream success looked like 20+ years ago.

My focus isn’t on making escape rooms mainstream; mainstream is dead. Instead my goal is to grow the niche. If we grow the community, then it can sustain itself.

Peih-Gee: I think that a large reason why escape rooms aren’t mainstream yet is because of the secrecy involved in escape rooms. It’s hard to really promote an industry when we all try so hard to avoid spoilers.  And many of the best escape rooms in the world are incredible because they are able to surprise you with spectacular reveals.  Unfortunately, that means that we can’t showcase the best parts of an escape room in promotional materials.

I think that if more escape rooms created lobby areas, or public areas that look as beautiful and scenic as their escape rooms, that would really help with promotion.  In this era, social media is driving a lot of trends, and escape rooms need to make sure their lobbies are photo ready.

Jakub Witosławski

Jakub Witosławski

PR expert

15 years of Public Relations experience. Worked for brands such as Allegro, Microsoft, Lock.me, Global e-Mobility Forum, Martin Kaczmarski, Rochstar TV Production. Communication manager of the team participating in the Cross Country FIA World Cup and in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Organized events around TV series premieres, was responsible for the media coverage of skydiving events and records. Works for the escape room industry since 2017. Hobby? In a free time skydiver, enduro biker, freeride skier and party animal.

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