Over the past few weeks, challengers have been taking on a real-world locked-room escape game in the heart of Portsmouth, at The Real Escape on Commercial Road.
I spoke to the founders of the project, Andras and Agnes, about their venture, which sees small teams working together to hunt for hidden clues to escape from a locked room.
Starting off with the passionate people behind the project — tell me a little bit about yourselves.
Myself, Andras, and my wife, Agnes, have always been adventurous people who love learning new things and travelling. On the business side, Agnes is the creative director and I manage the technical elements of the project.
We both wanted to start something exciting which could provide the public with an escape from everyday routine.
And the project itself — what is The Real Escape?
The Real Escape is a real-life exit game. The aim is to escape from the room by working as a team, solving the riddles and working out the clues that will help unlock the door.
How did you come to be at the helm of a project like this, and why did you choose to pursue the idea?
I came across the idea a couple of years ago when this type of game became very popular in Hungary. After a short market research exercise I tried out at least 25 exit games and became very interested in the project.
What are the origins of the rising popularity of real-world escape games?
There is something unique about a team-building game which not only connects people together but also stimulates the primary senses.
We interviewed Dice in August 2015 — a board game café coming to Portsmouth soon. Something that came up quite a lot was people looking for alternatives to current options for ‘going out’ in the city. Where do you think things like The Real Escape fits into the evolving social and cultural landscape?
We believe that the popularity of live exit games comes from their unique, fun and investigative possibilities.
The Real Escape is an exciting way to spend time with friends and family – from birthday parties to corporate events.
Getting planning permission for coffee shops or restaurants is one thing — a live escape game is, I imagine, a whole other story! Were there any unique challenges or quirks in turning The Real Escape into a reality?
Luckily we didn’t have to make any structural amendments inside the premises to develop the game area, so we received the permission quite easily. The building itself was perfectly suitable for the purpose to develop The Real Escape – it was a huge challenge but also very exciting!
What’s the process of game-testing a real-world escape room?
The Real Escape’s game developer has developed many exit games and we worked closely with him on our first room, The Chamber of the Deep – coming up with the theme and deciding how difficult it should be.
It’s not easy to define where game-testing starts because almost every part of the developing process contains some sort of testing. We had to bear in mind the limitation of the structure of the building when deciding the game concepts – going through rounds of plans and testing until we got to the finished product.
We had several test groups experience The Chamber of the Deep before we officially launched and the feedback has been very positive, so we hope the public will love it too.
What’s the scope of the project — do you have any plans for the future?
In the future we will add more exit rooms, each with a different theme, and hope to develop a package for corporate clients and larger groups.
Will you be recording game sessions and uploading them to YouTube for participants to share with their friends?
No, we believe that it’s best to keep the contents of each live exit room a mystery.
Other than the escape room itself, will there be other aspects to the venue, such as a café on site?
Yes, we’ve recently teamed up with the Mezanotte Coffee Lounge above the building to offer food packages and we hope to add more developments in the future.
You can keep up with The Real Escape on their Facebook page » and book your Chamber of the Deep experience through their website »