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Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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Escaping a train
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Entirely due to the serendipity of a well-targeted ad banner, I discovered that there is a local room escape game that accepts very small groups (minimum team size 2) and runs the game that way, rather than the more common policy of "if you want an exclusive game, you must buy all (10/12/20) tickets, and we won't run the game with fewer than (4/6/8) actual people anyway". Conundroom Express ("stop a train" motif) used its relative small-ness as a selling point, and it's a real selling point; I hope they keep permitting teams of 2 in future seasons.

Yesterday, Jacel, and I went and gave it a try! We escaped in 57 minutes, which counts as winning. We were apparently the fastest 2-player team this week, which would have been more impressive if it wasn't Sunday. Jacel got more of the puzzles solved than I did. The game designers did something I'd hoped: they took advantage of the physical nature of the game to mostly make physical puzzles. It was a lot of fun, and I strongly encourage locals to try it; it's low-pressure compared to being locked in a room with a bunch of strangers, I think. I might try a conventional "we combine groups" large-group room escape someday, but I hope small-group remains a viable business model.

The genesis of Room Escape interests me. It is a physical event-game (reservations only!) that has a very clear history in video games. Room escapes were first a part of adventure/puzzle games, then became a subgenre, and then escaped the room of video games and became a semi-viable business model. (Conundroom is proud of having run over 300 teams; by my estimates, they've broken even on expenses, but I doubt they are yet pulling minimum wage. It seems like a labor of love rather than a profit model so far.) Are there other distinct physical game genres that were originally video games before they were physical games?

Room Escape seems like a "not-video-arcade", which is something I want to see more of. Video game arcades, during their heyday, provided an interactive recreation experience that people couldn't get at home. Now, video games are trivial to get at home, and we need very different experiences for things that people can't get at home. Physical puzzles are a fantastic example: cheap enough to be profitable to provide, but not financially efficient for the individual, because they often have little replayability. Game design has advanced as rapidly as any other form of technology, as the wide popularity of video games has allowed a lot of opportunity to find out what does and doesn't work, so now that straightforward video games aren't profitable to sell as a special-venue event, what other ideas will escape from video games and become venues like this?

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