Escape Room Unconference 2015
My first unconference ever was the escape room unconference which took place in Toronto earlier this week. For those of you, who like me, have never heard of one before, an unconference is a conference, but without the strict programming of a conference. It’s basically a gathering of people who are interested in sharing ideas and exchanging information. In the case of the Escape Games Unconference, there was no pre-set program or agenda and the participants came up with the topics they wanted to discuss.
Scott Nicholson, a professor of game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, Ontario and director of the Brantford Game Network game lab (BGNlab) was the individual behind the Unconference. The event was held on the Ryerson Campus in the Transmedia Zone space. There were roughly 50 of us attending the conference and majority of the group were escape room owners who came from out of town. For a simple enthusiast like myself, this was an eye opener.
The event itself was very casual and open, which was Scott’s goal. There was no formal facilitator of each topic up for discussion throughout the day, but rather participants stepped in for open discussion. It was a breakout of groups to discuss issues and topics which mattered to the community. Topics such as the future of escape games, sharing stories about the legal and financial hurdles of owning and running an escape room business, the technologies and tools that are useful for building immersive escape experiences, and so on.
After a day of idea and story sharing, Scott ended off the unconference by lodging another idea in our heads: what about an actual escape game conference right here in North America?
Many of the participants found their way to Riddle Room to socialize and play a few games. Riddle Rooms runs a board game cafe alongside their escape game facility, so it was a good hangout space for a group our size. I had the chance to play an escape game with Scott, who is basically the escape game celebrity as far as any of us are concerned. In any case, it was a great opportunity to business people and escape enthusiasts. I even met the bloggers from Escape Room Addict and EscapistTO, whose reviews I often recommend and read to see if I agree after completing a room escape. It is quite an amazing group of escape bloggers we’ve got here in Toronto, mostly a result of having so many escape companies here in the city.
There seems to be interest and there seems to be a market here. Escape games might be a thing of the past in some of our eastern counterparts, but here in North America, it’s alive and well and considering the future of escape rooms as a collaborative group is a step in the right direction.