img_20160818_232049On an early mid-August morning, we sent Company & Co.’s general manager, Leonardo Dell’Anno, and game designer, Kevin Parnell, to the airport to catch a flight to Chicago, where TransWorld Trade Shows was hosting the first ever escape room conference. It was the perfect opportunity to meet others from the industry and see what was happening in escape rooms all over North America.

Having never been to Chicago before, Leo and Kevin arrived a day early to take in the city. As instructed by literally everyone they asked about things-to-do in Chicago their first stop was to indulge in a deep dish pizza. It was as delicious as it looks.

Powered by pizza, Leo and Kevin hit the streets, making their way up the Willis Tower, through Millennium Park to the Cloud Gate bean sculpture, down the Magnificent Mile, and finally, after an hour or so of Kevin leading an exhausted Leo on a wild goose chase after Leo’s phone died, to the Fulton Market district for tacos and experiential cocktails at The Aviary.

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After their twelve-hour whirlwind trip through the city, Leo and Kevin hunkered down in the conference hotel in Schaumburg. Over the next three days the team divided to conquer, with Kevin dropping in on as many seminars as he could, and Leo spending time on the tradeshow floor and making contacts in the escape room industry. It was a blast meeting fellow escape room operators from other parts of Canada and across the States.

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After their twelve-hour whirlwind trip through the city, Leo and Kevin hunkered down in the conference hotel in Schaumburg. Over the next three days the team divided to conquer, with Kevin dropping in on as many seminars as he could, and Leo spending time on the tradeshow floor and making contacts in the escape room industry. It was a blast meeting fellow escape room operators from other parts of Canada and across the States.

Hearing the different approaches to escape rooms was eye-opening, from different takes on game design principles to marketing strategies, to the psychology of the player experience, and the future of the entire industry. Escape rooms and live immersive games in North America are still in their infancy and conferences like this are a great way to share ideas and grow the industry into something exciting and unique.

img_7182After two days of taking in seminars and networking it was time for a break, and Leo and Kevin head to the conference’s social event at Level 257, a restaurant and gaming lounge inspired by Pac-Man, where Leo challenged Kevin to a bowling match. Although Kevin denies it, Leo is convinced he was hustled. After an initial game of rolling gutterball after gutterball, Kevin proved unstoppable for the remaining rounds. Chalk it up to beginner’s luck?

The next morning was the final day of the conference and featured Kevin and Leo’s own seminar, focusing on generation one escape games and how Company & Co. approaches immersive experiences. We had a great crowd who asked lots of interesting questions and we hope we were able to inspire them to really think about the whole experience of their games, to have fun with their designs, to get creative and challenge themselves, much like we do with every project we start.

 

1471223253928Once the conference was over it was time for a few last hours of fun downtown Chicago. Hitching a ride with some new industry friends Kevin and Leo went to do what the whole conference was about: playing an escape game. Along with the two designers behind New Orleans’ Escape My Room facility, Kevin and Leo were locked in Chicago’s Railcar. With much laughter and scrambling over props and locks and with a handful of helpful clues, the four designers were able to escape with only seconds to spare. To celebrate Kevin and Leo head to the speakeasy cocktail bar The Violet Hour for drinks with some new industry friends and one “old” industry friend, Toronto-based game design professor Adam Clare, who gave his own insightful puzzle design seminar at the conference. From there the gang explored the city and talked about escape rooms into the late hours of the night or early hours of the morning, depending on how you look at it.

Overall the Chicago Room Escapeimg_20160819_000728 Conference was a fantastic experience. It was a great opportunity to introduce Company & Co. to the rest of North America and to meet like-minded people embarking on this crazy ride of immersive games and experiences. Our team is excited to continue the friendships and connections made in Chicago and see how the industry evolves over the next few years.

Thanks for having us!