AR (augmented reality) has become an exciting way for people to interact with the world around them. This technology is now being used in everything from animated selfies to full-fledged video games. EscapeGames.NYC has taken the “Escape Room” format of mystery and puzzle-solving team games and translating it into a format that helps people explore New York City, as well as build stronger team relationships.
Matthew Libbey from EscapeGames.NYC answered a few questions about their games, including the latest remote team-building game designed for teams to play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hi Matthew, what inspired the creation of your GPS and AR outdoor escape games?
Our company is one of many partners who run games in various places around the world. We have partners in locations such as Sydney, Australia, Vancouver, BC, and even in the heart of the Swiss Alps. We incorporated multiple applications and/or techniques to create our games. The inspiration for us deciding to establish the location in New York City however, was there’s really nothing like it available here. Escape rooms are a viable option for many but ours is a way for the players to get outside and experience the surroundings and still have that sort of “gotta complete everything before time runs out” feeling.
Each game combines the best elements of classical treasure hunts, GPS-Geocaching and Live-Escape-Games with Augmented Reality Technology into a new indoor & outdoor team game
What was your vision in developing Mission “Bow Tie”?
As stated before, the fact that we’re based in New York City gives us many opportunities to have people experience a lot of things in a small radius. The “Bow Tie” refers to the area between 42nd and 47th street and intersecting with Broadway and 7th Avenue.
Many people know this area as Times Square and the surrounding bits, and it was an ideal location for us to have our first route set up there. We offer a slightly longer route that includes Grand Central Station and the Bow Tie area as well as another route downtown through Wall Street and the Financial District.
Mission “Bow Tie” has a minimum of 2 players, but how does it scale to allow up to 1500 players?
The players are split into various teams, and scores are kept for each team based on how quickly and accurately they solve each puzzle. Our partners in Paris ran the event with 1500 players. They also made the game part of an all-day event, with the teams going out at staggered times and refreshments being served at the meeting location.
We don’t think we’ll run an event of that size any time soon, but it’s good for us to know that it’s definitely possible to be arranged in a post-COVID world.
What are some of the ways that players can customize their experience to be more immersive?
We take suggestions from people who have played the missions to improve the experience for those who will play later on or at another location. In terms of new technology, we use other apps that have AR capabilities to help us create riddles. We’re confident that as AR technology advances, we’ll be able to advance with it.
Our games’ routes, the riddles along the route, and the number of riddles are entirely customizable. If a group wants a special route created for them, that can be arranged with prior notice.
How did the concept for the Remote Games come about?
Due to COVID-19 and people staying home more than ever, it seemed inevitable that a game that was able to be played from home was needed. Thankfully, a remote version was created, and we had the first tests of the game shortly after its release.
Since the tools we give the players of our outdoor games only require an iPad and some documents to help them along the way, it was a smooth transition from an outdoor game route to one that is able to be played from home. Initial reviews have all been positive, and we’re glad to be able to run an entertaining game in these difficult times.
What are the team-building benefits that both your games offer?
Both our outdoor and remote games require communication, observational skills, and the ability to work together as a team, or against other teams. “Operation Manhattan” is generally the game we use for team-building events. It requires all of the skills mentioned above as it is a very detail-oriented game, requiring people to be able to find the clues, organize the documents, and remember various answers/codes given over the course of the game.
For team-building events, we break them up into groups as it gives the players that little extra motivation that competition can sometimes bring out.
On your website it says you are currently developing a remote version of “Operation Manhattan”, what steps are you taking to translate the game for remote play?
I’m proud to announce that the developmental phases of the remote games are done and we have three remote missions ready to be played. There are two missions that can be played from home and a third contactless mission.
The first two remote missions are a variation of our Operation Manhattan outdoor game. There are two ways to play this game; the first way is fully remote and the second is a contactless mission. For the contactless mission, a player will be in Times Square, with the game downloaded on their cell phone,and the player’s teammates play along from their remote locations.
Our third remote mission, Operation Pegasus, is played completely at home. We recommend this mission for beginners as it has a shorter runtime than the other two remote missions. Players can also communicate with each other by using our video conferencing platform.
Are you planning to develop any new games in the future?
We have a new outdoor game coming soon. Due to COVID-19 and businesses losing profits at a high rate, we hope that our new game may bring new customers to their businesses. We are open to partnering with local businesses in Manhattan to set up game hubs, place clues in and around their place of business, and have them offer hints once the game is ready to go. By entering into strategic partnerships with those new partners, we are confident that it will be able to create extra revenue for all interested parties. More details about the game will be forthcoming in the coming weeks as we start creating routes and puzzles for it.
Currently, we offer three different outdoor games, along with our new remote missions. “Operation Manhattan” is our flagship outdoor game, as that is the one we can customize the most, requires the largest number of documents, and, on average, takes the longest to play.
Our second game, “Einstein Unsolved” is a short murder-mystery game that revolves around the “death” of Albert Einstein. Primarily, we use it as a quick little platform to showcase the AR capabilities as it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to complete, only requires an iPad with the game downloaded, and a 4×6 foot trigger image.
Finally, we have the “Mistique Portal”, which is a game we generally use for children’s parties and families that have young children. It’s a fun, cartoon-like game that only requires an iPad and a trigger image which is printed on a standard 8×11 sheet of paper. In terms of new games, we have one in the pipeline while we continue to create new routes for Operation Manhattan and work to make our other products as fun as possible.
How would someone be able to reach out if they were interested in a private event?