Building out The Escape Game piece by piece using SketchUp
You can get in, but you may not be able to get out of The Escape Game. From the first prototype being built in a basement using baby monitors and bargain store props to the professional-grade communication and fabrication tools they use now, The Escape Game in Nashville, Tennessee has come a long way. Even though the equipment and processes have changed, the ultimate goal of creating epic interactive experiences for every single guest has not. We sit down with the team in Nashville to learn how they use SketchUp throughout their creative process.
Tell us a little bit about The Escape Game and how it started.
One of our founders, Mark Flint, played in an escape room while in Europe. To say it was a big “aha” moment would be an understatement. After returning to Tennessee, Mark teamed up with Jonny and James Murrell to create The Escape Game. Soon after launch, The Escape Game became the number one thing to do on TripAdvisor Nashville and our “I Escaped” stickers were spotted all over town. From there, it’s been an exciting time of growth — new team members, new games, new locations, and new product offerings. Everyone works together to design and deliver epic interactive experiences for every single guest that encounters our brand. Our mission and values are our compass and unite the team across the country.
This might be pretty obvious, but what’s the idea behind escape rooms — and why do people love them so much?
I think people love escape rooms because for a period of time, phones are down and they are really connecting with friends and family. People love how interactive it is, how challenging it is, and how fun it gets when you put a group of people in a room and give them only an hour to complete a mission. There are always a few laugh-out-loud moments.
Also, the idea of taking part in an adventure is really, really exciting. Where else can you escape prison, repair a spaceship on Mars, or take part in a heist? Who hasn’t wanted to be a part of a heist!? We offer people a way to live these adventures rather than just watch them on a screen!
Escaping the heist!
What’s the creative process for The Escape Game?
It’s a very collaborative process and it takes a lot of talented people to bring one of our adventures to life. That being said, it always starts with the guest. We aren’t making what we think is cool, we are making what our guests tell us they want. Over 2 million people have played our games and we have watched each one of them intently to learn more about what really excites them. When picking themes, we run surveys and talk to guests before starting down any path. Once we have a theme, the game team begins working on the flow of the game, while the brand team begins working on the story and thematic elements. Once the story is ready, our designers begin designing the space and our creative shop begins R&D and building the game elements.
It’s a process that involves a lot of testing and demo games. We keep working until we feel like we have it just right with the difficulty level, flow, and amount of content for the player count. During demos, we hang on to every word our testers say during and after the game. We are guest-obsessed and we want it to be perfect.
Running through the creative process during the making of “Special Ops: Mysterious Market”.
What is SketchUp used for, and how did the team get started using it?
We started using SketchUp when our games became more complex. We had different departments that needed to communicate and understand the full design idea to complete their work.
Now, we use SketchUp to help us build out our warehouses, storefronts, escape rooms, and the parts and pieces that make up the escape rooms. We don’t just use it to help determine the flow of an escape room - we use it for everything, even building the final room.
Using SketchUp to build out the entire New Orleans location for The Escape Game.
What does a normal workflow in SketchUp look like for the team?
We start with inspirational images of what we want the room to feel like. We begin to use Sketchup to conceptually design our rooms from the scenic elements to the individual interactive game components. From there, we are able to show these pictures to our scenic team who will design all of the components in the room directly via SketchUp.
Before we spend a dime on materials, we want to see what it’s going to look like so we try to make it look as lifelike as possible. We use Lumion for rendering and virtual reality headsets to experience the design. Once we have all signed off, we take these designs from the production designers and send them to the shop to produce in the warehouse.
SketchUp helps us visualize and test new ideas in 3D before we build these rooms or storefronts. It saves us time and costly rework designing it upfront.
It also allows us to clearly communicate the design to different teams to ensure we are on the same page, reducing errors and miscalculations.
Building out the escape rooms, one SketchUp file at a time. The first image featured is the Gold Rush escape room, the middle image featured is the Playground escape room, and the last image is the Special Ops escape room.
Fabrication sounds like a big part of the overall design process for these escape rooms. How does SketchUp help with this?
We build almost everything in the house — from windows to walls to specialized pieces. Before we purchase the materials to build anything, we design it all in SketchUp to make sure everything will fit and look the way it’s supposed to. Our typical fabrication workflow is:
- Design it in SketchUp
- Purchase the materials
- Manufacture the components
- Decorate and paint the components
- Send it to R&D for testing
- Send it to the technology group for any technical requirements
- Lastly, ship it to The Escape Game location to use
All pieces are built in multiple steps so they can withstand wear and tear from guests. Once they are all built to a standard, they are sent off to the store.
How does The Escape Game differentiate itself from other escape rooms in the industry?
Unlike other escape rooms, we build most everything in-house. From the initial design concepts to the actual fabrication of parts and pieces in the room, we do it all.
We are very mindful during our design process and take into account how the guests will interact with the space. We want it special for everyone. SketchUp helps us capture what the feel of the space will be before it’s built. We want to be at the cutting edge of experiential design.
Also, our obsession with guest experiences is unique at our price point. Above all else, we serve our guests well.
Guests trying to escape...and having fun while doing it.
The Escape Game not only has on-site locations but also an online escape room. Could you tell us a little bit about the online room?
We’ve put a lot of energy into online and at-home experiences. We want people to be able to experience our escape rooms in the comfort of their own homes. These digital and online offerings include a virtual game room experience, a live escape room that you can play with friends, a board game, and educational games for students. This is a completely new direction for us and we are really excited about these new products. You can check them all out on our site.
For more information about The Escape Game, check out these important links:
Also, check out The Escape Game's Unlocked series: digital at-home adventures that you can play on any device! Get 15% off Unlocked: The Heist - Vol. 1: Chasing Hahn with code SketchUp15. Click here to purchase!