RECON ’20 – Global was an amazing success thanks to all of the sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, speakers, and of course, the attendees!
You now ave access to the full lineup of talks from RECON ‘20. Whether you’re interested in immersion, technology, or creating varied escape room product lines (among many other topics!), RECON offers you new perspectives and actionable insights.
LISA & DAVID SPIRA — ROOM ESCAPE ARTIST
Since 2014, Lisa and David Spira have published well-researched, rational, and reasonably humorous escape room reviews, design tips, player tips, and industry commentary on Room Escape Artist.
Their mission is to share their love of exploring giant puzzles and to push the makers of those giant puzzles to create the best experiences they can. They strive to grow the community of amazing people who love solving the puzzles together.
Lisa is an onomastician who turned her lifelong obsession with names in a career in language technology. She currently works as Director, Content Intelligence at Persado. Lisa holds a degree in linguistics from Syracuse University and also works as a private baby name consultant.
David is an experience designer and product manager who strives for a deeper understanding of how things work, and the ways people interact with their world. He holds degrees in communication and history from the University at Buffalo, and a masters in communication and information science from Rutgers University.
HALEY & CAMERON COOPER — STRANGE BIRD IMMERSIVE
Haley E. R. Cooper and J. Cameron Cooper are the artistic directors of Strange Bird Immersive, Houston-based immersive theatre company, devoted to delivering truth inside imaginary experiences. Their inaugural production, The Man From Beyond: Houdini Séance Escape Room, has won multiple awards for its union of escape room and immersive theatre and is currently ranked as the #1 game in North America by TERPECA.
Both performers in the show, the Coopers worked as actors and directors in Shakespeare and the Meisner tradition before leaving the proscenium stage for immersives. After earning a master’s in Intellectual History, Haley turned her academic talents to the immersive frontier. Her blog Immersology chronicles how Strange Bird tackles the unique challenges of the genre. With a background in computer science, Cameron built much of The Man From Beyond, including image recognition and interactive synchronized light, sound, and video systems totaling some 10k lines of computer code. Together they believe in the ability of escape rooms to transform audiences in a personal and lasting manner.
MANDA WHITNEY — ROOM ESCAPE DIVAS
Manda Whitney is a Toronto based writer and narrative designer. She is a co-host of the podcast Room Escape Divas and has helped design three large scale theatrical escape events as well as consulted on various other escape room projects. She also writes and produces comedic scripts for theatre, podcasts, and webseries. When she is not writing, she is playing far more video and escape games than she would care to admit. You can find more info at her sporadically updated blog mandawhitney.com
JASON RICHARD — STEAL AND ESCAPE
Jason Richard and his wife opened Steal and Escape in 2015. Since opening, they have created five full-sized rooms and two mobile rooms, one of which debuted at Comic-Con promoting the TV series, The Expanse.
With a lifelong passion for video games, board games, and technology Jason has continued to affordably innovate with a heavy emphasis on DC power, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Node-Red. His love of tech pushes him to strive for more, while his gaming experience keeps him firmly grounded in gameplay.
DAVID KWONG — THE ENIGMATIST
With his expertise in puzzles and illusions, David Kwong delights and challenges audiences around the world with his intellectual brand of magic.
A veteran “cruciverbalist” (crossword puzzle constructor), Kwong creates puzzles for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal.
Kwong is the puzzle and secret code consultant for the hit NBC show Blindspot. He was the head magic consultant on the 2013 worldwide hit film Now You See Me. Other films Kwong has worked on include The Imitation Game, Ant-Man, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and The Magnificent 7.
In his book Spellbound: Seven Principles of Illusion to Gain Influence, Captivate Audiences, and Unlock the Secrets of Success, Kwong shows us how to bridge the gap between perception and reality to increase our powers of persuasion and influence—in relationships, business, and beyond. His one-man show, The Enigmatist, sold out a year-long run in New York City. It next moves to Los Angeles at the Geffen Playhouse.
BIZZARO, KRYSTAL, & GREG — TEST SUBJECTS
Test Subjects consist of three Las Vegas magicians who have combined their love of video games, comic books, magic and other nerdy stuff to create a consulting business making props, puzzles and scenarios for Escape Rooms.
Bizzaro has been seen on TV shows and creates props and magic for other performers. His creations have been seen on Ellen, The Cabonaro Effect and Duck Dynasty (it’s a long story). He is the resident mad scientist and creates many of the props and puzzles in his secret laboratory in Las Vegas. His official job description at Test Subjects is “problem solver.”
Krystal is the keeper of the keys and one of the rarest creatures in the world: a Las Vegas Native. When not creating room scenarios for Test Subjects she can be found at the Golden Tiki Bar presenting her special brand of cynical sorcery as the resident magician.
The last Test Subject is Greg (AKA: The Shocker). Aside from being seen on TV shows like Penn and Teller’s “Fool Us” and Master’s of Illusion on the CW he also performs magic all over Las Vegas. (and everywhere else!) Greg is Test Subjects’ theme park junkie and immersion expert. If it’s nerdy and cool, he most likely knows about it.
HARRISON GREENBAUM — COMEDIAN. MAGICIAN. RECON MC.
When RECON needed an MC, there was only one person on our list.
Harrison Greenbaum is a comedian and magician who has been featured on many shows, including NBC’s America’s Got Talent, NBC’s Last Comic Standing, TBS’s Conan, Comedy Central’s This Week at the Comedy Cellar, AXS.TV’s Gotham Comedy Live, and National Geographic Channel’s Brain Games.
From colleges to comedy clubs, from talk shows to theaters, Harrison is bringing his unique style of comedy to audiences across the country and around the world, proving each night why publications such as the NY Times called him “a favorite young star on the comedy scene” and his mother describes him as “her favorite (and only) son.”
Additionally (and the lengthy bio on Harrison’s website won’t tell you this), he isn’t just another world touring comedian/ magician with a degree from Harvard… Harrison has played a lot of escape rooms.
KIM BELAIR, ARIADNE MACGILLIVRAY, & DAVID BEDARD
— SWEET BABY INC.
Kim Belair is a writer, narrative designer, and co-founder at Sweet Baby Inc. In the industry since 2013, she’s worked with companies including Ubisoft, Rocksteady, Square Enix, KO_OP, Valve, and JuVee Productions to bring games and stories to life. Beyond narrative work, Kim is an advocate for representation and inclusion, and is currently leading an initiative aimed at supporting, training and empowering marginalized devs. When she isn’t working, Kim can be found collecting skulls, thinking about food, and looking at her phone. Find her everywhere @Bagelofdeath
Ari MacGillivray is a community developer, writer and producer with a passion for storytelling and team-building. Ari, also a co-founder at Sweet Baby Inc., has worn a number of different hats across the industry, from writing and production to management and scouting. She is a devout sneakerhead, a huge fan of pressure wash videos and can usually be found hanging out with her cats, who remain sworn enemies. She’s @Macgillivray514 on Twitter.
David Bedard, “dbed”, is a brand manager and narrative designer who has helped to define and expand the narrative worlds of IPs including Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Rainbow 6, Sleeping Dogs and more. Beyond his work in the games and media industries, Dbed is known for his love of The Fast and the Furious franchise, platformers, and pro wrestling. Find him @dbed everywhere.
CHARLIE BOND & JAMES HAMER-MORTON – DEADLOCKED ESCAPE ROOMS
James and Charlie are the masterminds behind boutique escape room chain Deadlocked – the pioneering powerhouse behind hit episodic online escape rooms The Insiders and The Cyphstress.
These two were created in a lab specifically for the world of immersive experiences – whilst cutting their teeth starring in art house films and moonlighting as games level designers, they soon turned their hand to the world of ‘alternative reality games’ -devoting their lives to transporting their audiences into the centre of their own artisan adventures.
SERA DODD & DAVID MIDDLETON – ERIC & BEWILDER BOX
Sera Dodd has played just over 1500 rooms. This makes her almost certainly the most experienced escape room player in the western world alongside Sharan, with whom she’s played every single game. Together they have a 99.8% escape rate, have played in 17 different countries, and once played 615 games in a single year. Sera has been members of Team UK during both Red Bull Escape Room World Championships and co-founded the UK Escape Room Industry Conference (ERIC), worked as a UX and Design Consultant within the escape room industry, and has generally been a pillar of the UK escape room community. Her real hobbies include bouldering and befriending wild animals. In her spare time, she’s a doctor.
David Middleton is co-founder of both ERIC and the Brighton-based escape room company, Bewilder Box. Bewilder Box has produced an assortment of highly regarded games ranging from traditional escape rooms to online puzzle video games, and a beach-side pop-up escape room in a box.
EMMA ROCHON & FRED PREDDY – IMPROBABLE ESCAPES & ESCAPE MAZE
Emma Rochon is the Director of Game Experience and Design at Improbable Escapes. She has been working in the escape room industry since 2014, and has designed more than 30 escape rooms. An avid board game player, Emma has recently opened a board game cafe to further share her love of games.
Fred Preddy and the Escape Maze team have created over 100 games for themselves and other facilities since opening their doors in 2014. After the first year in the escape room business, attention turned to outdoor games, especially games to be played on the farmland where Escape Maze is located. These games were an instant hit with school groups and corporate clients. In addition to farm escape games, Fred and the team also created games to take place in workplaces, historic buildings and at special events.
MIKE PREDDY – ESCAPE MAZE
Mike Preddy is a carpenter/ contractor with 35 years of experience as well as an accomplished chainsaw artist and ice sculptor. Since 2014, he has been the lead of the creative design team in charge of all the builds at Escape Maze, PTBO Escape and other escape room facilities. His sharp eye for detail and keen sense of design bring an authenticity to all his builds. Convincing decor is what keeps players immersed inside the story throughout the game experience. Mike prides himself on creating beautiful, immersive decor on a shoestring budget.
HILLARY MANNING & AARON GOLD – GAMEMASTERS
Transplanted from Silicon Valley, California, Hillary Manning is a NYC-based designer. She has designed and built puzzles at Escape the Room, and worked with Beat The Bomb, an immersive paint bomb experience, to open and run their flagship location in Brooklyn. Most recently, Hillary was the Puzzle Design expert on Create The Escape, a children’s competition show, where she helped young designers design and create an escape room for their parents.
Hillary’s passion lies in bringing people back into the real world and away from their computer screens. Her designs are vibrant and colorful, revolving around the concept of injecting a sense of play into a very serious adult world. When she’s not playing puzzles, you can find Hillary sewing cosplays, doing flying trapeze, or curled up with a fantasy novel.
Aaron Gold is a comedian and actor based in New York City. You may have seen him/ heard his voice on various shows, cartoons, and commercials. You may also have listened to him low-key torture himself on the podcast, Don’t Mind If I Don’t. He is also the host and performer of You Are Not Alone: An Uplifting Show About Depression, for it’s ongoing 6 year run at the Magnet Theater.
You can follow Aaron everywhere at @HeyItsAaronGold.
Shockingly, being a comedian and actor in New York City doesn’t always generate the most reliable income. Hence, meet Aaron Gold, five year veteran of multiple escape room companies of varying types, qualities, and gimmicks. An expert Cluemaster, combining his theatrical ability with his love for puzzles and inability to hide how much of a friggin nerd he is, Aaron knows how to run a fun game while keeping everyone safe. Which generally means gently scolding drunk people, a skill he firmly believes all should develop.
THE LEADERSHIP TEAM FROM THE ESCAPE GAME
The Escape Game is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee and has 18 retail locations across the US with 2 more locations opening this year. In addition to designing and manufacturing its physical escape rooms, The Escape Game has created multiple at-home gaming options including a new board game called Escape from Iron Gate, an at-home adventure series called Unlocked, and a virtual platform for playing its physical escape games called Remote Adventures. The Nashville headquarters houses a design and manufacturing center with creative and build teams, as well as corporate leadership departments including the company’s 3 founders, Marketing, Guest Experience, Operations and Finance.
At RECON you’ll hear from the founders of The Escape Game, Jonathan, James and Mark as well as the leaders of several of their teams including Emily and Brian who lead operations, Phil who leads finance, Teddy who leads marketing, Ben who leads the game team and Andrew the Director of Product Operations. Collectively, this group has over 40 years of experience in the escape room industry.
KEN FERGUSON, THE LOGIC ESCAPES ME
Based in London, Ken escaped his first room back in 2013 and, after a short pause while the rest of the city caught up, has been playing ever since. He runs the review blog “The Logic Escapes Me” and the UK and Ireland news blog exitgames.co.uk, was part of the design team for the 2019 Red Bull Escape Room World Championship and has played several hundred escape rooms across Europe. Besides his blogging and reviewing Ken has been generous with his accumulated knowledge becoming a popular and dependable source of expert advice for starting and established escape room owners alike.
CICI CAO & BRANDON CHOW, ESCAPETHEROOMERS
Cici & Brandon are avid travelers and have visited over 60 countries around the world. After playing their first escape room in late 2018, all the traveling has since been revolved around escape rooms. Till this day, they’ve played around 500 escape rooms (80 of which were online remote games). ESCAPETHEROOMers is a blog/vlog website that they’ve created to spread the escape room culture to more players around the world. They also wanted to give a platform for the game creators to tell their side of the story. Since the pandemic, they’ve expanded their coverage to online games, puzzles, board games etc. Their new live stream series – “Behind the MasterMinds”, interviews game creators from all over the world.
RANDY HUM, ESCAPE RUMORS
Randy Hum: Randy started EscapeRumors.com in 2017 to share his passion with others and to help grow the escape room community. He has played over 330 escape rooms in the US and overseas with the goal of connecting to fellow enthusiasts and introducing people to this new genre of entertainment. The below are some escape room collaborations: Creator of 2018 and 2019 Escape Room Enthusiast Survey Visualization, part of USA Today’s 2018 and 2019 nomination panel for top escape rooms in the country, part of the Top Escape Room Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Award nomination panel for top escape rooms in the world, interview with the Room Escape Divas: Podcast #94, year in Review Escape Rumors Infographics, & Annual Escape Rumors Achievement unlocked Medalists.
SEBASTIAN MISKA, ESCAPE MANIAC
In 2016 Sebastian founded escape-maniac.com – Germany’s first escape room review blog. Since then he and his co-reviewer Malte have played and reviewed over 220 Escape Rooms in Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria and UK. Every year Sebastian and Malte present their Top Escape Room experience of the year. Escape Maniac runs the largest German speaking Escape Room group on Facebook Escape Room Fans Germany, where you can find recommendations for rooms in Germany or even fellow players.
STEFAN BAUER & ALEX OSORIO, TWO BEARS LIFE
Alex and Stefan are a couple from Mexico and Austria. They publish the escape room enthusiast blog twobearslife.com where they share mostly reviews of escape rooms from all around the world. They live in Austria, Europe, and love to travel and enjoy escape rooms wherever they can find them. On the professional side, Alex is a Product Designer and Stefan a Product Manager, which gives them a good foundation for creative and analytical thinking. On a side note, they also really love Disneyland which is always a good conversation starter. Which Disneyland have you visited already?
TOBY POWELL, ESCAPETHEREVIEW
Toby Powell runs escapethereview.co.uk, which started off as a personal blog site but is now a directory of escape game reviews, where enthusiasts can post their own reviews as well as find reviews by bloggers and by other enthusiasts. Since 2013 he has played over six hundred escape rooms in two dozen different countries, as well as a couple hundred box and digital escape games. When not escaping, he is CTO for a digital publishing company and sometimes climbs ropes upside down for fun.
VICTOR ESPRIU & MARIA JOSÉ NAVARRO, EL QUINTO ELEMENTO
Victor and Maria “El Quinto Elemento” are a couple from Barcelona who really love playing escape rooms around the world. It all started in 2016, when they first played an escape in Barcelona, even though they weren’t sure at the time that they liked it, they decided to try another one… and so on, until the day they noticed they had played more than 20 escapes in a few days and decided to write about their experience (along with some other friends) opening then their blogsite “www.room-escapers.com” Before knowing about escape games, they really enjoyed traveling around the world. At the moment that they became addicted to escapes, they figured they should relate both hobbies and that’s how they have played more than 780 escape games in 21 countries: they travel and play as much as they can! They try to meet enthusiasts wherever they go, and they can tell that this one is one of the best communities with a lot of lovely and kind people.
AMY PHILIP, ESCAPE GAMES PDX
Amy Philip is the founder of paradigmQ Corporation and oversees the operations of Escape Games PDX in Portland, OR since 2015 and paradigmQ Escape Games in Vancouver, WA since 2019. After spending almost a decade in corporate retail, she was ready to bring something unique and engaging to the Pacific Northwest with the introduction of Escape Games. She is always up for any adventure, loves spending time with her 3 year old niece, enjoying lots of good food and wine, traveling as much as possible, but also laying low at the lake with her pup, Truman and her boyfriend, Ben. Amy will always and forever be grateful for how this industry has helped her discover an amazing creative outlet, added truly amazing people to her life and given her a core team of employees that are the main reason paradigmQ has been such a success over the past 5 years.
ANNE LUKEMAN, CU ADVENTURES
Anne Lukeman is a former video professional turned escape room owner. She owns and runs Champaign-Urbana Adventures in Time & Space (“CU Adventures”) with her husband Chris. Since 2015, they have built escape room games with a strong focus on set design, immersion, and storytelling. In addition to their brick-and-mortar escape room facility in Urbana, IL, they’ve also run large-scale on-site escape rooms at Gen Con Indy and created a virtual/print-and-play game, THE LOST TEMPLE.
BOGDAN DASCALESCU, PUZZLE PUNKS
Bogdan owns Puzzle Punks, an independent full-service escape room company which designs, builds and runs real life immersive adventures. He is driven by passion and put lots of creativity and hard work in creating memorable experiences. Puzzle Punks’ games are witty and stand out through extra attention to details, storytelling and game flow & logic. He builds fun puzzle mechanisms that are both highly interactive and intricate. Puzzle Punks creates games with players at heart!
GIJS GEERS, DARKPARK
Gijs Geers is the founder of DarkPark, arguably one of the most successful escape room companies in the world. With a background in theatre, he creates immersive experiences that are unique in the escape room industry. His company has won every possible International award in the industry and even during the challenges of 2020, Gijs found a way to make his company thrive.
MEGAN MOUTON, CLUE CARRÉ
Megan Mouton is the founder and owner of Clue Carré, the first escape game in the state of Louisiana, opening in January of 2015. Starting with two games, Clue Carré quickly expanded to a new location with five total games within a year of opening. Upon completion of year 2 in business, Clue Carré expanded yet again into the Metairie market. The Metairie branch opened in November of 2017 with three games. The third location opened inside of Surge Trampoline park with two games in June of 2019. Megan was named one of Gambit Magazine’s top 40 under 40 in 2015. This prestigious award recognizes professionals and entrepreneurs making a difference in the City of New Orleans. Megan is excited to be a member of such a unique industry and is constantly striving to improve her customer’s experience as well as encourage the growth and evolution of the industry as a whole. Megan is a member of the Transworld Room Escape Conference Advisory Board and has served as a panelist for the past four years.
SETH WOLFSON, HOURGLASS ESCAPES
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Seth has been working in the film and theme park industries since 1988. Using his experience as a scenic and animatronic artist for Universal Studios, he has created immersive gaming experiences. He is creator of the award winning Evil Dead 2™ Officially licensed escape room, is currently working on the Officially licensed Arkham Horror Files™ Escape, and is hosting a new webinar or converting escape games to remote avatar. His work can be found at Hourglassescapes.com and makeupfxartist.com. His other passions include board gaming, playing guitar poorly, napping and movies.
Peih-Gee Law is most well known for being a fan favorite contestant on the reality show Survivor, where she played first in Survivor China in 2007, and then again in a returning All Star season Survivor Second Chance. She calls Survivor “The greatest immersive game in the world”.
In her professional life as a private jeweler, Peih-Gee has extensive experience with organizing and exhibiting at trade shows, as well as hosting, producing and facilitating large corporate events.
She has also recently launched PeihGeePlays– an online community where she hosts live stream Survivor Game Nights on Twitch featuring different reality stars as well as organizing events and games for fans in the community.
Peih-Gee is an ardent fan of escape rooms and immersive entertainment. She writes reviews for Room Escape Artist’s Hivemind collective and loves being an ambassador for the escape room community.
SUMMER HERRICK, LOCURIO
With her extensive background in writing and performing for film, television, and theater, Summer brings the narrative flair to Locurio’s award-winning immersive experiences. Summer discovered her love for puzzles at a very young age, playing text adventure games with her mother. She is a long-standing member of Mensa, the National Puzzlers’ League, and the Screen Actors Guild, a unique blend that virtually destined her to design escape rooms. A fully addicted escape room player as well as an owner (she’s played over 600 games worldwide), Summer relishes meeting other escape room enthusiasts and sharing stories.