A chat with the creators of Exit: The GamePosted on 2017-11-27
After we played the first three Exit games that got translated to Dutch we were excited and wanted to talk to creative people behind it. So we looked up Inka & Markus and send them a couple of question to which they kindly replied.
Inka (40) and Markus (42) Brand hail from Gummersbach, a small town near Cologne in Germany. They’ve got two kids, Emely (15) and Lukas (17). Inka is a “full-time game-designer, housewife, mother, teacher, taxi driver” and Markus works as an insurance-salesman. They do the creative part together in their spare time and during the day Inka tinkers with prototypes, writes the rules and corresponds with the publishers.
In 1999 they visited a KOSMOS game-convention where there was a workshop on testing unpublished board games. They loved the ideas the different game designers came up with and wanted to try it themselves. So they started designing board games. It took seven years, until 2006 until they finally could release their first game. “We learned a lot during this time. Best friends aren’t the best critics for instance...” Then they got in touch with Sandra Dochtermann, the children game editor of KOSMOS. She gave them the idea to do a children game. Up until that point they only, rather unsuccessfully, made games for adults. One of the first games they made for children was the one that got released, “The Great Dinosaur-Game”.
"We learned a lot during this time. Best friends aren’t the best critics for instance..."
In December 2014 they visited their first live escape room with their whole family. They were very excited about the experience and talked about it with their editors. Apparently their publisher already was toying around with the idea of doing an escape room game. “We were probably at the right time, at the right place. They asked us and we didn’t have to think long about it. We said yes immediately.”
Usually their publisher or their editors propose a story for the games. “They better know which themes the target audience prefers.” Sometimes they pick the themes themselves, “The Abandoned Cabin” for instance or the new “The Dead Man In The Orient Express”. And when the theme’s set the puzzles are based upon that theme. When we asked them what the biggest challenge is in translating a live escape room to a board game they respond “The hardest thing was to install a control-system that needs no game master. Each player should be involved in solving the riddles.”
They’re very happy with the success of the Exit series. It’s been translated to over 13 countries already. “Solving puzzles - no matter whether in the live rooms or in the boardgames - is a worldwide phenomenon, we think. Every day more rooms will open up. More and more people will be infected by the escape-virus. The games offer a low-cost alternative to the expensive entrances of the rooms. Maybe that’s the reason for translating our games in other languages.” They’ve got no control over the translations, the license department takes care of that. They don’t even get to see the translations. “We have to hope that everything will be translated correctly. Errors in translation can cause puzzles to become unsolvable.”
"The hardest thing was to install a control-system that needs no game master."
The current explosion of escape room board games makes them happy. Because of this the games were perceived as a trend at the “Spiel ‘16” fair in Essen and each game got attention and none got lost in the flood of new products. So in this case the competition really helped.
When asked if they would change anything on the series, looking back now, they’re crystal clear, “No! Nothing! We really love these games. They are our whole pride.” They’re hoping that Exit - The Game will remain successful for a long time and that the ideas for new puzzles will never end.
Playing escape rooms
Markus and Inka still love to play escape rooms. They stopped counting, but they think they’ve played over 35. When asked about their favorite room they reply, “It was a VR-room in Berlin. We played it together with our editor just one day before Exit became the “Kennerspiel des Jahres” (Game Of The Year). Each player was in a separate and empty room, equipped with VR-glasses, headphones, microphone and joysticks. Then we entered a virtual world. Through the VR-glasses we could see our other team-members, we interacted together and solved riddles on an alien planet. That was amazing.”
When we asked for any final words they suitably finished with “Keep on playing!”.
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