Behind the scenes: QuestomaticaPosted on 2017-10-30 by Pim
When you talk about escape rooms in Amsterdam, one of the names that usually pop up is Questomatica, formerly known as Claustrophobia. So when they invited us over we were looking forward to see what they’re up to. After we had a great time playing WakeUp! we had a chat with Zina, one of the designers and managers.
Building and playing rooms
Zina and her team already had previous team-building industry experience and after enjoying an escape room in Barcelona they thought they could improve the experience and make it more immersive. So when they moved to the Netherlands they decided to give it a go. “We saw that most of the escape rooms refer to something scary and full of blood, mixed with broken dolls etc. We think that anybody can and should be able to enjoy such a game. So there should be demand for a fantasy room too. And we gladly create something rather magical instead of scary.” They create escape rooms for all ages and genders. That’s why their visitors not only consist of groups of colleagues, friends, families, HR departments with their candidates but also parents with their 8 year (and older) kids to play together.
When we ask Zina how they create that magic experience she shares the following recipe: “1. You need to come up with a well though-out story and decorations. 2. Add music, sound and light effects. 3. Salt and pepper with sensors and electronics. 4. Shake everything and serve with nice storytelling before the game and a lullaby to begin ;) 5. Don’t forget a team of amazing hosts, nothing will work out without them!”
"We gladly create something rather magical instead of scary."
For stories they try to think of what kind of stories people want to hear, what they would find exciting. Then they fill this story with tasks and intrigues and they try to guess what surprises the players. Afterwards they see if they can actually craft or produce it in a way that doesn’t break immediately and also works. “I must say we were are really pleased when people play with care when we ask them not to use physical force. As playing with concrete blocks, iron sticks and other unbreakable objects is not so much fun haha.”
While building Arcade Invasion they were again looking for something a little bit different from the other escape rooms opening at the time. “Arcade Invasion is different. It’s a beautifully designed room where we implemented new techniques to step away from typical escape rooms tasks.” Just like WakeUp!, Arcade Invasion has no padlocks and is not build arround random searching of objects but it concentrates on team work tasks and the communication between players.
As for playing rooms, they don’t consider themselves fanatic players, but they terribly enjoy well made games. When asked for personal favorites Zina says: “Amsterdam has a great selection of rooms for any taste, Delft has another two (though I still haven’t played their second room), The Queen in Utrecht at the Oudegracht, Prison Escape and a few more rooms in Russia.”
Located in Amsterdam they have a good mix of locals and tourists. Even company events from abroad. People from outside of the Netherlands are also starting to take notice of the great quality of escape rooms in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. The first person to play Arcade Invasion, after also playing WakeUp!, was actually someone from the United Kingdom. He just came over the next weekend after he heard that they opened the new room.
When asked about the cons of being located in Amsterdam Zina mentions the amount of escape rooms might become too much for the city. On the other hand it’s also a positive thing, “More awesome games is always better for this market, as people can’t really come to their favorite room twice so they should have other options to keep enjoying this. That way everybody benefits.” She also feels there’s more of a healthy collaboration going between the escape rooms in Amsterdam rather than competition. They host big groups together for instance. Adding, “But of course all of us want to be the best and the first choice for customers.”
"We are about fun, fantasy and teamwork. Many people misunderstood the Claustrophobia name."
Claustrophobia becomes Questomatica
Questomatica was formerly known as Claustrophobia, but they changed their name last year to better reflect the ideology of the company. They create a lot of technology for playful quest games. Zina adds, “We are not about fear or phobias, we are about fun, fantasy and teamwork. Many people misunderstood the Claustrophobia name.” They made a questionnaire for their visitors and it turned out that most expected it to be more scary and less fun. A lot of people were coming in through a strong recommendation. They rated the experience very high but came in with quite low expectations. “The new name definitely helps us being selected as the first choice for many clients with or without a recommendation.”
There are no plans for a third room yet, they are improving team behaviour analyses and soon they hope to offer some additional services to the escape room experience. What exactly they wouldn’t tell us though. The same goes for an escape room inspired book by a Dutch writer they mentioned being on the way. Hmm, guess we have to keep an eye on them!
They did want to share their vision on escape room developments though. According to them it’s heading exactly where they are going - analysis of team’s dynamics. Aside from that they expect a more diverse choice of real-life experiences and games to pop up as a result of the escape room market blooming. More and more people see it as an alternative to passive cinema or a plain dinner. They also see museums becoming more interactive and taking inspiration from escape rooms and other real-life experiences. “Our technical director is now working in a company dedicated to the design of science museums, interactive spaces and exhibitions and we hear from him that more and more museum are willing to introduce an escape-room-inspired space into their exhibition. So escape rooms are a base and the beginning of much bigger innovation on the entertainment & learning-by-doing market.”
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