Halloween at Lock Chicago

Hello Again!

T-26 days until Halloween and we'll be dressing our escape rooms up with some spooky flair. The concept of Escape Rooms is interesting because how it is many times tied to the themes of Haunted Houses and other various "scare factor" attractions across the world. There are a few even in Evanston this time of year where we are located.

Halloween plays a big part with this because not only are you fully immersed in an experience but many times as a guest you are playing the part of a character in a plot/movie. Escape rooms truly capitalize on this and provide different unique opportunities to celebrate the season other than getting the wits scared out of you by a mindless zombie (nothing against all our friends with Zombie rooms out there!)

What will YOU be dressing up as for Halloween? Feel free to leave a comment here!


Brian, Bane, and Alex - Lock Chicago

Escape Rooms: Where Are They? (Not Just Lock Chicago!)

Hello Again!

We wanted to follow up our last post to highlight a growing trend in the Escape Room Industry. When we began in Evanston back in January we were 1 of 15 companies in Illinois operating some form of an escape room. Just under 10 months later we are now 1 of 40 companies.

Escape Rooms are growing at an extremely rapid rate which is great for the industry as it continues to spread the word and increase exposure for this exciting and fun activity. More mainstream outlets are getting on board as well as we see hit television shows such as "The Big Bang Theory" and more highlighting Escape Rooms on their broadcast.

Disney recently announced a new "Guardians of the Galaxy" themed Escape Room in their park. The success of rooms throughout the country will undoubtedly spur an increase for larger outlets to capitalize on the success. 

To us at Lock Chicago this is great news because it continues to challenge us and other Escape Rooms to create the best possible experience for the most important person, our guests. If you're looking for nearby escape rooms feel free to visit the popular website: http://escaperoomdirectory.com/ which has a large index of rooms across the world!

Until next time take care and happy escaping!


Brian, Bane, and Alex

Lock Chicago and Partnering with Local Escape Rooms

Hello again! It's been a while since we last posted but don't think we took the summer off - today's feature is regarding connecting and partnering with other Escape Rooms in your area. Last night we met with a dozen other escape room owners in the Chicagoland area at another location (thanks to DOA for hosting)!

In an industry that's growing faster every day it's important to understand the dynamics at play and what's working across the business. The worse thing that can happen to the industry is poor quality escape rooms opening and turning potential customers off to the whole idea. This is why escape rooms must continually help and push each other to create the ultimate live experience for their guests.

We are currently working on forming a Chicago Escape Room Association which will give us leverage when working with as many partners as we do. All escape rooms need the same things, insurance, building materials, building space, and if you can work together as a team to reach these common goals you have a lot more power than if you stood alone.

While it can be challenging to unify those in the industry with as many new rooms appearing across the United States and International community, the nice thing is everyone understands what one another has to go through within their own escape rooms and by sharing ideas and fostering a helpful community it will only continue to further grow the business.

That being said please feel free to reach out to us at Lock Chicago if we can provide any advice, tips, or just conversation regarding anything Escape Rooms!


Brian, Bane, and Alex

Pokemon GO, Lock Chicago, and Escape Room Advertising

I'm sure if you're reading this you're well aware by now of the huge trend of Pokemon GO taking the world by storm. Not only does it boast an impressive amount of users in just a few short days but it is driving unfathomable amounts of new business to small businesses and companies across the world. 

Escape Rooms are one of those businesses primed to take advantage of the games recent success. For those who aren't familiar, players collect different Pokemon through the game which is linked to GPS locations across the country. There are various items called "lures" you can use to attract Pokemon which players pursue. In downtown Chicago you can see hundreds of players swarming buildings that are essentially Pokemon hotspots. Companies can purchase lures and use them to attract Pokemon which in turn, attract customers.

In an industry such as escape rooms where it is relatively unknown in the United States this is a great way to increase exposure and even if players aren't immediately booking, raises awareness for this experience. Here at Lock Chicago our philosophy is that all escape rooms are working together, and the more people that know about them the better escape rooms will strive to be and provide a better experience for its players!

Pokemon GO is rapidly changing the way us and other companies advertise and reach their customers and its exciting to continue to learn new methods to grow your brand. Next time you're in the area feel free to stop by and see if there's any new Pokemon to catch by us!

-Brian and Bane

Lock Chicago and Mayfest's Mobile Escape Room

Hello again! Two weekends ago we had the privilege of partnering with Northwestern University's Mayfest student group and Dillo Day to host a mobile escape room on the festival grounds. We had a TON of fun as this was a completely new experience for us as well.

The mini-escape room experience lasted 20 minutes so it was certainly an interesting challenge for us to develop something way out of the norm where a lot of factors are out of our control. Typically we know the exact space and terrain we are working with in our building but with Dillo Day we are working in a tent located nearby the main stages which can provide a not-so-quiet environment for our guests. 

Our initial thought was to create an hour long puzzle and then test it utilizing as many puzzles and challenges as we could within a 25-30 minute time frame. We then reached out to the Mayfest coordinator's to make sure our room was themed to the festival and incorporated as many designs and decorations as we could.

Figuring out the reset time was the final piece which was actually much easier than our typical rooms due to many of the parts being unchanged throughout the duration of the experience. Our plan is to craft more mobile experiences not just around Evanston but throughout Chicago where we can engage more members of the community.

For an in-depth look at the experience check out this great article written by the "Daily Northwestern". http://dailynorthwestern.com/2016/05/18/ae/dillo-day-will-feature-first-ever-mobile-escape-room/


Brian and Bane, Lock Chicago  

Northwestern's Dillo Day & Lock Chicago Present: Championship Week

We're excited to announce our partnership with Northwestern University and their annual music festival - "Dillo Day"! Taking place on Saturday, May 21st we will be providing a mini-mobile escape room experience on festival grounds for guests to participate in! This will be completely different than our current rooms, "Sunburn" and "Malfunction" so if you've already done both at our main location feel free to stop by for a new experience!

Guests will have 20 minutes to work their way through the Dillo themed challenges and see if they have what it takes to conquer Lock Chicago's newest challenge. Tickets are 9$ per person.

In addition to our mobile escape room we are thrilled to present "Championship Week", which takes place from May 1st-May 8th. We are offering all Northwestern Students and Faculty 30% off all our escape rooms for the chance to compete against one another for glory and prizes! We will be recording times of teams and keeping daily leader boards to showcase the best and brightest at NU. We will be checking ID's however so if you've already been to our rooms in the past we apologize but you will not be eligible to compete in those specific rooms during Championship week for the prizes :( But have no fear as we have some exciting new rooms launching in a few months! If you have done Malfunction you will be eligible to compete in Sunburn, and vice versa.

Northwestern Students and Faculty can use the code "LOCKCHAMPION" when booking. Note that the code will only apply to rooms reserved between May 1st-May 8th.

Stay tuned for more updates as the month unfolds! Good luck to all teams competing.


Brian and Bane

Opening Day - Malfunction

It took months of planning and preparation but on April 1st we were proud to launch our newest escape room, "Malfunction" to the public! 

We tested the room with close to 20 groups for weeks leading up to that Saturday making minor tweaks here and there to adjust for puzzle solvency and design. Learning how to operate one escape room is challenging enough but with over 65 guests arriving throughout the day a large portion involved learning on the fly.

With less than 3 hours of sleep we funneled all the caffeine known to man into our systems and greeted our new groups which included families, friends, companies coming for team-building events and many more. To say we were nervous would be an understatement but by far the most rewarding aspect of owning an escape room is seeing the enjoyment from guests as they navigate through our rooms which less than 3 months ago were nothing but empty office spaces.

We aren't close to being done yet by any means! When interacting with groups one of the most important pieces is to ask for constructive feedback because complacency can never be an option. Escape rooms must always continue to innovate and push the limits of the human imagination to provide the best possible experience for its users.

Escape rooms are not in competition with one another. In a perfect world we would love to see every escape room succeed because truly the worst scenario would be a first time escape-roomer visiting one that was poorly developed and tested and swearing them off altogether.

We hope you enjoyed this post and look forward to seeing you sometime for our new room!


Brian and Bane

2nd Room - "Malfunction" Opening!

We are excited to announce the arrival of our new escape room - "Malfunction"! Available on April 1st we have begun taking reservations as we complete final testing stages for the puzzles.

Sunburn will continue to run during it's normal times but we are adding additional slots for Malfunction reservations. Unlike Sunburn, Malfunction is geared towards smaller teams of 4-5 as they navigate through the challenges presented in the "engine room". 

Our focus was to provide an opportunity for our initial Sunburn escapees to return and have their revenge on a new Lock Chicago room seeing that many of our guests initially were first time escape-room goers! We are thrilled to see some of these amazing groups come back and earn a new picture on the "Wall of Champions". 

Check below as the escape room saga continues...

You and your team arrive at Keplar Station on the outer perimeter of Mars with one mission: save the lives of the dozens of crew members trapped there. With near complete power failure following a sudden meteor shower, the life-support is the only remaining function and it won't last long. Your engineering team has exactly 60 minutes before the station shuts down for good, will you persevere and be the heroes or remain trapped in the annals of space?

Good Luck!

Brian and Bane

Lock Chicago Interview - North by Northwestern

Last week we had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Margaret from the North by Northwestern magazine. We shared our thoughts on everything and anything Lock Chicago related and plans for the upcoming year! This has been a truly amazing experience thus far and seeing groups come through and enjoy themselves is really what it's all about. Escape Rooms are all about the experience and it is our #1 goal to ensure that stays at the forefront of every decision we make.

Check the link below for the interview!



2 Weeks In - New Record Holders!

Checking in again almost 3 weeks after our opening day and we have some exciting news - Lock Chicago's Sunburn room officially has new record holders for best time! An amazing team of 8 came through and working together like champions - unlocked the Sun Treasure with a time of 57:16!

We've had over 30 groups come through in the first 15 days resulting in a solve-rate of 5/30. A few teams have been right on the cusp and given another minute or two that 5/30 number might look very different. It's been an amazing time watching groups work their way around our escape room and seeing the different communication styles that lead to success or a place on our Wall of Valiant Efforts. 

Looking forward to see what our groups this week can bring as they attempt to dismantle the current record holders! Check back in for an update soon. Thanks for reading!

The Potential of Escape Rooms: Location

When we started designing our first Lock Chicago escape room, we asked ourselves, "What is an Escape Game, and what are its restrictions?" One of the biggest considerations for an Escape room is of course the room itself. Most commonly, the space is a room in a building (usually an office or something similar) that's been revamped and redesigned to hold an escape room in it, but that is in no way the only way to have an escape room.

Giant Escape Rooms

There is a myth (/truth) that in Japan, the chain Escape Rooms (which is where all escape rooms started) actually plan out special escape room events that go beyond their actual rooms. I'm not sure how often they do these, but every now and again they will rent out a giant warehouse and prepare it to hold 1000 people for a HUGE mass escape room event. Now I've never done one, nor can I imagine how they would run an escape room on that scale successfully, but it completely breaks the restraints that having a confined space puts on your every day escape room. Granted you're still in a 'confined space', but it's a warehouse.

Teeny Tiny Escape Rooms

 Now this option is much more doable for the average escape room owner, and one that we at Lock Chicago plan on taking full advantage of once the weather gets warmer and the city festivals start coming out. Escape rooms usually last an hour, but there's nothing that says that's how long they absolutely HAVE to be. An hour is the absolute sweet spot, of course (and if you want to read more on that then take a look at this), but if you make the room smaller, you can easily design something that players can have fun trying to solve in 15-20 minutes. This is where the idea of the fair-ground escape game comes into play.

At a local festival or block party, a simple escape room can be easily (and cheaply) popped up with a simple canvas tent and some furniture. By making the time limit 15-30 minutes instead of an hour and dropping the price of entrance per customer, you can make a great activity for guests and festival-goers. This also allows younger children to participate, as escape rooms are usually made for the 16+ demographic. Easy to reset and easy to run, these one-day escape rooms bring the game to a much wider audience in a much friendlier and casual environment, and should be considered by any escape-game owners looking to get more involved with their communities.

While we're just getting our start, we here at Lock Chicago are always thinking of ways to expand our escape rooms beyond the room itself, and beyond 'escaping', too. This not only opens us up to more creative avenues of provision, but it also makes our games in the actual space more creative, too. The more you do, the more you do. That's as simple as it gets.

Designing an Escape Room: Custom Puzzles

If you're looking for a project that'll put your hands to work, build an Escape Room. Or become a construction worker, but we think Escape Rooms are more fun. Especially because you're building the project for yourself (one of the perks of owning your own business). But as you build your puzzle space, you'll realize very quickly that IKEA, Amazon, and thrift shops don't actually sell the furniture/fixtures/objects you need to make your ideas come to life. The majority of your room will have at least some kind of custom flair to it, but that's where the learning curve really kicks in.

Expenses Beget Learning

At Lock Chicago, we pride ourselves on creating unique puzzles that have you interacting with objects you wouldn't normally find in your day-to-day lives. That means a lot of custom work for us. Fortunately for us, custom usually means expensive.

Did we just say 'fortunately'? Yes we did, and here's why: when something is expensive, you get very resourceful very quickly when it comes to cutting costs. We have a lot of pieces that require a significant amount of precision to work (reflecting lasers around the room isn't as easy as you think!), and one of those custom pieces had to be as precise as precise can get. We're talking angles and geometry and trigonometry and all that stuff you swore you'd never try again once you left high school. We're crafty, but there's no way we could make what we needed successfully by hand in the time that we had, so we asked ourselves 'what is the most precise way to build these pieces in one go?' And that's how we landed on 3D printing.

The Design Phase

Once we figure out how to add pictures to these blogs we will, but here would have been a grand time to add a few. We have a whole design drawer here at Lock Chicago (and you might even see a few of those designs hanging on the walls in our lobby). And while custom crafting services will design the piece you need for you, we prefer to do it ourselves so we got onto a free 3D design site called TinkerCAD. Incredibly easy and a lot of fun if you're into that sort of thing. We went through four or five revisions of these designs before we settled on a finished product and sent them out to 3D printing shops. Unfortunately for us, we found out that printing all of the pieces we needed this way would cost us several thousand dollars. Back to square one...

Libraries are Treasures Hidden in Plain Sight

...Or so we thought. We found out that although it would cost a small fortune to go through a 3D printing service, the Harold Washington Library here in Chicago actually has a Maker's Lab on the 3rd floor that lets you use 3D printers for free (as long as you pay $.50 for every half hour of printing time you use). Pennies! We had struck gold! Unfortunately... it would take about 17 hours to print one of these custom pieces and we needed 10 of them. 170 * $.50 per half hour comes out to a lot less than several thousand dollars, but it was no longer an option given our ambitions here at Lock Chicago. Still! Go to your local library and get to know what they offer! You'll be surprised by everything you can find-- we know we were!


Not only do libraries have cool labs like this, but the people who work there are incredibly knowledgeable, and are in fact the greatest resource that library can offer you. We met Will Garza at the Maker's Lab and he helped us out with the 3D printing. When our plans for 3D printing failed, he knew alternatives we hadn't even thought of that would get us the same precision 3D printing would give us, and for far cheaper. Turns out he's the co-owner of White Knight Services, a custom crafting company, and we would end up using his services for all of the custom work you'll see at Lock Chicago. Finally, after a long journey, we had our custom pieces and could get started on the room.

The Lock Chicago moral of this story: just keep pushing. The more you do towards something, the more ways you learn how to do what needs to be done even better. From idea to design to 3D printing to expensive printers to helpful libraries, all added up to us finding not only the best way to create our custom pieces, but also created a relationship that will help us out for years to come. Like we said earlier, expenses beget knowledge, especially when it comes to Escape Rooms.

Designing an Escape Room: The Idea

Everything starts with a small idea (or in the case of a Snuggie, someone accidentally putting a bathrobe on backwards) and the Escape Rooms here at Lock Chicago are no different. It all starts off with the most granular element of the puzzle, and the rest develops as you realize what you can accomplish with that mechanic. Take a look at our Sunburn room, for example. The underlying mechanic for the room is "light" and interesting ways to play around with it, especially redirection (if anyone here has seen The Mummy you know what I'm talking about). Every puzzle that exists in that room involves that mechanic.

An Expert Opinion

For those of you who follow this sort of thing, Johnathan Blow is releasing The Witness on January 26th, a puzzle game for computers and consoles. Johnathan Blow is considered one of the greatest video game puzzle makers around, and in this interview he states that the 600+ puzzles that exist to be solved in the game all have, on their most granular level, the same mechanic running through them: connecting two dots with a line.

Connecting the Dots

That's right, the some 100 hours of playtime it would take to fully beat his upcoming game are spent essentially just connecting dots, but once you see the screenshots and videos of the game you can immediately tell that it's a gross over-simplification. The important thing to take away from this is that the entire concept, and the project he and his team have spent close to 10 years now working on, started with an idea as small as connecting two dots with a single line. All great ideas stem from a granular foundation, and that concept has been generalized into the term we know today as "theme". What is the theme of your Escape Room, and how will you abstract it?

Tackling a project can be daunting when you look at it as a whole. When building a house, don't think of the house--think of the foundation you have to lay first, then the wood skeleton, then the insulation, then the exterior, then the interior, and then the finishing touches. Designing (and not to mention building) an Escape Room is done the same way, and that's how we do it at Lock Chicago. If you're looking to get some help starting a room, or are just curious to learn more, feel free to reach out to us at info@lockedchicago.com and we'll give you all of the advice we can.


Starting Lock Chicago Escape Rooms

You know usually you should start a post titled "Starting Lock Chicago Escape Rooms" when you actually start the business, but we're just a few months off. Besides, with a touch of retrospect we can guarantee this post will be a lot more interesting than it would have been if we had written it three months ago. For starters, we're not starting off with 'This is our first post, we're so excited to start our business!' Trust us, we're still VERY excited (and we hope it shows in our rooms) but we know the lay of the land a bit better now and take everything with a level head, an even keel, and more than the appropriate amount of stability cliches.

Three Months Ago

Three months ago our lives were phone calls and emails. We had nothing: no website, no legal status, and we hadn't even mapped out our first room yet. All we had was the encouragement of a few friends over at Locked Manhattan and the help of the folks over at SCORE and the Chicago BACP. Talking about and designing an Escape Room is a ton of fun, and it gets the brain working, but complying with federal, state, and city codes, laws, zoning, and licensing is a... let's call it a 'learning experience'. There is a learning curve and there are a lot of lessons, which we'll cover in these blogs, and we hope you learn a little something from them, if not find them interesting. Hopefully if you're starting your own Escape Room, our experiences will help you avoid some of the pits we had to climb out of on our way to the grand opening of Lock Chicago.


It's  roughly three weeks before the opening of our first Escape Room here at Lock Chicago (use coupon code GRANDOPENING at checkout for 10% off for a limited time #shamelessplug), and we're deep into beta testing and ironing out our designs. There are few things more powerful than seeing something as personal as your puzzle design (which is your own personal challenge to the world) slowly manifest from idea to physical space. Everything we've done up until now has been absolutely worth it, and we can't wait for our first customers to come give the finished puzzle a go. But we'll go into more detail on that in some later posts.

For now, we're hard at work making our puzzle room as unique and memorable as it can possibly be, and we hope you come check us out.

Bane and Brian