Interview with Raja Sahi and Zoltán Honti, owners of Escapedom in Westwood.
Please introduce yourself
Hi my name is Raja Sahi, co-founder of Escapedom. I’m originally from New Delhi, India and have lived in the US for 10+ years now. My professional experience is in the area of delivering technology solutions for major movie studios. I have a passion for creativity, brain teasers and puzzles, making Escapedom a perfect pastime for me.
My name is Zoltán Honti, co-founder of Escapedom. I’m also not originally from the U.S., having grown up in Hungary I came to the States over 12 years ago. I’m a cinematographer by trade and really enjoy creating visual environments. Having seen the success of escape rooms spread through Hungary and greater Eastern Europe I had a feeling they would catch on here in the States at some point.
Why did you decide to get involved in the escape room industry?
Zoltán and I have been friends for a long time and always had an idea to do a passion project together, outside of our regular day-to-day jobs. Zoltán being from Hungary, had read about escape rooms being popular there and doing well. So we had done a few searches in LA years back and there weren’t many companies as compared to now. We had hoped to be the first but obviously we weren’t. We both really enjoy puzzles and like working with our hands and solving things, so it seemed like a great fit for combined passions. Escapedom was officially created just about 2 years ago and we officially opened our first room about 1.5 years ago.
What makes your rooms unique?
We’ve really brought together a great intersection of technology and gameplay. Our puzzles work really well for groups because we’ve designed them in such a flow that they’re not very linear, giving the experience of multiple people working on puzzles simultaneously. So there’s not a lot of room for boredom when people play our rooms, even with large groups. The technology used in our rooms is really a living and breathing part of our puzzles. The surprise elements usually bring a smile to players’ faces, which makes us happy. Currently we have two rooms running Tue-Sun and we are working on the third room now.
What do you think is the most important part of an escape room design?
There needs to be a sweet spot across these design points. In the past we’ve seen problems when we’ve only concentrated on puzzles, but we then realized that, while the puzzles were making certain people really happy, others wanted to have a more immersive experience and a greater story. So we took it upon ourselves to evolve the rooms to have a greater intersection between all aspects of room design. Different people look for different things, so it behooves us, as designers, to try to make everyone happy and not just a few really happy.
Having had the pleasure of beta testing your latest room and seeing it again after changes had been made, I’m curious what is your process like when creating a room?
Our biggest learning from this process has been somewhat introspective for us. We, meaning the owners of Escapedom, sometimes get blocked on an idea when we just focus on a puzzle or story we have on our own. We’ve both learned that when we expand the ideation to a group of people, different people will bring different ideas to the project. Similarly speaking, a better movie is made by a team of people rather than just one individual, so we’ve learned to take our time and consider all the possibilities across various ideas.
Please share with us a fun story that has happened with your company.
A funny story is connected to our FBI themed room called The Lair. When one enters the room they’ll notice a theme of barbie dolls strewn throughout the room. Early on one of our first players had made a comment that we should name the antagonist in the story “The Dollmaker”, it had never occurred to us to associate some of our props to the actual bad guy in the story. It was great feedback and we ran with it. Sometimes you just need feedback from someone not involved to give a different but great perspective… it’s just like asking a teammate for help when you’re stuck on a puzzle and they identify something immediately that you didn’t recognize!
What advice do you have for players?
The advice for players is to never be afraid to try things and always make sure to be in communication with your teammates. Both in terms of telling them what is going on and looking around the room to see what others are doing. Also don’t spend too much time by yourself on a single puzzle, try grabbing another teammate to help you out. Two heads are always better than one.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Here’s a coupon code to come visit! Use “RajaZoltan” for $3 off tickets. We look forward to seeing you!
Thank you so much! Everybody go check out Escapedom…they are great fun!!!