Today you are in for a special treat! 101 Militia Gaming brings you an exclusive interview with Andrew Dudich, owner of Adventure Arcade Escape Rooms located in Danville, Illinois. Dudich has been designing puzzle adventures and rooms along with his business co-owner and girlfriend, Racheal Anderson, for two years. I’ve always been interested in what it takes to create those amazing escape rooms and to run a business like this, so without further ado, let’s jump right on in!
Teaser photo for the “Escape from the 80s” escape room
theundisputedunknown: Thank you for taking the opportunity to speak with me today about Adventure Arcade Escape Rooms! When did you first get the idea to start this company?
Dudich: I started a couple of years ago while working on program ideas with my mom at the Westville Public Library. I had been interested in escape rooms for a while and had played a few in the surrounding area. Our first room was developed as a program for the library that the whole family could enjoy. Something that encouraged learning, teamwork, and fun.
I went to a workshop in Urbana that featured the Lukeman’s from CU Adventures in Time and Space. They talked about their businesses and how they started. I thought it would be a fun, creative job and that’s one of the big things I’ve been missing in my life. I felt that if they could do it, I could too.
I’d been involved in the CUDO Plays game development competition for a few years at that point. (CUDO is Champaign Urbana Design Organization).
Escape Room Design is kind of parallel with tabletop game design and I thought it was something lacking in the Danville, IL area, where I’m from.
After the first room at the library, I developed a second room and started traveling locally to set up games for fundraisers, parties, and school events.
theundisputedunknown: That is amazing! So when it comes to designing a room, what are some of the key components that go into the creation?
Dudich: There are several things, and different people design differently. I try to approach it from a theme and ways to integrate different varieties of puzzles into that theme. For instance, we are currently building an 80s teenager room at our building.
The goal of my rooms is not to necessarily escape a locked room but rather to solve an overarching puzzle or finish a story. In the 80s room, you have been grounded by your parents and have to find a way to sneak out to meet your friends. In “Once Upon a Timer,” one of the mobile games, you have arrested the Big Bad Wolf on suspicion of murder against the local pig population and must locate his weapon of destruction before it detonates.
The other aspect is teamwork. I don’t want one person to be able to do everything themselves. Some puzzles require multiple people to complete. In addition, different people are good at different things. If you include a variety of puzzles and physical challenges, everyone can participate and feel that they contributed to the solution of the game. It’s designed to bring a group together to solve a goal. (And disarm the device) for the wolf room.
High schoolers diffusing a “bomb”
theundisputedunknown: I love the fact that these rooms are a great reminder that teamwork really does make the dream work! How many rooms do you have at the moment?
Dudich: I currently have two mobile rooms that come to you, and am working on two in my building. The mobile rooms are Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab and Once Upon a Timer. The permanent rooms are Escape from the 80s and a speakeasy. Neither have official names yet. I’ve done the mobile rooms for two years now.
theundisputedunknown: Very nice! I know many have had the chance to see your ambulance around town! When did you decide to add it to the business and is this also used for your mobile rooms?
Dudich: I knew I needed a larger vehicle to transport the mobile games. I had been looking at vans and such online. The ambulance came up in a local auction and I bid on it. I ended up winning it, and was very excited! It can fit all of the rooms inside for easy transport and is a great advertising piece. I am hoping to eventually use it as a mobile room but am working on the building first.
To accommodate larger groups of up to 8 at a time, I set up in homes and classrooms for more space. To accommodate larger groups of up to 8 at a time, I set up in homes and classrooms for more space. The ambulance will probably be a max of 4 at a time. Teams do best when they can spread out and explore, rather than one clump.
The official Adventure Arcade Escape Rooms ambulance. And yes, it is just as cool in person!
theundisputedunknown: Ah, that certainly makes sense! I for one love the ambulance! I can imagine it is also a great marketing tool to get the word around.
What is typically the best number of people to have in a group to complete a room? Do different rooms have different team sizes that are better equipped to solve the puzzles?
Dudich: I have found 4-6 is usually best depending on how well they work together. Keys for success are communication and teamwork. I’ve seen one person wanting to do everything themselves and holding an object someone else needed but could not find. Or someone dismiss an idea without trying it, only to come back 10 minutes later and it was correct. Communicate with each other, explore everything! Sometimes you’re missing a piece you simply haven’t found. It may help clear up something you are confused about. Everything is usually explained. You don’t have to guess or force it.
4-6 is typically optimal because there are enough people to work on multiple things at a time, but also aren’t clumping. One mass group drowns each other out and gets in each other’s way. Spread out and think for yourselves, but communicate ideas to solve the problem together. That doesn’t mean other sizes can’t do well. It all depends on the team dynamic, and sometimes you don’t know what that is until they get going. Even strangers can do well if they work together well. I’ve had 8 year olds do better together than high schoolers.
theundisputedunknown: I can imagine! Do you have a season or quarter that is usually more busy than the others?
Dudich: Right now, spring and fall. I do events throughout the year, but most of my larger school events are spring and fall. My business model is a bit different from permanent rooms, but I am expanding into that world now.
Early prototype for a bomb puzzle used in one of the rooms
theundisputedunknown: What is the main business goal for you when it comes to your rooms?
Dudich: I want everyone to be able to come together for a real world experience. Computers and cell phones are useful, but I think we all could do with exercising our brain and working together in the real world a little more. And even more importantly, have fun!
theundisputedunknown: Great points! Before we go, is there anything you would like to say to anyone reading who might have a dream like this but feel like it is much too far-fetched?
Dudich: Start small.
Do your research and plan out everything. If you think something is too big, scale it down. Gain experience and build it slowly. It may be exciting to kick off everything at once, but a lot of businesses fail that way. You always need to account for things that will go wrong, because they will. This isn’t meant to discourage you, but to prepare you for the future. If you want to follow your dream, you want it to stay fun and not become a burden, and building slowly is a good way to do that. I want to add to the escape room culture on my area. I don’t want to be competition, I want to be a partner to bring more people into the excitement.
theundisputedunknown: Absolutely. I agree, folks should know about how great escape rooms are! Where can our readers go to learn more about Adventure Arcade Escape Rooms and schedule their next adventure?
Dudich: We are on Facebook and online at adventurearcadeescaperooms.com. We are not currently hosting any events due to the pandemic, but are using the time to design more adventures for you! If you would like to schedule a future booking at your event, feel free to reach out to us through our website.
There you have it, folks! Be sure to contact Andrew for your next team-building exercise or even friendship adventure!
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