Side Quest Escape Games - OR

Side Quest Escape Games was founded in December 2019, just months before the COVID-19 lockdown, so you might say that we were forged in economic uncertainty. Because our flagship escape room, the Shaky Grounds Cafe, is the world's first escape room that teaches players real-life emergency preparedness skills and disaster readiness, resiliency is at the core of our identity and as such, we've managed to weather the storm, for now…

The Pacific Northwest faces a significant problem. We are overdue for a 9.0+ megathrust earthquake that will devastate the entire region. Ask anyone up here, and they will tell you that "The big one is coming." Despite knowing these risks, 84% of households do not have an emergency preparedness plan. Emergency managers often say that we don’t have a messaging problem; we have a learning problem. I understand why. Much of the preparedness messaging focuses on over-the-top doom-and-gloom scenarios that can paralyze people with fear which results in inaction. But while these doomsday messengers prefer the stick, I prefer the carrot which is why I sought to gamify the preparedness learning process.

Combining my experience as an Army Veteran and CERT volunteer with my love of escape games and my Emmy-winning skills as a set designer, I aimed to make preparedness approachable for everyone. But even with my skillset, creating an educational escape room was a huge gamble. Would people pay to learn? Hedging my bets, I built my first escape room inside a 30' trailer. By avoiding a costly lease, I decreased my monthly overhead while also increasing my market reach by being able to deliver the game trailer to underserved and at-risk communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. I invested not only my own money but also my time, utilizing skills developed over the previous 20 years in the film industry. I designed, developed, and built the entire game room myself, from business plans and websites to fabrication and engineering. The game trailer was my self-isolation COVID project, and in December 2022, I opened the doors to my first customers who were curious about this entirely new category of escape room.

I was confident with my puzzles-as-lessons and the valuable skills that they taught, but the biggest question remained: would it be fun? Well, within our first year of business, we have consistently ranked among our players' favorite escape games of all time, and we were nominated as one of the best escape rooms in the world. Players overwhelmingly enjoyed not only the gameplay but also the lessons learned. My thought experiment worked, and it seems I have managed to crack the code on preparedness outreach by making learning preparedness skills something the whole family WANTS to do.

As we say at the Shaky Grounds Cafe, we are the only escape room in the world that just might save your life, and this award will help us expand our reach to vulnerable communities as we continue our mission to build a resilient and prepared Pacific Northwest.
Side Quest Escape Games