When creative gurus Nate Martin and Lindsay Morse put their heads together in August 2013 to launch Puzzle Break, America’s first team escape room experience, they started small. Four years later, their success story is anything but puzzling.
Drawing inspiration from video games and live-action puzzle experiences in other countries, Martin and Morse had a vision: to create a live-action, interactive escape room in Seattle. Banding together with friends, coworkers, or total strangers, guests would be tasked with finding their way out of a locked room using communication, teamwork, and following the trail of clues that's been cleverly hidden throughout the space – or has it?
Puzzle Break was the realization of that vision. Now in its fourth year of operation in Seattle's Capitol Hill, guests are catching puzzle fever – and the rest of the country isn't far behind.
“There are well over one thousand escape rooms in the U.S. now,” Martin said, “and we are tremendously tickled that our fingerprints are all over the place.”
The “escape room industry,” as Martin refers to it, has experienced a surge in growth over the past three years. Puzzle Break has been able to ride that wave and add more locations throughout the country, including another in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood, New York, Boston, and onboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships.
In fact, just a year after opening its doors, Puzzle Break found enough success to let Martin quit his day job to focus solely on making the puzzle room experience truly unique for guests. The timing of that career change, Martin said, was definitely fortuitous.
“We've become victims of our own success,” Martin said. “The puzzle room concept is growing so fast. Competition is ten to twenty times what it was when we started. It's a bigger and bigger challenge every day to stay ahead of the pack.”
Coming from a diverse background of design, software, and gaming, the sudden explosion of growth in the escape room industry has prompted the duo of Martin and Morse to draw from their previous careers to find new ways to captivate guests at Puzzle Break. Locally, the Capitol Hill location has two puzzle rooms with separate themes – Escape from 20,000 Leagues, in which guests are trapped in an underwater laboratory, and Midnight Carnival, where guests must unravel the mystery of a carnival that isn't what it appears.
Both rooms have varying degrees of difficulty, and are designed to be played with anywhere from six to 14 players. For a full list of current games taking place at each Puzzle Break location, visit their current games page.
“There's a lot of things I love about the work I do,” Martin said. “Perhaps chief among them is that we create fun.”