INTERVIEW – Jason Garvett of Mobile Room Escape – ESCAPE ROOM

Please introduce yourself 

Hi escapers! My name is Jason Garvett and I am the owner, writer, designer, builder, and puzzle creator at Mobile Room Escape in Chicago.

Why did you decide to get involved in the escape room industry? 

I have been involved in theatre all of my life including a degree in acting and directing from Emerson College in Boston, MA. For the past 10 years I have worked for a tour boat company in Chicago as a Captain, group sales manager, marketing and advertising associate, and a private party coordinator. I have loved being in the tourism and hospitality industry but had been longing to get back to my theatre roots. For my birthday my wife took me to an escape room. I was not looking forward to it at all. When we arrived we were paired with a group of 15 year old kids (“this is going to be the worst birthday ever!”). In 59 minutes and 50 seconds (we escaped!) I had more fun than I had in years. The theatricality, working together, truly being immersed in the task at hand, and the suspension of all other problems in my daily life reminded me of my years on stage. Escape Rooms were it. This was my way back into the creative realm of theatre.

What makes your room unique?

We basically took a 32′ x 8.5′ rectangular room and put 3 axles on it, 6 wheels, and hitched it up to a Ram 2500 pickup truck. Hence our name Mobile Room Escape. I wanted the escape room experience to not be limited to one store front location. We had our trailer custom built for us so we could take it to offices for corporate team building events, houses for birthday parties, fairs, festivals, fundraisers you name it and we are there. We also keep the trailer at Gurnee Mills shopping mall just north of Chicago for weekly performances to the public. 

What unique benefits and challenges do you face as a mobile game?

We have had many benefits to being a mobile escape room. With the ability to travel we are not defined by just one location. We are accessible to clients in Chicago who do not have vehicles to make it out to the suburbs, and we can be in the suburbs for our customer who have no interest in navigating the hustle and bustle of downtown life. As long as our customers have roads we can go to them. We have even gone to other states to do our premier escape room “The Laboratory”.

Being mobile also allows us to be just one aspect of an event as opposed to the main feature. This allows us to be a part of many fundraisers, fairs, and festivals, where large groups of people gather and we can gain more exposure along with introducing more people to the concept of “Escape Games”.

Of course the challenge of parking a 32′ trailer can at times be daunting. Also the initial investment to build a trailer and purchase a truck is higher than what most escape rooms have at startup. There is also the added fun of working with local, state, and federal transportation regulations.

What do you think is the most important part of an escape room design? 

In college I had a musical theatre teacher who hated the musical “Les Miserable”. This was one of my favorite musicals so I was very curious why he hated it so much. He explained to me that the music was structured as a modern day pop musical. He said “A musical set in Revolutionary France should have music indicative of that time period.” The music drew him out of the story. I still love Les Miserables but I do understand where professor Leo Nickole was coming from. If sets, costume, props, and story is of a certain time period and one aspect is not, it can draw the audience away from the story. I believe the same is true when entering an escape room. The escape rooms I love make me feel like I am on stage in a play. The combination of sets, story, actors, sound, lighting, and props working together is what draws me into the scenario and makes me escape reality for an hours time.

Please share with us a fun story that has happened with your company.

One evening we had a group of 8 come to experience our escape room. A very normal fun family that loved having a great time. It turns out one of our audience members that night was the son of a camp director in Wisconsin. The director had been talking about doing an escape room with their staff for years but there were none near by. This June, Mobile Room Escape will be travelling to their summer camp in Wisconsin to put 200 of their staff members through a very unique team building. Our staff has been invited to stay overnight in their cabins, eat in their dining hall, and participate in camp activities for the week we are there. Nothing beats getting to relive your youth, while doing your job!

What advice do you have for players?

 Have fun, and don’t worry about “winning the game”. Play the game and have fun doing it. Talk to each other and share every piece of information you find, as silly as it may seem. It stinks when someone has a screwdriver in their hands and never announces it to the person looking for a screwdriver. Remember only a small part of communication is talking, the most important part is listening to each other.

Anything else you’d like to share?

When I started Mobile Room Escape I thought I would just be operating an escape room. Since then I have been approached for many opportunities including writing escape rooms, building escape rooms for others, being a part of Comic-Con San Diego, and even building Mobile Escape Room trailers for other escape room owners. It has been exciting to see how starting one business venture can lead to so many others.

At the end of the day my favorite part is hopping into the escape room with our customers, putting on the mad scientist costume, and watching friends, families, coworkers and complete strangers come together to laugh, struggle, and work together to complete one common goal .

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