TOP Slovenia interview: Nataša Potočnik

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How was the idea of Enigmarium escape room born?

When I first heard that someone in Japan had turned a beloved and popular computer game that we all used to play – remember, those ones with a room in which you had to find the key to the next room using the items you had collected in an “inventory” – into a real-life game in which you and your teammates entered a a actual room full of real objects, locks and challenges, I just knew that this was what I wanted to do and that this was the future of tourist experiences.

In September 2014, Enigmarium® “Escape Room” was the first company in Ljubljana to present a new, unique concept of an escape game, which we developed ourselves from A to Z. With more than twenty-five completely original games and gamification projects, we never thought we’d become one of the world’s most innovative creators of reality games and unforgettable tourist experiences, nor did we know that “Escape Room” games would become one of the fastest-growing tourist activities in the world.

What does it look like? A team of two to five friends, work colleagues or family members go into the room and – in a limited time – must uncover secret clues, decipher codes, solve various puzzles to complete their mission.

Why is it so much fun? It’s very simple: When you go to the cinema, you just sit there and passively watch the hero in action – but in escape rooms, you are in the leading role, you are the hero on whom everything depends. If we add to this good company, just the right difficulty and fun tasks in which everyone can take part as well as a mysterious setting, a bit of time pressure and a gamemaster who can help with a hint when you get stuck, there’s no way a group can leave our room without a smile on their faces.

Do you have more domestic or foreign tourists who come to your escape room in Ljubljana?

First of all, you should know that one of the most important advantages of Enigmarium is that we carefully design all our escape room games with foreign-language speakers in mind, so it’s not necessary to know Slovenian language. Even more: we create all the puzzles on a symbolic level, using a lot of visual associations.

Although we have had players from all around the world, the interesting thing is that three-fourths of the visitors are Slovenians: families, groups of friends or co-workers.

How is Enigmarium different from other escape rooms in Ljubljana?

Enigmarium® games are the most popular escape room games in Slovenia (according to TripAdvisor, ranked #1 under Fun and Games) and distinguished by an excellent “game flow” and unique trials that you won’t see anywhere else. A carefully-designed dramaturgical arc and engaging story will keep you in suspense until the very last second. We also have the friendliest “gamemasters” to help with a subtle hint and to make sure that your date, birthday party or team building is an experience you will talk about for a long time!

We know that we can only maintain our leading position through constant innovation and thinking “out of the box”, or in our case, “out of the room”. That’s why the interdisciplinary team of Escape Room Enigmarium® experts is constantly developing fresh and original concepts to revive cultural heritage and create unique experiences, such as the award-winning Escape Igloo® – winner of the Snovalec Prize 2015, semi-finalist of the Sejalec Prize, 2016 MGRT.

The team was also the first in the world to develop the innovative urban outdoor UNLOCK adventure fully immersed in history.

Our gamification project in the Slovenian Alpine Museum in Mojstrana received the acclaimed Valvasor Award, and the museum got the Živa International Innovation Award for innovation.

We were also the first to make it possible to play a medieval castle! The first one is at Morosini Grimani in Svetvincenat near Pula, Croatia. The second one is at Slovenia’s most-visited tourist attraction – the Ljubljana Castle. For that project, we revived some of the city’s legends and gave players a unique opportunity to free the Ljubljana dragon. The game offers visitors – tourists and locals alike – a chance to learn something new about the history of the castle while having incredible fun.

During the Coronavirus epidemic you organized online Escape room challenges. What kind of feedback did you receive? Were the people actively participating and how many did accept the challenge?

During the sheltering in place, we had to, of course, close our various locations throughout Slovenia and Croatia. But we didn’t lose hope. In only ten days (and nights!) we managed to develop, design and launch a fresh concept invented by our team: an ONLINE escape room game called OTOK (ISLAND) – the escape game in your room.
We offered the game to our players and fans for free – we sent them a chapter every day for a week. Each day, to unlock the next chapter, they had to use the code they had deciphered from the previous day. We said it was our contribution to make it easier for people to stay at home.

Almost 7,500 players signed up for the game in Slovenia and Croatia. It was a great success – the opening rate of the mailings was over 90%, and each mailing was shared at least five times. I have been in advertising for 25 years and have never seen such a response.

This proves that gamification is an incredible tool for customer activation. In our case, I believe that this socially-responsible act also helped us gain the trust and loyalty of our players.

The advantage of Escape Room Enigmarium® is that we are constantly developing new gamification concepts that can be expanded into a holistic experience, whether it be a live, offline or online version. It is not about escaping from the room, but about escaping from everyday reality.

How many different games can we play or participate in at Enigmarium escape room in Ljubljana?

In Ljubljana, you can play five unique escape room games (the sixth is under construction). You can also play the outdoor adventure game Unlock. and there is also something very special:
SENSPERIENCE is the newest escape game concept, unlike anything you have seen before – it’s the deepest gaming experience you can imagine.
It’s not theater, it’s not an escape room, it is a unique interactive game that you control. When you arrive for the game, you enter the room and are seated in a comfortable chair, once you put on your blindfold, the game begins. Wait? Seated? Blindfolded? Yes. In this game, the game leader is a narrator who will be your guide and help your team (2–5 players) to see and interact with the imaginary world around you. In seconds, you’ll forget that you cannot see as your other senses take center stage. You’ll hear sounds, smell smells, feel textures, use objects and interact with live actors – all while being blindfolded. What happens in the game depends on your decisions, just like in real life. Prepare yourself for strong emotions and an adrenaline rush. It turns everyday reality upside down and provides a completely, alternate way of experiencing the world where you are in the main role. You must try it!

So we pick one escape room challenge at Enigmarium. How do we play? More importantly, how can we escape?

Well-designed escape rooms arrange the puzzles and game flow in such a way that allows each player to contribute based on one’s skills. One person thinks more logically, another recognizes the color pattern, and a third is good at finding hidden objects – thus, each one is part of the finding the solution and leading the team to success.
The games take place on a symbolic level and general knowledge is sufficient. We see that the most successful groups are those groups that work together and communicate with each other. So it’s great for teambuilding – we learn through the game that we are smarter, faster and more productive when we work as a team!

Some people are worried about how they can get through an hour without a phone. I can assure them that they will not think about their phone in this hour. Others have claustrophobia. This fear is also unnecessary: our games don’t take place in small rooms but in spacious, turn-of-the-century apartments, you know, the ones with high ceilings and tall windows.
Locked door? You always have the freedom to exit from Enigmarium escape rooms before you finish, if you must. (We have an SOS key just for that purpose.) Regardless, few people have ever chosen to use it. Instead, they’ve immersed themselves in the task at hand, their mission, if you will. In Maestro Luigi’s Kitchen, for example, you are looking for a secret recipe that you have to extract from his kitchen before the Mafia arrives.

If you want the best result, I have five HINTS for you:

1) Your team: put a team (family, friends, colleagues) together and book a game! If you have not played an escape room game yet, you do not know what you are missing.
2) Choose a proven game! With a well-designed game, you simply cannot afford not to have fun or feel unsuccessful in playing, because everything is taken care of, including the right clues at the right time. On the independent travel portal TripAdvisor, you can find out from friends and peers about providers of escape games. In Slovenia, the Escape Games Association GIZ ER SI http://escape-room-slovenija.si/ is also an authority, which publishes an up-to-date list of game providers in Slovenia on its website.
3) Strategy: It is important to look around carefully – small details that we tend to overlook can prove decisive in the final solution. Good organization is important – we collect everything we find in one spot and we place the things related to solved puzzles elsewhere. It is also wise to bend down and look under a table – adults often forget that.
4) Communication: Each member of the team should communicate with the others. Often we see groups where someone has found a piece of the puzzle, but because he did not know where it belonged, he kept silent. While on the other side, we see that another member of the team has the other piece. If we communicated with each other, the puzzle could be solved immediately …
5) And one last note: “Ask for a hint!” The key is to solve your mission! After all – it’s just a game. Have fun!

Which one is the most popular among your visitors?

It’s hard to say which game is the most popular. Of course, our first room, Salvation, has had the most visitors. But let me warn you: after you play the first game, you’ll be tempted to play the second, third … or fifteenth (that’s how many Enigmarium escape games are currently within a radius of 200 km!). And if you play all of them, three more new games will be expecting you in the fall.

Who holds the record for escaping out of Enigmarium the quickest?

The timing is relative, as the number of hints the team has needed is also what counts. The fastest ones solve the game somewhere between 40 and 50 minutes, but also those who prefer to stay in the room longer will manage to escape – we’ve been known to give some teams a few extra minutes to solve all tasks.

As far as the fastest and the best are concerned, we cannot ignore the fact: the Slovenians are at the top of the world not only as creators but also as players. The convincing victory of the Slovenian team in the first international escape room competition Red Bull Mind Gamers 2017 proves this.

Are there any new escape rooms or projects waiting for us in Enigmarium soon? Can you give us a hint or two of what we can expect?

In addition to three new escape room games coming to two new locations in Slovenia this autumn, we are preparing some completely new concepts that combine gamification and cultural tourism.

Today’s visitors want active experiences in which they play the leading role. In our real-life games, players will learn about legends, history and places of interest. Because of these unforgettable, innovative and original experiences, players like to come back, play some of our games elsewhere, stay in the city for an extra day and, above all, talk about these experiences with enthusiasm. That makes them not only ambassadors of our brand but also ambassadors of our cities and our country.

Therefore, our mission is to revive the cultural heritage, create unforgettable experiences and put Slovenia on the map of the best “ESCAPE DESTINATIONS” in the world by playing and interacting at tourist attractions.

Escape the usual and experience something extraordinary!