Philly devs went retro with all the puzzles in this ’80s-inspired ‘room escape’

Escape the 1980s on East Passyunk Avenue is the most tech-forward room escape in the city, said cofounder Elisabeth Garson. It's also hella fun.

Tom Selleck on East Passyunk Avenue. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

Room escape games are stuck in the past.
At least that’s what Elisabeth Garson noticed when she studied the experiential games, which are basically real-life adventure video games where you’re tasked with finding clues, solving puzzles and escaping the room to win. So Garson, who runs her own advertising company, teamed up with local Philly technologists to create what she calls the most tech-forward room escape in Philadelphia.
It’s called Escape the 1980s and it’s right on East Passyunk Avenue, in an old Rite-Aid that had sat vacant for more than a decade. It’ll be open through December.
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The game features throwbacks like a Commodore 64, Atari and Lite-Brite and puzzles built by Philly developers like Jarvus’ Kevin Clough, Urban Outfitters’ Tom Knabe and Transmogrify’s Casey Watson.
“I was really excited to see an opportunity to work on something outside the normal type of projects I work on, so I flooded Michael [Garson, business director]’s inbox until he would meet with me and give me the opportunity to volunteer on the project,” Clough said in a statement.
Clough wrote a modified version of the Atari 2600 simulator, Stella, for the game.

escape 1980s phila

Team Escape the 1980s. Joshua Crisamore is seated at center and Elisabeth Garson is at far right. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

Joshua Crisamore, the game’s Chief Technology Officer who used to design ship radars at Lockheed Martin, found local developers to work on the game through the PhillyDev Slack.
The game design itself was a lot of user experience design, Garson said.
It involved “mapping out every possible thing a person is going to do.”
The hardest part about designing the tech puzzles for the room escape?
“Hardware is annoying,” Crisamore said. “It always breaks.”
We at tried it out and though we were sworn to secrecy about the actual puzzles (they didn’t want us ruining the surprises), we can vouch that it’s a lot of fun and that we never thought we missed handling VHS tapes until now.

Team, post-escape. Left to right: Client Success Manager Alisha Miranda, Culture Coordinator Justin Malone and Philly Lead Reporter Juliana Reyes. (Courtesy photo)

Companies: Jarvus Innovations / Transmogrify / Urban Outfitters
People: Jarvus Innovations / Transmogrify / Urban Outfitters / Kevin Clough

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