The Infinite Escape Room

Back in 2018 I was at the Frocester Beer Festival with some friends, it had become an annual tradition to go to this festival for a weekend of sampling beers, and catching up - sometimes for the first time since the last beer festival.
It was in 2018 that I sat down with my friend Mike Collins talked about podcasts and podcasting. We both wanted to get into it, I was thinking a tech news/help related podcasts but Mike had some other ideas.

After a few weeks Mike messaged me and pitched the idea of The Infinite Escape Room, a podcast where three people would each devise a puzzle around a common theme and present it to the other two, who had to solve it.
Having never done an escape room, I was pretty clueless as to what he was on about…

One important element, tying the podcast back to our initial conversation, would be that at the beginning we would introduce what we were drinking. While we didn’t want to encourage drinking alcohol, it is often the drink of choice for people appearing on the show and does somewhat help to lubricate the show - especially when we have folk on who don’t normally do recordings/public speaking/etc.

On 12th September 2018 Mike messaged me saying he was going to record that evening, and to come with a puzzle with the theme of Greggs the bakers. I had zero idea what he wanted, and came with nothing!
The recording involved, Mike, Chris, and myself. After partaking in the puzzles the other two presented I was much more aware of what I needed to do, and quickly came up with something involving escaping a walk-in oven.
The episode needed to end by acquiring three keys to unlock a “whimsical padlock” on the door, my key had a pun attached and thus a trend of punny key names was born.
The original pilot episode was taken down, but re-released for the one-year anniversary.

For the first few episodes Mike organised and produced the show, but I quickly became involved in running and editing episodes.
The show went from strength to strength, mostly featuring friends, but quickly expanded to other people from the escape room industry - later we even brought Jamie Gibbs onboard as a producer!

As far as tooling goes, I started out with a Plantronics headset and editing with the excellent Audacity but quickly upgraded to a Blue Yeti microphone and later switched out Audacity for Reaper.
We have pretty much always used Discord to communicate during recordings, since they are almost always remote.

In April 2020 the format changed slightly - one puzzle master, and three solvers (occasionally one, two, or more solvers). This also introduced a 30-minute time limit, plus both positive and negative endings.
Around this time, I explored the use of Patreon, setting up an account and starting to mention it in episodes. Very quickly, much quickly than both Mike and I had anticipated and we were quickly able to fund the hosting of the podcast.

The coronavirus pandemic proved mixed for the podcast. Solvers were more available to record, but with commutes mostly abandoned we struggled for a while with listener numbers.

In early 2021 we did a private gig for a company who was offering their employees something to come together over during the pandemic. Mike, Jamie, Jon, and myself hosted around 20 solvers on Zoom. Split into four groups, the solvers rotated around the rooms solving each puzzle and gathering clues to solve a larger meta puzzle.
The feedback from the gig was very positive, though as a group we generally felt the pressure of doing a live gig with uninitiated solvers proved quite stressful and not as fun as we’d have liked (for us).

During 2021 and 2022 we picked up Jon and Jamie as producers, removing a lot of pressure from Mike and myself from coming up with, organising, and editing puzzles.

Now at the end of 2022, I have just published my last puzzle to our Patreons - the general public will get it in a week. We have over one hundred thousand downloads, comfortably sitting at around four thousand downloads a month.
I’m stepping away from an unknown amount of time due to non-podcast related commitments. I will miss creating puzzles, and even the editing can be fun at times. But I am looking forward to try and recharge my pun generator!