On Starting a Company

 

I had just picked up two of my teammates from SFO for Shinteki Decathlon 9 in late May of last year. Our fourth and final teammate was flying in a few hours later, so we all headed to a coffee shop to hang out, solve some puzzles, and catch up.

At one point, the conversation turned to ideas for haunted houses and other immersive experiences. We talked about making a game where motion-activated sound domes concealed in the ceiling would let players encounter ghostly whispers as they explored a series of rooms. We talked about a game where players would have a limited amount of time and resources to barricade themselves inside of an old abandoned house before a horde of zombies arrived, some kind of live-action, non-violent Left 4 Dead survival mode. We started talking about The Mole, which is basically like an adrenaline shot for me. There were lots of “We should totally make a [haunted house/room escape game/company]” comments thrown around.

These conversations carried on through the weekend as we picked up our fourth teammate and went on to play Escape from the Moon Base. I had played my first room escape game, SCRAP’s Escape from the Mysterious Room, one year prior when I was in town for my first Decathlon. That weekend in 2014 planted a lot of seeds in my mind. Room escape games were brand new in the US, and I’d had a blast playing for the first time. Later on, I couldn’t help admiring and envying the Shinteki crew after their successful event, wanting to capture a bit of that teamwork and creativity for myself. I called my mom from the airport on the way home and talked to her for two hours about the way it had all made me feel.

Creating something of my own, something bigger than myself that utilizes my interests and skills and transforms me into a more interesting person, had been an ever-present, never-attainable goal of mine. I could barely motivate myself to do my part-time, work-from-home job, much less start my own Mystery House puzzle room facility. I had a lot of big ideas, but absolutely no concept of how to actualize them. The phrase “Immersive Experience Designer” had been tacked up on my cork board for a few months.

By the end of Decathlon 9 weekend, after so much discussion about all of my favorite things with some cool and interesting people, that nagging “you should make something” feeling was bubbling back up. One of my Decathlon teammates, Summer, and I had an e-mail thread going a few weeks later about room escape games. In one e-mail, she made a comment about how we could probably make something pretty cool and successful with our combined skill sets, and that she was essentially in a position to help make that happen if I was game. Already feeling the way I did about wanting to make something, it seemed like the kind of call to action that I simply couldn’t ignore or put off. We quickly organized an “immersive experience design interest meeting” with our other teammate, Phil, and started discussing what some sort of collaboration between the three of us could look like.

Before long, the three of us decided to go for it and form a company that would design and run immersive games, events, and other experiences, starting with a room escape game in Seattle. That company eventually became Locurio, and that room escape game has now become a puzzle room in Fremont called The Vanishing Act, which opens this Friday.

I talked about wanting to create something bigger than myself. It certainly feels like I’ve done that, even though the business isn’t officially operating yet. The business is like a little task machine, generating endless amounts of things for me to get done. It makes the work easier, knowing that the machine has its own momentum that I don’t have to provide. I just have to keep up.

I have a lot of other things that I want the business to be and do. I want Locurio to be a way for me to prototype and develop new and interesting game and experience concepts. I want space and capital to build and experiment. I want a place where I can invite others to mingle and enjoy the social element of games that I enjoy. I want the business to be lucrative enough that I can seek out and gather talented people together and pay them to use their unique skills to create cool things. (I’ve gotten a small taste of that already, and I’m hungry for more.) I want to see if I’ve got what it takes to grow myself into an entrepreneur and raise a successful and sustainable business.

We’re reaching the end of a long and exhausting journey from vague concept to actual game for sale. We’re also embarking on the beginning of a longer and much more exciting journey, from company launch to who knows where. It feels good to finally be on the right path, and I’m thankful to the people who brought the path into existence — Nick, Summer, Phil, Chris, and Ben. Let’s find out where this thing leads!