Friday, September 2, 2016

The need to escape: David Vella and Marise Watson turn their puzzling passtime into a business

Everyone needs a bit of an escape. (Image courtesy The Cipher Room).

Despite how it can feel, life shouldn’t be all about vetting. So it’s always fantastic to learn that a colleague has a non-vetty hobby or skill. Like David Vella. By day, David is a well-known exotics veterinarian running Sydney Exotics and Rabbit Vets (SERV). But he also loves to escape. Literally. So David and equally escape-loving partner, writer and website designer Marise Watson, have set up an escape room in Sydney.

As Marise explains, the Cipher Room is a real-life puzzle solving adventure game. You and 2-5 others are locked in a room filled with objects you can explore. You have 60 minutes to investigate, find clues, solve puzzles and unravel the story so you can escape. It’s about immersing yourself, using your brain and – if you’re really feeling it – dressing for the occasion.

Marise is a puzzle/adventure game lover from way back. Before she opened the Cipher Room, she spent over twelve months researching – including a sabbatical in New York – developing puzzles, designing graphics, making and acquiring props. David planned and built the puzzles, proving he’s as handy with objects as he is with guinea pigs and reptiles. We asked Marise and David a bit more about the Cipher room.

How did you come up with the idea of developing the Cipher Room?
Marise has always loved puzzle adventure games and we both like making things. We just started thinking of some game ideas and it grew from there!
Image courtesy The Cipher Room.
You have to design puzzles that aren’t too easy to crack, but you’re attracting people who enjoy solving puzzles. How do you do it?
There is a fine line between making something too hard or too easy, and everyone thinks differently. We try to add a variety of puzzle types and difficulty levels. Testing has really helped us here too.

This sounds like a hobby that turned into a full-blown project. David, as a vet, how important is it to have something non-vetty in your life?
Very important! I love building and things, so it's been great to work with Marise on creating and designing puzzles and props. There is also a satisfaction gained from seeing people coming in to our game excited with the idea of challenging themselves while having fun at the same time!
Image courtesy The Cipher Room.
Marise, as a non-vet, how important is it to have a non-vetty interest in your life?
My whole life is non-vetty (apart from David of course)! But games have been a constant in my life, and it's nice to be creating and designing my own now!

We tend to solve problems every day at work. Is it important to solve problems in other contexts, and, if so, why?
We think it's great to exercise your brain while having fun! A big appeal of escape rooms seems to be people working together, having a shared gaming experience, and the thrill of opening a lock! We have seen people leaving our games on a high, which is awesome!
Image courtesy The Cipher Room.
Any advice you’d like to share with veterinarians and future veterinarians?
Come and play our game! Really hard to give advice though, apart from try to find some balance with your working life and what is on offer outside of this.

Thanks Marise and David. To visit the Cipher Room, book here.

Check out their facebook here
or follow on twitter or instagram. We're also interested to hear how others like to "escape". Drop us a line.