Escape Rooms created by game enthusiasts for game enthusiasts. Owners Luke and Madison Rhoades come from a theatre and haunt background and found escape rooms to be the perfect backbone for their #1 rated company- Cross Roads Escape Games. Celebrating their 6th year in business, here is the story of the creators and designers of Cross Roads and how it all came to be.
Luke and I are high school sweethearts, and we got married shortly after finishing college. I graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Fine Art and a minor in Theatrical Set Design. I designed and painted sets around Los Angeles and was the lead scenic painter for The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor for three incredible years. Luke graduated from the Vanguard University of Southern California with a B.A. in Theatre Performance and Scenic Construction. He worked as the Master Carpenter at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood. I would often get set design jobs and hire Luke as my technical director and carpenter for almost all of my shows. We were a great tag team duo. I would design it, he would build it, and then I would paint it.
THE FIRST ESCAPE ROOM
On Oct. 31st, 2014, we played our first escape room. We had no idea what we were getting into. I thought I bought tickets for a haunted house, so we were completely shocked when we found out that they would put us in a room with eight other strangers and lock the door. Our group did terrible. It was chaos trying to get ten people on the same page, but that was part of the fun. I remember the time being about halfway up when I realized we had not opened a single key lock. I yelled at the group, “How have we not found a single key?!?!” The girl next to me goes, “Oh! I found a few keys!” and starts to remove about 5-10 keys from her pocket that she decided to put there for safekeeping (and not use?).
Afterward, our game master comes in with a look of disappointment and tells us that we only made it about 60% of the way through. It didn’t matter to us if we won or lost or how far we got, the experience was unlike anything we had ever done, and we were hooked. The idea for The Hex Room came later that same night.
We decided to take a chance. We quit our jobs and used our ten years’ worth of savings that we were keeping for a future house. It was one of those scenarios where we would always live a life of ‘what if’ if we didn’t give it a shot. And what better time to try and fail than when you are young? So we did. We found a location in Anaheim, California, battled the city for permits (that’s a whole story I won’t get into today), and put ourselves in a hole of loans and credit card debt (our savings was drained very quickly). With the help of some amazing family and friends, Cross Roads Escape Games opened one year later.
Cross Roads… get it? Luke and Madison Rhoades… ok, good.
We wanted to create something that felt so real, you forgot it was a game. Imagine being transported to a new world where you can go anywhere and touch anything you want? To desperately try to find clues to help unlock the secrets to your escape? All our games are designed by us and built from the ground up. Not only is the production value outstanding, but even the game design is different.
We love games. Board games, card games, video games, and now escape games. Once we were hooked on escape games, we played every one that was available to us. Playing escape rooms was a great learning experience. We saw what we liked, and what we didn’t like. Our biggest issue was that no matter where we went, no matter what the mission was, the game was the same. We knew we had to change that up with ours.
CREATING THE HEX ROOM
As huge horror fans, we would always watch movies and say something along the lines of, “If that was me, I would have never run up the stairs!” or, “If I was in that situation, I would have done this…” Now with this new immersive theatre at our fingertips, we decided to create just that: a real-life horror movie scenario where people can find out if they would actually live or die in a horror film.
The Hex Room opened on January 15th, 2016. Unlike traditional escape rooms, The Hex Room takes immersion to the next step and makes players live out a real-life horror movie. Before your game begins, each player takes a quiz to determine which stereotypical horror movie victim they are. You can be cast as the Jock, Rebel, Prom Queen, Virgin, Nerd, or Detective. Once in costume, players are placed in a room by themselves. Their goal is to overcome their individual challenges and still work together as a team, although physically divided. If they are successful, they can rejoin their friends and escape. If not, they can be left behind to die.
CREATING THE FUN HOUSE
The Hex Room became a revolutionary game, but maybe a bit too advanced for its time. When we opened, Escape Rooms were still such a new concept; only a handful of people knew what they were, even fewer played one before. People loved The Hex Room, but we knew that it was a bit overwhelming to a new player, so we also created The Fun House.
The Fun House is the necessary introductory that people needed to escape rooms. People were together for the experience instead of being divided at the start. If someone felt uncomfortable doing something “scary,” we had The Fun House to offer instead. Although the gameplay is more of a traditional escape room, we still had a lot of new ideas to offer. The game became self-aware with lots of fun tricks and jokes along the way, not to mention the amazing Zoltar. Have you met him yet?
The Fun House also allowed us to introduce kids to the world of Escape Rooms. When Fun House opened in April of 2016, it was the only game that allowed players of any age to attend. The following year, we modified the game to change out challenging puzzles to a “KIDS” version, allowing groups of kids to play and succeed on their own.
CREATING THE PSYCH WARD
We are determined to always bring the next level of interactive entertainment, and we went all-in on The Psych Ward, which opened in December of 2018. Being inspired by immersive theatre experiences like Delusion and getting hooked on social deduction games like Werewolf and Secret Hitler, we decided to combine immersive theatre, competitive board games, and escape rooms into one fully automated game.
Because of its complexity, The Psych Ward took about 18 months to complete. We worked with the amazing technical team, Diablo Sound, which helped us program all the puzzles, scoring, and theatrical effects. The game took a few revisions, but we are very proud of the new elements we added and challenging ourselves with the unique design and automation. The Psych Ward is a game-changer that you must play!
We revisited our theatre roots and wrote, directed, designed, and produced The Séance, which had a limited run in 2019. This show was an immersive theatre piece with some escape room elements. We had plans to bring back the show to a new location, which sadly got canceled due to the pandemic. There is still a chance it might happen; we are just waiting for the right venue and the right time.
We also announced a revamped Hex Room for 2020, which got postponed. We had everything ordered, contractors scheduled, and then the world shut down. Orders were pushed back, contractors had to cancel, and the whole project was put on hold. I am glad that it did though, these past years, we have been able to use the money we would have spent on the revamp towards keeping our doors open and our employees paid. It has also given me more time to think of even better puzzles and effects! The revamp will still happen as soon as the funds are restored. I am so excited to show you what we have planned!
We have also used all of 2021 to work on a new project that is bigger and totally different from anything we have done before! If all goes according to plan, we will have a big announcement for you in a few months. Stay tuned!
THANK YOU for being amazing and supportive fans. I read every single review that comes our way on google and yelp, and hearing about your fun experience is why we do what we do. I know it has been a long time since we have brought you something new, but big things are in the works. Thank you for being patient and understanding. It will be worth the wait!
CEO and Co-owner
Cross Roads Escape Games