A new form of entertainment is catching fire all across America, and it involves teams of players willingly locking themselves into rooms before solving a series of themed puzzles and riddles in order to get out. It’s an immersive and interactive experience that is scratching an itch that most didn’t know they had, one that is resulting in a fever for novel problem solving and adventure. These games are commonly referred to as “escape rooms,” and if you haven’t heard by now, they’ve taken Jackson by storm this past year.
In February of 2015, Lee Wilson and Jared Dauenhauer were getting stir crazy for a way to keep entertained on the weekends, so they decided create something for themselves and share it with their community in the form of Jackson Escape Rooms. Almost a year later, Dauenhauer, who serves as Creative Director, spoke at January’s A.M. Creative to tell about how he’s kept one of Jackson’s favorite small businesses on the cutting edge of innovation and its customers craving the adventure they offer.
The title of Creative Director is normally associated with having an MFA to go along with a portfolio full of smart designs and impressive collaborations. For Dauenhauer, he has happily chosen an alternative route that favors his personal hobbies of playing video and board games, along with binging on mystery movies every so often, as his qualifications for creating JER’s life-size puzzles. It was evident in his enthusiastic spirit, even at 7:30 a.m., that his intrinsic interests allow for the kind of process that lends itself to a one-of-a-kind product.
While Dauenhauer noted that exposure to contemporaries’ work in any innovative venture is key, he spoke to the importance of all creatives developing a propensity toward inspiration, whether that’s channeled in routine trips to the grocery store or in environments that are less familiar. Because his job requires turning normal settings into quirky labyrinths, he mentioned everyday objects as particularly being able to catch his eye and work their way into his “mind palace”—a state of idea generating and testing that accommodates for his imaginative worlds to be synthesized into realities. Dauenhauer also recognized his slowness to label ideas as bad or unusable, as almost any plan can be recycled, altered, or synthesized with others.
What makes JER an idea that’s more than interesting, but one that is also sustainable and dynamic? Dauenhaeur’s work ethic and aspiration to be excellent in the experience he gives customers plays a large part. “It’s so important to aspire,” he says. “For me, I want to be the best. I want Jackson Escape Rooms to better than Memphis, Nashville, or any other market’s escape rooms.” Although there is certainly pressure to consistently produce something that is well received due to the entrepreneurial nature of his creative gleanings, what makes Dauenhauer’s work effective is the origin from which it burgeons. The essence of those childhood joys of Saturday morning cartoons is the same for that which he is giving his community, this time in the form of a carefully locked room and an unforgettable user experience.
A.M. Creative is a meetup at theCO that happens the fourth Tuesday of every month at 7:30 a.m., but tomorrow will be a special lunch edition, so bring some food and meet us here at 11:55 a.m.! To learn more about upcoming A.M. Creative gatherings and other services theCO offers, visit their website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.