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Navigating Experience Culture in a Worldwide Pandemic

My first escape room experience was at Big Sky Breakout's "Through the Looking Glass" with my Dad. Although this game is made for 10 people, he and I decided to give it a try with just the two of us. Little did we know, it was an experience we'd never forget! Experiencing together is nothing new to us, from moving around the country, visiting national parks, fly fishing on the Clark Fork or exploring new breweries, Dad and I love spending time together. But this escape room put us into a creative, playful, and bonding space we didn't know existed! We could have easily purchased a product, like a board game to play, but a board game would never have provided us with the experience that playing an escape room did. This idea that experience can outweigh a product is the exact idea behind "Experience Culture", the experience is the product. To gain memories, you must first experience. Humans crave the connections that an experience can foster. When the desire hits to experience something new or create memories with people we love, where do we turn to now that our world looks so different?

We are still open here at Big Sky Breakout with phase 2 pandemic procedures in place, mask wearing while you play, private games for your group, and thoroughly cleaned rooms before and after every game. Everyone of our staff members takes their temp and checks in with their health daily.

Now that we are living in pandemic times every aspect of our economy has taken a hit, the entertainment industry being no exception. Within that industry, experience culture has seen great difficulty staying afloat as new business models, such as escape rooms and axe throwing bars, seem to be losing clients and revenue at increasing rates. I found this Forbes article written by Rob Salkowitz to have some fascinating points regarding this idea. Salkowitz claims that a "generational shift in consumer preferences" is the cause for more businesses focused on creating experiences instead of products. As a game master at Big Sky Breakout, I get to see first hand how experience based activities are shifting our social norms and I doubt the same value could be taken away from buying a product. With this shift in consumers' desire for experiences, the owners of Big Sky Breakout sought to bring our incredible games to the Missoula Community. Since the onset of the pandemic I've wondered, how have small businesses stayed afloat?

So what does Big Sky Breakout offer to keep relevant even during these times? When policies in Montana closed our doors at Big Sky Breakout, we took to the drawing board to find ways to keep the fun rolling. How could a physical experience happen when we couldn't share a physical space? Enter: Technology! As you may have seen in a past blog post, we partnered with The Escape Game Company to bring you the virtual escape game "Unlocked: Chasing Hahn". This digital online game allows you and your team to play together, even remotely! When being physically together isn't possible, this kind of virtual game is the next best thing. You can find this game on our websites homepage. Just click "The Escape Game" banner half way down the page to get the fun started!

Now that it seems the social distancing will continue, we've continued to find ways to bring new experiences home with you. Our Break-in Box games have received a make over! They no longer require one member to be the game master, rather there are clues throughout the game to guide you if you get stuck. This game involves a box inside a box guess it, another box! Take this game with you for some escape game fun from the comfort and safety of your own home!

Flexibility, patience, and imagination are at the forefront of how these small businesses in the experience economy will survive and incredible adaptations have already been made. Such adaptations can be seen at Missoula's local movie theater The Roxy. They've pivoted their usual atmosphere and have partnered with Ogren Field to create "Centerfield Cinema". These weekly showings take place on the baseball field and tickets are sold as group "plots" giving folks 10 x 10 or 10 x 20 foot areas to occupy during the movie. This allows for social distancing to be strictly enforced. Another exciting change the Roxy is creating is their outdoor patio garden to host movies for roughly 30 people at a social distance. What was once an alley, has been transformed into a charming space for a comfortable and intimate viewing experience. You can find out more about The Roxy Garden and their new annex in this Missoulian article. It's proof that the the Experience Economy has a chance of surviving with a bit of imagination.

We will soon have two of our 5 escape room games online that you can play virtually with your friends and family tuning in from your home or anywhere in the world. FUN! This kind of gaming will be released soon! These games are fully online and are for those who are more cautious about stepping outdoors! More news of these avatar escape room experiences soon in our monthly news letter. You can subscribe to our monthly news letter at the bottom of any page at

Life is too short not to play, experience, and create memories with the ones you love. The "Experience Economy" must survive to continue to provide this service to our community. It is more important now than ever to give ourselves break and find time to have fun. We pride ourselves at Big Sky Breakout in providing our community with that kind of fun, enriching break. With some imagination, flexibility and perseverance, we here at Missoula's premiere escape rooms will survive and thrive!

- Kathleen (Big Sky Breakout Lead Game Master)

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