December 15, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers alumnus starts Escape the Room Kickstarter campaign

Photo by Edwin Gano |

Imagine being locked in a room, with only puzzles, brainpower, teamwork and one hour of time to escape. 

This is exactly what Frank Tomassi is hoping to bring to New Brunswick this spring with Ctrl-Alt-EscAPE, an Escape the Room live adventure game. Escape the Room games have recently been popping up across the country, with three currently in New Jersey.

Tomassi, a Rutgers alumnus, started up a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to reach his $15,000 goal and carry out the business venture.

"I need people to be able to read about it, to get interested in it, to get excited about it and contribute to the funding for the project. It's still in the early stages. I've designed some rooms myself, I have some basic layouts for puzzles ... but I can't do anything without funding," he said.

A standard Escape the Room experience includes a themed room, one hour, puzzles, brainpower and a team of friends.

He has a few rooms already designed, one of which being called “Escape the Exam,” where participants will be locked in a room that is themed after a Rutgers exam.

"(Escape the Room is) a fun, emerging, live-adventure game ... where you're locked in a room for an hour and you have to solve puzzles and clues and other things until you can eventually get the key to escape the room," Tomassi said.

Escape the Room has been popular in Europe and is slowly making its way into the American market, with locations emerging throughout the country, he said.

New Brunswick is the perfect location, Tomassi said.

With its geographic location in the center of New Jersey and all of the transportation, in addition to the restaurants and bars in the area, Tomassi said Ctrl-Alt-EscAPE would be a great addition to New Brunswick.

Its location within the city, though, depends entirely on funding.

"If I can barely make the goal, I probably won't be able to bring it as close to the campus as I wanted, but if I can make the goal by enough, I'll bring it as close as physically possible to College Avenue, so (people) can hopefully walk to it, or take the train," Tomassi said.

In addition to this venture, Tomassi works as a software engineer at Verizon. He has also received the help of colleagues in planning its execution.

Raymond Kuruc, another Rutgers alumnus, has been involved with the project, assisting Tomassi with both assessing business risks and marketing his product.

Kuruc works as a business analyst for CBA Industries and is set to graduate from Montclair State University with a master's degree in business administration this December.

He believes that Ctrl-Alt-EscAPE is exactly what New Brunswick needs.

"What sets this apart from other activities is the fact that people who come will get a chance to use their brains for an hour ... this promotes several things that can be taken in the real world, such as teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving," he said in an email.

Jennifer Lin, a Rutgers alumna, also aided Tomassi with the venture, bringing forth her knowledge of starting a business. She also assisted with puzzle development.

Lin is familiar with the process, as she started up her own acupuncture practice in Matawan, Qi Points Acupucture LLC, both managing and serving as a licensed acupuncturist.

"Since New Brunswick is a college town, every year there is a fresh pool of potential customers for a great source of new customer," she said. "I think having a room there will also allow those from outside towns to visit the city and experience a little bit of Rutgers life, thus bringing more interest into the school I've called home for four years of my life.”

Provided the Kickstarter receives its necessary funding by its Dec. 6 deadline, Tomassi said he would like to be able to have at least one room up and running by March 2016.

To give incentive to those willing to donate to the venture, he is offering rewards depending on the amount of money donated.

Tomassi believes an Escape the Room would be worthwhile for the people of New Brunswick, offering up a different type of activity than what Rutgers students are accustomed to.

"You can spend the same amount of money to go a movie theater and watch someone have an adventure or you can go to this room for an hour and have your wits challenged," he said. 

Abigail Lyon

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