Doctor by day and game master by night, Situation Room co-owner Brandan Wormsbacher has brought a new type of entertainment to Macon. Inspired by an escape room trip to Atlanta, Wormsbacher discovered a love for puzzle-based entertainment. He also identified a unique niche that capitalized on the power of play.
“We really enjoyed it, but we felt it could be better,” Wormsbacher said. “For instance, there were a lot of things you weren’t allowed to touch. There was no storyline. We also drove out of town and spent a significant amount of money. We thought, why not just do that here?”
The Game Plan
Refusing to let their idea fizzle, Wormsbacher and his friends jumped into action. They connected with SparkMacon and NewTown for help. SparkMacon provided creative guidance, particularly with prop development. NewTown offered business services, helping the group find the perfect location. This sort of initiative is a guiding force throughout their business.
“We just look at an issue and what we want to see,” Wormsbacher said. “Then we figure out how we can solve it. And that’s how we approach everything.”
In addition to their own ingenuity, the group worked with an industrial psychologist to ensure the rooms foster active communication and team building.
“We had to answer how can we have people communicate without them knowing they are bonding?” Wormsbacher said. ” And this is not just within the situation. We had to figure out how they would take it beyond this experience into real life situations.”
With no business training and few connections, establishing the Situation Room was a challenge. Additionally, having five co-owners with doctor schedules created its own set of complications.
“At first, things moved really slowly,” Wormsbacher said. “But once you connect with the people who really want to accelerate things, it becomes easier. When you find them, you keep them close.”
Building and maintaining strong connections within the Macon as well as the escape room community helped the organization survive its growing pains. Now with only three co-owners and a small staff lead by a store manager, the Situation Room is thriving. Wormsbacher credits much of this to the connective power of the business.
“You’re bringing something people have never experienced,” Wormsbacher said. “So there is a barrier there. But once you get over it, they are just as passionate about it. So that it really cool and rewarding to see that change.”
With almost a year under their belt, the Situation Room has served organizations as large as Coca Cola and visitors from as far as California. Much of their success can be attributed to their strong word of mouth strategy as well as their continuous reinvestment back into the business. And of course, the thrill of the game.
“Success rate is about 10-20%,” Wormsbacher said. “It is designed to be challenging and that’s what keeps people coming back, what keeps them enthralled. Whether you fail or you lose, you always have that experience. The results don’t matter. It’s about coming together.”
The Power of Play: Now and Beyond
The Situation Room is also spearheading a Halloween-themed event in October. Called Nightmare on Poplar, the event will be 13 nights of spooky fun. Local businesses will provide entertainment and the Situation Room will have a haunted house. However, unlike traditional haunted houses, participants will choose their own paths, experiencing a unique Halloween adventure.
“I believe escape rooms are the future of entertainment,” Wormsbacher said. “We are moving towards something more open, interactive, where you are the character and you work your way through an adventure.”
Beyond the economic impact within Macon, Wormsbacher views the business as a way of giving back to a community he loves. He believes in the power of play, that it has the ability to create lasting, meaningful connections.
“My mom always said to make sure you leave the world in a better place than you got it,” Wormsbacher said. “And I believe we are doing exactly that.”
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