Eric Lloyd

Eric Lloyd is on a quest to create the world’s most immersive and exciting escape rooms. As owner and operator of IQ Escape, Eric is passionate about bringing second-generation games, augmented with automation and theater-quality lighting and sets, to the Pittsburgh area. The Wexford native says that after taking a “detour into accounting, he discovered his true calling as an entertainment entrepreneur,” and has since opened locations in the North Hills and State College, with one on the way in Baldwin. Eric lives in West Allegheny with his girlfriend Melissa, and their Bichon poodle mix, Marley.

Monday, July 31

It’s going to be a long day, like they all are when you’re growing a young business. I’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing game design since co-founding IQ Escape in 2016. Whatever the next 12+ hours throw at me, I’ll be wrangling it alongside project manager, Denny Adamsky, and my girlfriend and co-owner, Melissa Redman.

Melissa and I will grab breakfast at Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe in North Park—we try to do this at least once every week. With the restaurants’ amazing views of the lake, a meal here makes for a nice calm before the storm of meetings, planning and problem-solving ahead.

I’ll meet up with Denny to strategize and refine our latest ideas. Creating escape rooms is one part set design, one part construction, one part technology, and two to three parts creative writing and design. We keep at it until we’re exhausted or others demand our presence (Denny has a wife and three kids).

Tuesday, August 1

I’ll meet with Melissa to discuss collaborating with local nonprofits. We have a policy of donating game experiences and/or use of our facilities to any charitable organization that requests them; Big Brothers Big Sisters held a team-building event with us a while back. We’re hoping to expand our outreach to include creative fundraising projects with other nonprofits we love—for instance, unconventional adoption and donation drives for Animal Friends.

Eric Lloyd
IQ Escape owner Eric Lloyd at his first location in the Ross Shops on McKnight Road.

Though we usually whip up dinner at home, tonight Melissa and I will spring for a date at Il Pizzaiolo. Our other date-night favorites are Walnut Grill or Off The Hook and, if we have something special to celebrate, Alla Familia.

Wednesday, August 2

If a text comes in at 3 a.m., I know it’s from Denny, to tell me he found a great, unexpected source for a material we need. A few hours and very little sleep later, I’m dressed, caffeinated and off to our North Hills location.

Over lunch, I’ll stop by the Mattress Factory art museum to experience Dennis Maher’s A Second Home, an exhibit of found and reclaimed objects brought to life. I’ve heard that it’s completely immersive and other-worldly, which is something I always try to achieve with my games, so I’m excited to grab some inspiration (and lunch at the museum’s café.)

Back at the McKnight Rd. location, I’ll check in with staff and end the day by treating the 21+ crowd to drinks at The Hop House, where Denny’s wife, Deighton, bartends. It’s our go-to spot for happy hour after work.

Thursday, August 3

Melissa and will manage to scrounge up 90 minutes for treatments at Massage Envy at Pines Plaza. After that, we’re road tripping to State College to run a retreat for the head coaches of Penn State University’s major sports teams, and put the finishing touches on our location’s third game.

Friday, August 4

It’s 3 a.m., and I’m likely texting Denny about a new game concept that just occurred to me. Did I mention that we don’t sleep much?

The highlight of Friday is going to Wheelfish to enjoy live music and the best BBQ in town. We love this place—they cater most of our team-building events and put up with our endless brainstorming sessions. Co-owner “Miss Katie” is fabulous, and whenever we drop in, we feel like we’re with family (a family that pours an excellent selection of bourbon).

Eric Lloyd
Eric Lloyd with his girlfriend Melissa Redman, co-owner of IQ Escape, at a Pirates’ game.
Eric Lloyd with his girlfriend Melissa Redman, co-owner of IQ Escape, at a Pirates’ game.

Saturday, August 5

Today is devoted to working on our newest location, a collaboration on-site at Crafthouse Stage & Grill in Baldwin. I’m there overseeing the build of two brand new escape games and planning our grand opening party on August 17. Denny and Melissa will join me on location for dinner and craft beer out on the patio, or if it’s raining, bourbon in the excellent cigar lounge.

Sunday, August 6

Melissa and I will start the day at Whole Foods for some BBQ supplies, and to grab a drink at the Whole Foods pub. If I have time I’ll hit up Wholey’s Market or Penn Mac in the Strip with Denny.

In the afternoon, we’ll head to the Three River’s Regatta to check out the Red Bull Flugtag event. With our team of creative builders, we think we’ll be a shoe-in for next year’s competition, but this time, I’m rooting for the Polish Spill team—how can a vessel inspired by pierogies and haluski fail?

Dinner is a cook-out at our place with Denny and his family. We’ve spent all week working and playing together, and next week we’ll be at it again. What we do is not really a job—it’s a lifestyle.

See who else is NEXT Up here.

Have a suggestion for NEXT Up? Email us!

Jennifer BaronArts & Entertainment / Jobs Editor

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.