Escape rooms are an exciting new form of live action entertainment. These hour-long locked room mysteries offer adventurers the opportunity to crack codes, discover clues, and solve puzzles with your friends, family, and coworkers. All across the United States escape rooms are surging in popularity and at Breakout Games we’re excited to be one of the leaders in this developing industry. With 43 locations that have each have multiple escape room scenarios (and more planned for 2017), we’re open 7 days a week until midnight—which means your next adventure is just a click or phone call away. If you love strategy games, need a stress release from work, or are looking for a new way to celebrate your birthday or a special occasion, escape rooms are the perfect way to have fun. So put down your cell phone, close your laptop, and get ready for an adrenaline-filled adventure.
What are Escape Rooms?
Your team assembles inside a themed room—it could be a prison cell or a ritzy casino. A game master explains the challenge and exits the room. The door closes. The clock begins counting down from 60 minutes. Your team scatters to examine every inch of the space and find clues. Does this mystery scroll hold the key? What about this blinking purple light? And what do these footprints on the floor mean? The escape room adventure has begun! The clock is ticking! Are you and your friends smart enough to solve the mystery and escape?
Escape rooms are a fun, safe, hour-long adventure where you and your friends must discover clues and solve a mystery to escape a “locked” room. Inspired by popular escape-the-room video games, it’s a beat-the-clock adventure that relies on the cunning of you and your teammates. Simply put, escape rooms are more fun than playing Candy Crush on your phone for the zillionth time, more exciting than going to the movies, and a lot more intellectually stimulating than playing laser tag or paintball. The first escape room opened in the United States in 2012 and now there are over 1,750 locations. What explains the surge in popularity in such a short time span? According to Scott Nicholson, a professor of game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University, “players eager to look at something other than a glowing screen are flocking to games in the physical world for face-to-face engagement opportunities.” (source)
Additionally, escape rooms are an inclusive game that can be played by just about anyone. These locked-room adventures are perfect for all ages and physical abilities and your team can be made up of family, friends, or coworkers. When booking an escape room experience keep in mind you’ll generally need a minimum of two people or a maximum of 7-8 in order to play.
Choose your own escape room adventure.
Finding your nearest escape room should be easy. Most escape rooms are located in high-traffic, easy-to-access areas like local storefronts, warehouses, or office buildings—although there are a few zany exceptions including an “Escape Igloo” in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and a spooky old barn in rural Ontario. Typically each venue has a number of escape room adventures to choose from—so once you’ve successfully completed one you can come back for the next challenge! No two escape rooms are alike—each escape room is designed to be a complete world with its own storyline, physical environment, and unique challenges. Room themes and storylines include adventures like a casino heist, a sinister laboratory lock-in, a desert island marooning, or a prison cell breakout. There’s also the popular kidnapped-and-locked-in-a-basement theme. These expertly designed rooms are a stark contrast to the cheesy special effects commonly found in haunted houses or carnival fun houses. Each escape room is elaborately designed by professional set designers as well as a virtual reality team—so you’ll find a ton of realistic props and experience loads of hidden, state-of-the-art technology. An immersive experience is the goal. Nervous? Don’t be! Not knowing what to expect is part of the fun.
Strategy, problem solving, and cooperation are key to escape room success.
It’s likely gamers will spend the first ten or so minutes ransacking the room for clues—opening drawers, looking under desks and tables, taking books off the shelves, rifling through pockets, finding what seems like random numbers and words, and generally getting a sense of the room where they’ll be spending the next hour. Players are provided a whiteboard and markers for keeping track of information and working out solutions to problems. Once a clue is uncovered, players must work to interpret it, solve the puzzle, and find the next clue using an array of cool technology including things like black lights, lasers, magnets, electric currents, and even Morse code. Clues can also take the form of math problems, riddles, word play, or sound and video recordings. Of course, there are sometimes red herrings thrown in for good measure. Spending time with one of these fake clues means your team has wasted precious minutes—which adds to the suspense. The key here is cooperation: team members must learn to communicate their findings, analyze information, and pool resources in order to solve each clue. Necessary skills include the ability to work well under pressure, think laterally, and make quick decisions. This is just one of the reasons why escape rooms are so popular as a company teambuilding exercise. (Forget trust falls and ziplines at a corporate retreat—escape rooms are more fun and provide more bang for your executive buck.)
Each escape room is elaborately designed by professional set designers as well as a virtual reality team—so you’ll find a ton of realistic props and experience loads of hidden, state-of-the-art technology.
The risks and rewards of escape rooms
Once participants have solved the final clue, they’ll be provided with a key or code that lets them exit the room. Of course, less than half of participants generally escape the room on their first visit—although many groups come within one or two clues solving it! The success rate also varies depending on the difficulty of the individual escape room. Once gamers have mastered the less challenging rooms they’ll often return to solve rooms of increasing difficulty. Whatever the outcome, groups will ideally experience one of the most rewarding results after they leave: the froth. Writer and game specialist Grant Howitt defines froth as “what happens when people talk about their experiences at a game or event in an excited, positive manner.” (source)
Can’t stop talking about what a great time you just had? That’s the froth. And it means you’ve had a successful escape room experience! Enjoy it while undergoing a “debriefing” where players mingle and chat with staff members. What went well? How close did your team come to solving the puzzle? Staff are on hand to help you process your experience and offer feedback. Obviously, you’ll want to snap a few photos of your team for posterity—and be sure to post about your experiences on social media (no spoilers please!).