Originally an Asian phenomenon that spread to Europe and then to America, escape room games are an adrenaline-pumping game that puts the player in the middle of a timeclock-driven challenge. Players experience the intrigue of a mystery novel, the excitement of a fast-paced action-adventure movie, and the fantasy-fulfillment of being the heroes in their own story, all rolled into one.
Expanding to metropolitan areas across the country, these are attractions where people sign up to play as a team. They are locked in a themed room, where they must hunt for clues and figure out what each clue means, in order to solve a puzzle that will allow them to unlock the door.
The group may range from two people to twelve people, depending on the game location rules. They are briefed by the “gamemaster,” on the theme—who they are playing, “where” they are (the location that the escape room is patterned after), and what mission they are there to accomplish (escape the serial killer, intercept the spy, etc.)
Rules are imparted to the players (such as no breaking items), and the timer is set. Then they enter the room, and the door is locked behind them. The group immediately begins tearing the room apart, looking on, in, or under every item, dismantling everything in sight in search of a clue.
The games are generally set up so that approximately a third of participants will be able to solve the riddle and escape the room without help from a gamemaster. Most, however, will find that they need the help of the voice that comes over a loudspeaker, asking if the group wants a hint to keep the game moving.
These escape rooms tend to be designed to attract those in their 20s and 30s, the most common age group to enjoy the games, although many families, friends, and couples on dates also enjoy using these rooms, especially on the weekends. During the week, a lot of businesses like to use the game as a team-building exercise.
Escape rooms tap into the desire to be social, something that has been lost in recent years with the increased uses of smartphones, tablets, and other devices as a primary means of entertainment.
The escape room games allow patrons to act out scenes similar to those they’ve seen in favorite movies, books, or video games, with the number of themes limited only by the human imagination. People who have always wondered what it would be like to be the detective on that crime scene show, or the action hero in a favorite movie, or a James-Bond-like spy, will finally get the chance to show their stuff, and see if they live up to their own expectations.
It’s a wish-fulfillment experience like no other, one that reveals how a person or a group will operate under pressure. Whether the group solves the puzzle or runs out of time, one thing is certain—they won’t be bored while locked in that room. They also may discover things they never knew about themselves or their companions, until they heard the snick of that escape room door locking behind them.