A bell rang and the door locked behind us. We scattered frantically around the inside of the tiny room, twelve of us looking for clues as the digital clock counted down, sitting on top of a cabinet against the south wall. Our shouts filled the tiny space, incoherently screaming out anything that might be relevant.
“HEY, THIS BRAIN SAYS I=20 ON IT!”
“HERE’S A POST CARD FROM MEXICO, COULD THAT FIT IN SOMEWHERE?”
“WHAT DOES INDIANA JONES ACCESSERIZE WITH?”
After five minutes, one of our companions decided to open the cabinet underneath the clock, only to find that it contained what would heighten our senses even more: a zombie.
Only it wasn’t a real zombie. And the twelve of us? Well, I only knew four of them — my family. The rest were complete strangers that got lumped into our group because we had extra room. After almost an hour of throwing clues out to see what stuck, we finally escaped the room. However, just because we succeeded, does it still mean we beat the room? I have some thoughts.
Escape rooms are just what would happen if the guy from Saw used his powers for good.
If we really break it down to brass tacks here, we essentially spent an hour in a giant Jigsaw trap. We had to find clues and use our methods of reasoning and teamwork to unlock cabinets that would lead to more clues and more opportunities to use methods of reasoning and teamwork. All the while, there’s a woman dressed up as a zombie chained to a wall and trying to grab us, and her chain gets longer every 5 minutes. The only difference between that and a Saw movie is that we came out with stronger brains and new ways of looking at puzzles, as opposed to traumatized and missing limbs.
If someone was giving us hints, did we really succeed?
The whole scenario behind this Escape Room was that a doctor was working on a cure for some disease and then she fucked it up and turned into a zombie, and so they keep her chained in a basement and feed her people for some reason? The point is, there was another “doctor” in the room observing us, but would give us hints or clues if we were struggling to get something. I mean, this dude was around a lot. If we were consistently getting help from this guy, does that mean we didn’t really beat the room?
If this were a study in human behavior, I’m pretty sure we failed it.
When we signed up to do an Escape Room, we thought it was only going to be us five. Instead, it ended up being us five, another family of five, and a couple. Wouldn’t it be cool if I walked away from this experience thinking, “Damn, I’m really good at working together with strangers now?” I can’t. At the end of the day, there were only, like, five people total solving clues. The rest were bystanders or, if you’re like me and are self-aware and understand your purpose, hanging out with the zombie and talking about Justin Bieber’s new banger.
Look, it’s not like I don’t want to work with other people. It’s just, there are situations you have with strangers that you just know you aren’t going to have a profound effect on you. If we’re running around a room looking for clues and I find a pattern that says “I=30,” and “V=16,” and I tell you that, and you don’t write it down, I think it’s pretty clear you’re not taking me seriously, so therefore, I’m going to hang out with this zombie and make myself useful that way.
How likely is it that we start seeing “Escape Parks” show up in a few years?
Think about it. Escape Rooms are catching on more and more, and eventually are going to be played out. Why not up the ante? Raise the stakes and put together an Escape Park. Not to be confused with a maze, I’m talking about a full-on park where you pay to get trapped in and have to fight your way out. Maybe instead of one zombie, there are 10. You have to follow a map and overcome obstacles to get to a final puzzle to solve. Instead of only having one hour, you have four. It would be like a mud run mixed with an Escape Room. I would totally do something like that… .