“We were ushered into the main part of the cavern, which was about the size of a two-car garage. It looked like Indiana Jones had set up a field lab, and then abandoned it. It contained a large table with broken shards of pottery, strange artifacts with symbols carved into them, guidebooks, hand written notes, cabinets of mineral specimens, a gram scale, a telescope, test equipment of various kinds, and many other odds and ends. These clues had been left there by an ancient civilization, and it was our job to decipher them.”
Escape Rooms are a type of real-life adventure game in which you are “trapped” in a room with other participants and have to use elements in the room to escape within a set time limit. They’re based on the “escape the room” video games in which the player is locked in a room and must explore their surroundings to escape. You have to be observant in order to find clues and use critical thinking skills to solve various puzzles which help you figure out how to escape.
Commercial venues for these games have been around for about 10 years–the earliest was probably “Origin,” based on Agatha Christie mysteries–but they’ve become hugely popular worldwide in the past few years. In the US there are locations in Washington DC, Los Angeles, and other cities nationwide (that last company also has locations in Madrid and London). Escape Room International lists locations in Australia, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and Real Escape Game seems to have a rotating series of temporary locations. There’s also a large list of Escape Rooms worldwide at the Escape Room Directory.
Over on BoingBoing, Mark Frauenfelder describes a game he and his daughter participated in. It sounds like it’d be an unusual group activity for a birthday party, family outing, or even the dreaded corporate team-building exercise.
If hurrying to solve puzzles and decipher clues before you run out of air, the Elder Gods come through the portal, or some other horrible fate sounds like fun to you, find an Escape Room nearby and give it a try.
(Bonus link: Gamasutra has some tips for designing your own escape game.)