October 20, 2018 8:18 AM   Subscribe

On the Pleasures of the Escape Room. "Escape rooms make a simple and beguiling metaphor for life. In the space of an hour, you dart through all the stages of human maturation, from bewilderment (infancy) to discovery (puberty) to reasoning (adulthood) to deliverance (death). It’s like starring in your own dumb biopic."
posted by storybored (13 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I did my first Escape Room last weekend. It was awesome. I had family in from out of town, and so the 8 of us had to work through a series of puzzles in a retro Game Show themed room in an hour or else we would blow up. It was 4 adults and 4 kids, and everyone contributed. We organically formed teams and worked it out. We solved the last puzzle and defused the bomb with 1 minute, 29 seconds left to go. It was exhilarating, required legitimate puzzle solving, was an incredible exercise in teamwork, and super fun.
posted by MythMaker at 9:22 AM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Our team at work did one a week ago. Star Wars themed. We had 19 minutes left when we finished.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 9:36 AM on October 20, 2018

HA! We just did our first escape 2 days ago
posted by growabrain at 9:48 AM on October 20, 2018

My daughter's office has pretty-much made escape rooms the default team-building tool.

I like the real-world rooms, but still far prefer the original online games. I think it's the timed aspect of the real rooms that drop them down a notch for me. I've never been a fan of having to solve a puzzle under the gun of a clock.

And, having six people crammed into a small room like that can be a bit nerve-wracking.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:57 AM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I still haven't done one of these. Like Thorzdad, I loved the online games.
posted by doctornemo at 10:49 AM on October 20, 2018

Did one a couple of years ago in Bergen, got to the boss puzzle at the end and were stumped, especially with the clock ticking down. Really enjoyed it. We will likely get round to doing another one. We only had the two of us which wasn't ideal for what could have been up to a six person puzzle .
posted by biffa at 10:54 AM on October 20, 2018

we did one last weekend that we had to learn how to fly a spaceship! it was super fun and we all want to go again
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:36 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Love escape rooms and have gotten a group of friends to try out several. We have determined several things about ourselves:
- We think too much alike. We're like a walking commercial for the advantages of diversity.
- There is always that one guy. The guy who doesn't really do anything.
- Having too many type A's is hysterically funny at first. Then it gets very old.
- A sense of humor is very useful. As in, breaking the 4th wall talking about that one guy sense of humor.
- There's nothing like thinking you're smart and then learning you can't even beat a time record set by a bunch of 12 year olds.

Very fun. Great team building exercise. Or maybe team shredding exercise.
posted by grimjeer at 12:49 PM on October 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

I love escape rooms! We did one recently that was Harry Potter themed (although they couldn't officially name it that, because Copyright). One of my friends shoved our friend & mentor out of the way of a puzzle, frantically yelling "You're not blowing hard enough!" They really do amplify your traits and the ways you behave normally. The time pressure introduces a shocking amount of urgency to interactions, especially towards the end of the hour!
posted by DTMFA at 5:57 PM on October 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Because escape games are cheap to create and fairly lucrative to operate, they’ve proliferated since their invention (apparently in Japan, where else?) around 2007.

Is this true? I've wondered about the economics of escape room operations. I mean how busy are they on a given Monday morning or Thursday afternoon? How easy is it really to script up a new challenge and refit an existing room?

I've done two. Both were company team-building sort of things. The first one was a couple years with a team where my boss was desperately trying to get me fired and I was desperately trying to find a new job and get out before he succeeded. I only went because I figured my absence might be used as a pretext to hasten my termination and because I was curious how these things operated. I ended up on a team with my boss so I just kinda stepped back and observed. I did find it poetic... no, unsurprising... watching him and other members of my team run around indiscriminately yanking on locked desk drawers and shining the flashlight on stains in the rug without the least effort at coordination.

The room was really poorly designed and about 45 minutes in the host came in and showed us that for the first clue we needed to take the paintbrush from the pencil-holder on the desk, use the water in the cup also on the desk, and brush the piece of paper in the desk drawer with it to reveal the message written in hidden ink the contained the next clue. As far as I can remember, there was no clever clue or set of clues that ineluctably led you to perform this series of actions. After that, we got through the next couple puzzles but we didn't escape the room. And I didn't escape the job. I got fired a couple weeks later. But it was a liberation nevertheless. A few months later I was back in the same strip mall and noticed the room had gone out of business. Good riddance all around.

Did another one with my new company last month. Much better designed room (30's speakeasy theme), same random flailing about by the team at the outset, but the room was structured in such a way that you could solve puzzles in parallel and there were some timed hints to keep you on pace (an old-fashioned phone would ring) and over time the 8 of us ended up naturally splitting up into 2 or 3 teams and working more or less cooperatively. We escaped with a few minutes left. Everyone really enjoyed it. I do recommend it to others.

But would be curious to know how they pay the rent on their office park suite and update their puzzles. Was it a franchise? (First one certainly didn't look like it and their use of Marvel superhero paraphernalia didn't appear to be exactly licensed.) This operation had only two rooms. I don't imagine many people do a room more than once. And the room didn't look like the sort of thing you would turn over weekly or even monthly.
posted by bunbury at 7:11 PM on October 20, 2018

Obligatory Portlandia (region restricted)
posted by stevil at 4:13 AM on October 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Please do not use physical force to escape."

Yeah. Even if whoever had been sufficiently convincing to have me end up in an escape room was also sufficiently convincing to stop me immediately using physical force to try and escape, I imagine I'd still be sizing up every object in sight to see whether it might serve as a pry bar or a lock pick, and evaluating the potential weaknesses of the door and ceiling before getting to the puzzles.
posted by sfenders at 12:50 PM on October 21, 2018

I just did my first escape room last weekend! My friends and I went in there a little drunk (which you’re not supposed to do), so I felt very overwhelmed by all the numbers on the walls while my two friends began piecing stuff together. Luckily, I soon came to my senses and even though I thought we were doomed for sure, we figured it out with eight seconds left. The game master person then praised our communication skills, which was validating because even though we had not seen each other in three years, my friends and I had become friends in a kind of fucked apart hellscape of a work environment that really bonded us. A++ would do again.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 5:34 PM on October 21, 2018

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