A note to my gamer friends – What is an escape room?

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Escape Rooms and Gaming


Since a lot of my friends in the gaming industry aren’t familiar with escape rooms, I figured I would throw out a quick blog describing what an escape room is and how it relates to my previous background in gaming. In the future, I will break down how rooms also relate to various types of games (board, electronic, card). Eventually, I will also go in depth on specific games (such as Dungeons and Dragons) and how they relate with puzzles and storytelling.

Imagine you’re going to see a movie, but instead of sitting on your fanny eating popcorn for an hour, you’re an active part of the story. That’s what an escape room is for me. Whether it’s avoiding a zombie apocalypse, getting into a nuclear shelter, or solving a mysterious “who-dun-it” episode from a land far away and a time long ago, an escape room is a break from reality that puts you in the driver’s seat. But as all good stories go, you can’t it alone. Friends can really build on the experience, because not all puzzles are easy, not all objects do are what they appear, and sometimes you can’t be in two places at once. Teamwork is critical for success.

Two heads are better than one. We’ve all heard the phrase, and escape rooms really take it to heart. If you divide up tasks, you can accomplish more at a faster rate than you could alone, but sometimes knowing when to work together is also pivotal. Knowing the difference could be the deciding factor in success or failure. Everyone has an unique perspective on the way they observe situations and problems. As a taller guy, I may overlook a key because I didn’t bend over to look under a shelf, where my wife (who is shorter) would have a better chance of seeing it. As a gamer, I may be able to scan a room faster than my wife. But as an engineer, she can figure out what we need to solve a unique puzzle.

 

People also tend to overlook the obvious in favor of hidden meaning. In an escape room, it’s dangerous to assume. We have had people run through our rooms, find a key, set it down and never touch it again. Then one person will finally say, “well I saw it 10 minutes ago but I thought we used it already.” At EscapePoint, we warn you ahead of time that every object in the room has a purpose, even if that purpose is to distract you. While we don’t want to intentionally mislead you too much, we want you to immerse yourself in the story and discover what is (and isn’t) truly important to your escape.

The gaming industry is the same way. Sometimes the story of the game is captivating and draws players in. Other times, the game is focused solely on gameplay with no story. Magic the Gathering is a prime example of a story driven game, with cards from each set playing a small part in the adventure that unfolds over time. Nearly opposite of that, when Yu-Gi-Oh! came out with 5Ds set, the story was very questionable, but the game itself became more in depth during that time, focusing on fast-paced gameplay rather than story. While that’s not necessarily wrong, escape games have definitely moved forward with themes in mind. A great story driven room can really captivate the audience with the environment, plot, and puzzles. Every day, I see more unique props and puzzles as people continue to strive for the most realistic experience possible.

This leads me to another important component for stories in escape rooms: the puzzles. An unfortunate number of rooms overlook this for convenience. Trapped in a World War II bunker, you would expect to find older, run down tools, but instead there was a brand new Sportsman portable generator we had to use. While they definitely had generators during the time period, it shouldn’t have been something you would pick up today at Home Depot. A little extra effort goes a long way, and it wouldn’t be too difficult to disguise the generator as an older model to keep the realism intact. Just like in gaming, you may find yourself not caring about the story of a character because the game and the mechanics drew you away from the story. Escape rooms and gaming both want to tell an immersive story, but also challenge your mind.

A great game and escape room will do both. You think about the story after you leave but also relive the experience of the challenges and puzzles. I can remember more about my World of Warcraft days when they went to a story based events than I can about taking down whatever the latest dragon was. Granted, story based events were usually one time shots and not set up to be part of the long-term game, they provided more memories because they had more depth and the gameplay gave that depth meaning.

With great gameplay comes great rewards, which is visible in both gaming (who doesn’t love a headshot?) and escape rooms where leaderboards are the crowning achievement. For competitive players in games, they want to win prizes and trophies. Sometimes it may be a new skin for their character or a trophy at a major card game tournament. In escape rooms, sometimes it’s just about getting out before the timer runs out to feel that sense of accomplishment. But having your name on the leaderboard never hurts.

Much like gaming, escape rooms are around because they are fun, entertaining and a great spot to hang out with friends. Much in the same way millions of people sign into their PS4 to shoot bad guys or kick soccer balls, millions of people drive to a new room just to use their wits and enjoy a remarkable story, unique puzzles, and good friends. So the next time you have a little time to kill and crave an adventure, then get your friends together and try your local escape rooms.

 

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