If someone had told me a week ago that I would pay for the privilege of being locked in a dark room with a couple of strangers for 45 minutes, I would have forced a small smile and slowly backed away from the crazy person. However, yesterday, that was exactly what I did when I tried out one of the emerging new trends in entertainment; a real escape room game. The premise is as simple as it sounds: you are locked in a room, usually one styled in a certain theme or story, and within a certain amount of time you have to decipher the clues found within in order to escape. Simple, and as it turns out, brilliant as well.
I had never heard of this new phenomenon, but while trying to decide on something to do to pass the time on a rainy Saturday afternoon, a friend suggested we try out a new company called Exit, wherein your goal is to simply exit a room. A couple of hours later I found myself entering a room styled as a lost ship whose encounter with some mystical Sirens caused its mission to go horribly awry. After some quick instructions on the rules of the game, the door was shut, the clock was started, and the game was on. I was determined to be one of the lucky few who actually make it out of the room, but after some initial progress, our group became stuck on one frustratingly stubborn lock combination, and as the clock ran out, I knew I wanted to come back and try it again, which of course is the brilliance of this particular business model.
These real escape room games are a relatively new form of entertainment, with the first ones dating back to only 2006, but it’s only been in the last two years that they have really taken off, with games popping up across the United States, Canada, Japan, China, and in several countries across Europe. According to one source, there are over 50 different escape room games in Hungary alone, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Perhaps people are drawn in by the chance to participate in a real live video game, while perhaps others want to prove themselves a real life Sherlock Holmes. For me, the thrill of solving each little puzzle was addicting, and more than enough to keep me coming back for more, so I know I have a date with a lost ship somewhere in the near future. I guess I’ll be paying for the privilege of being locked in a dark room with a bunch of strangers yet again, and the strange thing is, I can’t wait.