The newest "outside-the-box" trend actually traps you and your colleagues inside one. Popular worldwide, escape rooms involve players willingly getting locked inside a room, with 60 minutes to decode their way out through puzzles, riddles, and teamwork.
For some, being locked in a room with coworkers is a nightmare. Room Escape Adventures, which has locations across the country, offers a group experience called “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie.” Over the course of an hour, every five minutes the zombie’s chain is released another foot from the wall. Teams of up to 12 people must work together to find the key and escape the room before the zombie consumes them.
These edgy interactive experiences have become a popular option for corporate groups looking for a nontraditional approach to teambuilding. Disney, NBCUniversal and The Boeing Company are just three of the companies that have hosted events at the Room Escape Adventures in downtown Los Angeles. “The post-apocalyptic state evens the playing field,” says Nicole DaCosta, a Room Escape associate producer. “From the intern to the CEO, everyone is attempting to escape on the same level. You get to see skills in someone that you wouldn’t normally see in the office.”
At the end of the show, cast members will share the talents they observed in each player—such as strong communications, creativity or flexibility. This serves as an entry point for managers to talk about the experience with their employees back at the office. Larger groups can rent out the facility’s two rooms so that two groups can play simultaneously. The lobby area can also be rented for catered events while players are waiting for the next round of shows.
Scott Kessler of San Diego’s The Entrapment underscores the importance of a strong story arc. “With The Entrapment, I wanted everything to be integrated,” he says. “I didn’t want the room to be a bunch of disconnected, random puzzles.” Kessler built on 20 years of puzzle experience when constructing his own room. The Entrapment transports up to six players to an old manor house and the mysterious world of mystical antiques. To engage players in the story before the game even begins, a video explains the story’s background: Their antique-dealer partner has disappeared, and now they must handle old artifacts in the manor house—the last place he was seen—to uncover clues to where he’s gone.
Kessler’s puzzles involve cutting-edge technologies like motion detection and IR sensors, and each puzzle is integrated into the environment so that players must be in a very specific location in order to solve it. To ensure teamwork, some puzzles require that all players must be physically involved in order to decipher them.
Similar to The Entrapment, Maze Rooms in Los Angeles is less about riddles and more about gadget smarts. Maze Rooms currently has 11 rooms split across four locations. The Castle Room is decorated to look like a medieval throne room, complete with standing suits of armor. Up to six players—or “treasure hunters”—must figure out how to use and put together props in the room in order to escape before the ghost of a dark wizard finds them. Maze Rooms is also the first company to launch an escape room using virtual reality (VR). Through the use of the Oculus Rift DK2 VR glasses, up to five players can fly, move and touch objects, and destroy obstacles with a laser while attempting to escape a space station. Teams can also “see” and communicate with the other players in virtual reality.
Finally, for large groups of up to 300 people, SCRAP Entertainment—with locations in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Toronto— offers a private event-style game that has attracted companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Intel. Groups are broken up into teams of six people and share one big space as they attempt to “Escape the Werewolf Village.” The experience includes an emcee, videos, photo booth, and a live solution “walk through” at the end of the event. For smaller groups, SCRAP Entertainment also offers room experiences like Escape from the Puzzle Room, Escape from the Mysterious Room, Escape from the Jail, and the staff and fan favorite, Escape from the Time Travel Lab.
The cost of each escape room experience is about $30 to $35 per person; extras like catering or fullvenue rental are additional expenses. It’s a small price to pay. After all, who knew that being trapped in a room with your colleagues could be so much fun?