Tick, Tick, Tech? The role of tech in escape rooms

December 13, 2016

 

60 minutes. One room. Locked door. Go.

 

If you've never experienced an escape room before, let me fill you in. The basic idea is that a small group of people are taken into a room that will be set up for a specific theme, common ones are offices, labs, prison cells; the list goes on. Once inside, the group are given their first clue (or perhaps not in some cases) and then locked in. They then have one hour to find and decipher all the clues needed to help them escape.

 

Depending on your personality type, you're either thinking this sounds like something you absolutely have to do, or your wondering why on earth someone would pay to be locked in a room (after all, don't prisons do that for free?) To all you sceptics I would say, give it a go, I think you may be surprised by how much fun it actually is. There's something in all of us that wants to be a hero, to save the day, to conquer, and while real life rarely offers us the chance to achieve this (and if it does, there's usually real danger involved) escape rooms do.

 

Traditionally escape rooms relied solely on the props in the room, and there are still many that do. Increasingly though, game designers are recognising the value of technology in making their rooms even more interactive and magical, thus improving visitor experience. Rather than sending a member of staff in to explain the game and give the initial clue, a screen may begin playing a video featuring a character from your room; making the whole thing much more seamless and the experience that bit more immersive. The whole point of escape rooms is the blurring of the lines between reality and fantasy, and using tech, rather than relying on staff, keeps the fantasy element unbroken.

 

Some rooms have gone even further than this, installing responsive tech that is activated by the players doing certain things. Imagine you're in a room which is set up to look like an old, oak office owned by a murdered baron. You've deciphered a clue and picked up the correct four books from his shelf. You open their covers, find some numbers scribbled inside, put these numbers into a padlock, and you are then able to pull across his bookcase to reveal a secret room. Now imagine you've deciphered this same clue, picked up the same four books, and as you lift the final volume, the bookcase begins to move across on it's own, revealing the hidden room. Call me a child, but I think a secret doorway in a bookcase should always open by itself. There's just something magical in it, fantastical even. Something that makes you feel like you've left reality and entered something quite different. And isn't that what we want when we pay to enter an escape room, to escape?

 

None of this means that tech should be the most important part of the escape room experience. Being with your friends, working together, solving the puzzle and beating it, are the things that make an escape room so much fun. But tech clearly has it's place, only adding to an already enjoyable experience and making a particular room unforgettable.

 

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