ESCAPE ROOMS THE LATEST CRAZE IN IMMERSIVE ENTERTAINMENT

India Kirrsin | Staff Writer

Entertainment enthusiasts all over Cincinnati are ‘trapped’ in the Escape Room mania.

Over the past few years a new branch of the entertainment industry has been growing in the Cincinnati area.

Escape Rooms have become so popular there are now four different companies in the greater Cincinnati area that offer different levels of difficulty and various storylines for those adventurous enough to attempt an escape.

The main goal of an escape room is to solve puzzles and clues that go with the storyline of the room chosen in under an hour to successfully breakout of the room.

Patrons are “locked” in the room until they can break the code to unlock the door. While the rooms are live now, the concept for escape rooms started like so many others – on the internet.

Bill Balfour, general manager for EnterTRAINment Junction and Escape the Room Challenge, said the escape room idea started in various digital games. After seeing the success of the online games, a man named Takao Kato decided to turn the virtual game into a live one, Balfour said.

“It started as online games, until a Japanese guy thought it would be fun to invite his friends over for dinner and he locked them in the room and said ‘See if you can get out,’” Balfour said. “Apparently they thought it was a blast and invited other friends over and (eventually) someone said ‘What if we actually charged people money to do it?’ and that’s how it started.”

Dan Snelling, the operations manager at Escape the Room Challenge, said he believes the popularity of escape rooms has stemmed from their ability to combine many different types of games to create a great experience for anyone who decides to challenge themselves.

“It bridges the gap between board games and video games to really create a textile experience that there is no other way to achieve,” Snelling said. “You have the thrill of video games, the challenges, the extreme situations, but there’s still the family orientation that you get from board games.”

Sophomore Bryce Allen went to Escape the Room Challenge with a group of friends and said the rooms are challenging because there isn’t a specific direction or instruction to follow once inside, so groups have to figure out what to do on their own.

“We didn’t know how to start because you don’t get any clues, but eventually you narrow it down to specific goals and you find the path you are supposed to be following,” Allen said. “I liked working as a team to figure out what to do.”

Groups inside the rooms are usually limited to a certain number of people, and can be placed together if both are small enough. This means a group of strangers could be working together to “survive.”

Junior Sydney Rose went to Escape the Room Challenge with friends, but she was also paired with another group for number purposes. Rose said this gave her group the chance to work with other people who brought different skills to the challenge.

“We had another group in there with us and I had never met any of them before,” Rose said. “We bonded through it and they helped us out and we helped them out and we all worked as a team.”

Rose also said she liked the pressure of the room because it allowed her to bond with her entire group.

“I like how we were all able to help each other out (and) even though I had never met those people before I felt like I had known them for a while,” Rose said. “You see a different side of your friends that you maybe haven’t seen before. It’s a lot of problem solving which can help you in other areas of life.”

Junior Ellie Harpen went to Breakout Cincinnati with her soccer team and said the experience was great because it helped her teammates bond and work together under pressure.

“We got to bond a lot and we worked as a team,” Harpen said. “You don’t get that close with people unless you’re trying to escape.”

Harpen also said she enjoyed the escape room because of its ability to mentally challenge participants and its overall uniqueness.

“Some of the (clues) were actually really hard, which I did enjoyed because it made me think,” Harpen said. “And I liked how it was something different to do. How often do you get to do that on a normal day?”

Allen said one of the main draws for attempting an escape room is its capability to make “prisoners” think about their actions while trying to work with others.

“I think they’ve become popular because it is an activity you can do with your friends but it makes you work with your mind,” Allen said. “It is fun and then there is also that atmosphere of chaos and that’s what people are looking for.”

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