[A group attempts to escape as they try one of five puzzle rooms at Epic Escape Game of Denver, Co. John Leyba/Getty Images]
Visit any major Canadian city and one thing is for certain: there’s no escaping the popularity of escape rooms. These puzzle-based adventure games, which challenge groups of players to figure out clues using props and elements of a decorated room they’re meant to escape, have sprung up across the country like mushrooms after a storm. According to the Canada Escape Room directory, more than 150 escape rooms have popped in recent years. Yahoo Canada News reached out to people who work in these popular venues across the country to learn about the ins and outs of the world of escape rooms.
Be sure to go sober
Christine Hibbard is the owner, operator and game master of Looking Glass Adventures, a family-oriented escape room based in Toronto. She suggests customers go for drinks after they’re done playing, since alcohol can hinder players’ abilities.
“We did have somebody come in after a few drinks,” she said. “He was being skeptical and then fell asleep on the couch, and was out for 45 minutes of the hour-long game. And this isn’t the type of game that starts off slow. You have to be engaged immediately. Luckily he woke up at the big reveal in the end.”
Don’t try to leave with a souvenir
While the rooms are filled with props to help players with puzzles, Hibbard said the only thing that’s been taken from her operation was a pocket watch.
“Overall, we have to bolt or nail a lot of stuff down so it doesn’t disappear to far,” she said.
Not everyone takes to them
Terry Trinh, founder of Find and Seek in Vancouver, said some players find rooms to be stimulation overload.
“I’ve seen some kids panic and run,” he said.
Can lead to romance… or not
The idea of being trapped in a room for an hour certainly pushes people to act in extreme ways.
Hibbard has watched people horde food and water into a game, while Kelsey Keddy, who runs the Captured Escape Rooms in Halifax with her family, watched one person propose to his girlfriend in the middle of a game.
Perhaps it’s the element of teamwork, but escape rooms have the potential to bring out romantic feelings in players. Hibbard has noticed many couples show affection towards one another after a game.
“It must release endorphins and makes you feel good,” she said. “Maybe it makes the partners feel proud of each other. There has been a few make out sessions in our game. Nothing terrible, though.”
Trinh, on the other hand, witnessed the breakdown of one couple’s relationship.
“They came in, were very pleasant up front, then they started having disagreements on the puzzles,” he said. “It lead to a huge blow up of frustration between the wife and her husband. It kind of ended in a screaming match.”
It’s about support not competition
Despite the popularity of escape rooms, there doesn’t seem to be anything but support amongst the owners. Rather than see one another as competition, many of the owners get together to share ideas and make sure they aren’t duplicating them.
Keddy in Halifax said she’s tried all three of the other rooms in town, and maintains a close relationship with the owners, who she regularly meets with to talk shop. Hibbard concedes that since it’s such a new industry, owners of different escape rooms are more likely to band together for support.
“This is the type of thing where you can gain players and get a loyal following, but once they play all the games, where else are they supposed to go,” she said. “You want to send them to another place that’s just as good.”
Keddy likens escape room enthusiasts to movie fans — people who enjoy watching movies usually won’t just watch the same one.
“People who really enjoy escape rooms will often do them all,” she said.