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From just a handful even five years ago, escape rooms in the United States have grown in number, in diversity and in geographical reach. A CBS Sunday Morning team tried out a few escape rooms and they couldn’t get enough of the experience!
‘It’s a video game!’
‘It’s a boardgame!’
‘It’s a movie!’
‘It’s a play!’
Yes...and no. ‘It’ is an escape room.
Escape rooms have almost become ubiquitous across the United States.
From being used to advertise blockbuster movies and TV shows to forming the plot of a thriller themselves, escape rooms have definitely come of age in the United States.
So much so that the CBS Sunday Morning team decided to check out a few escape rooms themselves, to experience first hand what the excitement is all about.
Doing something in real life
“It is bizarrely revolutionary in 2019 to go and do something in real life with the people that you care about…” explained David Spira.
“(You’re) doing something tangible; you get to pick up things and manipulate them and see if you can figure out what it does or where to put it or what it might be used for…” added Lisa Spira.
David and Lisa Spira are escape room enthusiasts (besides being an experience designer and a data expert) and reviewers who run the website Room Escape Artist.
An opportunity to live your fantasy
In other words, an escape room experience is an opportunity for the players to break free of the shackles of their everyday existence and travel to a fantasy world - whether that’s in a bunker where a bomb can go off or inside a tomb where the Holy Grail is hidden - and that’s not all.
An escape room experience is an opportunity for players to travel to a fantasy world and spend some quality time with their near and dear ones.
In case you’re not familiar with the escape room concept, an escape room is an immersive experience where players solve puzzles to succeed in a mission or solve a mystery. They’re designed to encourage team collaboration and communication.
In a world where there’s always something - whether it’s a work email or a Facebook notification - to distract you from spending time with your family and friends in real life, an escape room offers a novel solution.
Normally, most of us are sunk in too deeply into our own world to have a meaningful interaction with the people in our lives.
An escape room creates an occasion - a night out or a Christmas day thing to do - for all of you to band together over a thrilling experience, deepening your bonds in the process.
Apart from the Spiras, Tim Nicolas Tang - former math teacher, Mahjong expert and escape room ‘superfan’ - also appeared in the broadcast, having travelled from Las Vegas to play an escape room in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
How are Escape Rooms as a business?
In one word, profitable.
That’s according to 13th Gate Escape founder and owner Dwayne Sanburn.
Sure, a lot of work goes into it - they run anywhere between 50 to 60 games every single day - and there has to be a game master to watch over every single game from beginning to end; after one team finishes, the room has to be ‘reset’ for the next team and so on.
A lot of hard work and creativity goes into creating the games themselves - puzzles have to be created, the room has to be designed to create the atmosphere, props and special effects have to be arranged for.
The only real challenge, as Dwayne sees it, is that an escape room needs to keep reinventing itself, adding new games (rooms) or switching existing games with new ones to get people to keep coming in.
That’s because once a team goes through a room, and tries out the puzzles, there is no value in returning to it; which means that there is very little chance of getting repeat customers.
To sum up, escape rooms give us an opportunity to escape from our lives and live through an experience that feels terrifyingly real, with our near and dear ones all working together to succeed in a mission or find the way out.
And, as businesses, escape rooms are quite profitable; but the catch is the escape room venue needs to keep revamping itself or it risks becoming irrelevant because the nature of the experience means very little chance of repeat customers.
Watch the full news report. Spoiler alert, it features an escape room based on a CIA office, which may be a bit like the Bunker, a top room in our Chicago location.
Oh, and if you did watch the entire report, is it just me or does Dwayne Sanburn look somewhat like John Malkovich?