Escape rooms. You have probably heard or read about them by now, and maybe even visited a couple of them right here in central Ohio. If you have not had the experience, you and your friends can expect to pay around $13 to $25 each to be “locked” inside, where you must try to find clues or solve puzzles to escape within a set period of time, usually an hour.
Are these rooms more than just a fad? Game designer and meaningful gamification scholar Dr. Scott Nicholson, associate professor at the School of Information Studies (iSchool), Syracuse University, thinks they are much more. He believes they are a step forward in interactive communication. Never mind the popularity through history of everything from mazes, game shows like ‘Beat the Clock,’ and many other “interactive” challenges, the professor thinks the escape room is a significant development that can help people learn through “original interactive resources.”
Additionally, these rooms may be valuable educational resources for businesses and organizations big and small: Pizza Hut, Target, and many others use them to determine how well their employees team together to carry out their escapes. Executives and managers often observe or even video employee performance, and then review results later with team members, similar to the way a pro coach does with his players.
Kristina Elkins, Director of Quality Improvement of Amethyst, Inc., is one of many insightful executives who believe they and their workers have benefited from the escape room experience. She says that by observing individual team members as they carried out the escape, she learned that each worker possesses strengths she had not really noticed before the visit.
She found that the challenge allowed her to see how her people “work together in a very different environment. Because of the limited time, everyone automatically gravitates to what they do best.” She adds that her “team realized that while we are all different, our skills are all very valuable when put together. This has translated directly back to the office. When [for instance] I have something that I need to figure out, I know who will sit down, focus, and work it out . . . . The other big lesson we learned was communication. Without great communication, you will not make it out in time.”
You might think the fun factor diminishes when, say, a big promotion depends on how well an employee does at leading his workmates to victory, but successful teams like Elkins’ have a great time just working together to break out of the room. She says her group “had so much fun! The most fun was escaping — we found we are a very competitive group.” In fact, Elkins and her group thought the only disappointing thing about their experience came after their hard work — she and her team “did not like how that particular room ended,” though she has liked the finales in all the other rooms she has visited since.
One of many local rooms that are popular is “Rushed!” produced by Trapped Columbus. The room gets five stars for fun and work, as rated by users who went hoping for the challenge of both. Almost certainly it owes part of that success to its theme, Michigan versus Ohio State, a subject that never grows old for central Ohioans.
Once inspired with serious Buckeye in-group solidarity, players team together and search for a missing playbook that has been stolen by no less than a fictitious football coach from up North. As the ad for this production states about the problem posed by the make-believe Michiganders, “You have until halftime to retrieve the playbook and get out of the locker room before they return. Can you save the game?”
For times, dates and ticket information for “Rushed’ and other Trapped Columbus productions, please follow the preceding link.