Hero of Your Own Story
Human beings have lived vicariously through entertainment for thousands of years. Stage performances, athletic events, books, films, video games — every medium of entertainment has provided a way for people to experience the thrill of conflict, struggle and resolution by watching others.
But a new trend brings these experiences to the next level by putting people in an immersive, participatory environment and making them the heroes of their own stories. These “escape rooms” create scavenger-hunt-meets-murder-mystery experiences in locations around the world.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and his daughters escaped from a room in Hawaii in 2016. An escape room was featured in an episode of ABC’s “Modern Family.” Television personality Megyn Kelly and members of her studio audience recently escaped a room in New York. And now people living in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming can escape, too.
Survive a Zombie Apocalypse
While every escape room is different, they’re built on the same premise: Participants are locked in a room and given a certain amount of time — usually an hour — to get out. Each room contains clues, riddles, games, ciphers, tasks or other challenges that, once completed, allow them to escape. Rooms are usually built to tell a story, requiring visitors to shut down a nuclear reactor, survive a zombie apocalypse, break out of prison, or even destroy all of Lord Voldemort’s horcruxes.
“I always say that escape rooms are popular because people enjoy thinking,” says McKay Taylor, manager of the escape room company Getout Games in Provo. “They like succeeding and doing something using their own intellect. People love the challenge, the themes and the experience.”
Perhaps another reason for escape rooms’ popularity is the element of teamwork. Most are designed for four to 10 people working together. This makes them popular destinations for business teams, group dates, families, birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and other groups.
Obviously, these groups have more fun if they are successful. If a group is struggling, they can ask the “game master” for a hint. Taylor says that these facilitators only interfere if necessary.
“We definitely don’t force groups to win,” he says. “Our focus is just for people to have a good experience. We want it to be a challenge, but it’s not fun if you get hung up on one thing. So we give nudges here and there if the people ask for it.”
‘Get Out’ on the Town
Of course, once you’ve escaped from a particular room, it’s much less challenging the second time. So many escape room businesses offer more than one room in order to get repeat business. Or you can test out a different business altogether. Utah has 16 escape room businesses; Idaho has them in Boise, Twin Falls and Idaho Falls; and there is one in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
“I think they’re so popular because they’re unique,” Taylor says. “They’re interactive, and that makes them fun.”