escape games

Locked In!

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Managing safety in Escape Rooms 

TIC Insurance recently wrote an article on “How To Manage Escape Room Risks Without Spoiling The Fun”. While it notes that every business must comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the legislation requires businesses to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent accidents or injuries.

So what are ‘reasonable steps’ as far as an escape room goes? And when does an escape room switch from being a play of amusement to a place of incarceration? Do escape rooms really lock you in?

For a start, a lot of escape room website state that players are not actually locked in the room. Either the entrance door remains unlocked, so players can escape the way they entered or there are panic buttons that release the doors should players want/need to leave. So no panic there.

Escape rooms offer an immersive adventure. That immersion can be lost if escape rooms add “mind the step” and “mind your head” signs around the place. You don’t want to spoil the illusion and reveal the existence of a hidden room by signage.  Games Masters can include general safety instruction during their briefing, including notes to mind your heads and mind where you step instead. 

Fire alarm sensors and electrical wiring can be camouflaged to fit into the theme of the room. And things that must not be touched for safety reasons can be marked.

Most Games Masters stress that their games involve logic and problem-solving skills not physical strength and that players are not to destroy the props. 

Amusement or incarceration?

Verisk insurance published an article about escaping ‘escape room’ risk in 2017. It explored how escape rooms should be classified.

One school of thought is that escape rooms can be rooms used for assembly and may be considered as special amusement buildings. However, another school of thought is that escape rooms more closely fit the definition of a true lockup.

The NFPA defines a lockup as “an incidental use area in other than a detention and correctional occupancy where occupants are restrained and such occupants are mostly incapable of self-preservation because of security measures not under the occupants’ control.”

So while all escape rooms are meant to be fun, some also restrain the players. Does this also restrict the players ability for self-preservation?

The safety implications are obvious. If someone is locked in a room without an easy means of escape, what happens in the event of a fire or other disaster? What if someone becomes ill or is injured?

Well, as noted above most escape room websites state that players are not actually locked in the room. Either the entrance door remains unlocked or there are panic button door releases.

Great, so this covers rooms without restraints, but what if the room includes players being chained up or locked in cells? In this case Verisk insurance recommend that:

  • Within two minutes, staff must be able to release doors and other physical restraints that compromise participants’ free egress.
  • Staff should be in sufficient proximity to the lockup to enable the two-minute release.
  • The facility must have staff authorized, trained, and practiced to facilitate the release.
  • Participants cannot be restrained from evacuating without the assistance of others.
woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body
Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

Personal observations

I’ve raised the point before that most games tell you not to destroy the props. This is so ingrained that we’ve sometimes played games where we’ve been unclear if we can write on things or not.

On the other hand, we have also come across a game that require you to actively destroy a prop. While we were warned in advance that there were potential dangerous props in the room, we were surprised that the game required physical strength and the ability to use such tools safely.

At another game a wall socket needed to be dismantled. Again, this was a surprise as normally fiddling with the electrics is forbidden.  

However, my major concern with escape rooms is the use of restraints. 

We have played a room where team members were handcuffed on separate sides of the room. The first puzzle was to release one of the players, who released the rest. It took less than 5 minutes for all players to be free. No panic was involved.

However, we played another game where where team members were handcuffed in a line and attached to a wall. The first series of puzzles released one player, who had to “break into” a cell and solve other puzzles before they could release the rest of us. This took over 15 minutes. We considered this a health hazard, especially as we were in a basement and the Games Master was located on another floor. What if there was a fire and they couldn’t come down and release us?

At another game we were chained up and locked in a cell and had to call the Games Master to release us after 15 minutes. It was an agonising wait to see if they were coming to release us and a feeling of panic over what if they didn’t. 

Escape rooms should consider the implications of incarcerating their players. Do they want their players to have fun or to be terrified for their own safety?

Let me know what your thoughts are.

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Escape Games 

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So what is an Escape Game?

It is a physical adventure game. Usually an escape game is an escape room, although there are outdoor escape adventures available.

For an escape room, a group of people are locked in a room and have to solve clues and puzzle to escape. They look for codes and clues, solve puzzles and riddles, and combine information.

It’s intensive playing for an hour, but also a form of team building. To win (escape) the team need to collaborate and co-operate with each other. It brings out qualities such as leadership, communication, trust, flexibility and responsibility. And throws in a dollop of stress, time pressure and competition.

 

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Love playing Escape Rooms and interested in knowing how to design one?

Well, you are in luck. Nowescape asked Daniele Colombo to share his secrets to designing “must-play” escape games.

He said to decide on a theme and make the game-play follow the story.  He advised sticking with a classic theme, such as pirates, mad scientist or bank heist, if you’re the first game in the area. But be innovative if you’re last. Decor and lighting should enhance the theme and there should be a themed soundtrack. He suggested using a balance of technical and traditional puzzles.

He also advised considering smoke machines and smell effects. I know they are used to help players become fully immersed in the theme, but I’d advise caution re breathing problems.

More about team-building

Check out more team-building ideas with “What Are We Going To Do Next?”. This fascinating book shows how social team-building builds memories and happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a notorious gangster’s treasure

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Our team met in a coffee shop in the city of London one sunny Sunday morning. We were about to travel back in time to New York in 1935 to solve a murder of a notorious gangster and, hopefully, find his treasure.

Gangsters Treasure

This is the new Escape Game in London by Clue Adventures in association with Locked 60 Escape Games.

Arriving at a nearby pub we were greeted and lead downstairs to The Chop Palace Bar, where Dutch Schultz has been killed. Dutch may have been hated, but he wasn’t stupid. He’d made sure to hide his stash. Our mission was to find out who killed Dutch, find  his will and locate his hidden treasure.

Rather than a locked room to escape from, we needed to complete our task and escape the police. We had just 60 minutes and the clock was ticking.

The game is nonlinear, so we all speed off in different directions, coming together as small groups to solve things. The game is packed with puzzles in keeping with the theme. It’s not lock heavy, and there are some nice props. And, as with Clue Adventures other games, guessing doesn’t help.

As this game is set in a real pub, hints are not given by screens, walkie talkies or ipads. If you need help, you have to bribe the barman. Luckily we were supplied with a fistful of dollars just in case.

As usual, at least two of the team purposely ignored the money, insisting we could get by without hints. They were wrong.

But we did only needed a couple of nudges in the right direction.

And yes, we solved the murder, located the will and found the treasure four minutes before the police arrived. Unfortunately our victory photo was a little blurry.

 

Bookings are being taken to Gangsters Treasure at weekends only until 30th June 2018.

 

 

 

Quest for Pharaoh Khufu’s Chamber

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I got a call from Escape Roomers (Munich). They were travelling to London and were looking for additional explorers to join their quest for Pharaoh Khufu’s Chamber. Legend had it that the Chamber was cursed. All who remained there longer than 60 minutes were said to be destined to guard the Pharaoh’s tomb and his treasure for all eternity…….

No pressure then!

Were we up for the challenge?

You bet we were.

And so my team of Invitation To Events explorers arrived at the ante chambers, or foyer at Escape Rooms London Bridge  just off Tooley Street, to begin our mission.

Pharaoh’s Chamber – A Cursed Tomb

We introduced ourselves to our fellow explorers and swapped stories of escape rooms we’d played throughout Europe. The Games master was surprised we had not met before embarking on this adventure.

He told us we were the 100th raiders to enter Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb. It seems the first 99 explorers had perished in the chamber, although no bodies had been found. We were given an  hour to find the Pharaoh’s treasure, and light all the flames of the gods, to escape.

We were shown into a large room with Egyptian statues all around the room. As the door shut, we started searching for clues. There was a good selection of puzzles arranged in a nonlinear game play. We were able to split up, search and solve, joining together and parting as puzzles were solved. One puzzle that stumped us for a long time. It turned out to be something that was formerly a puzzle but had now been retired and was just a prop!

It was good to see we were making progress throughout the game, as we kept lighting the flames of the gods around the room.

It was down to the final light and we huddled together a little stumped. Finally we solved it and managed to escape within the time limit and without needing clues! Amazing.

So happy to have our celebration photo taken and given pride of place on the Escape Rooms wall.

Munich Escape Plan 2018

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A highly guarded secret……

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“It will be fun,” she said reeling off the list of where and when to meet.

“Are you sure you know where we are going?” we asked as we followed her down the winding streets of London. It was beginning to get dark and the market stalls were packing up for the night as we passed. Almost at the end of the road we came to a stop outside an unremarkable grey door.

She gave the password and we entered into a loading bay.

“Are you sure this is right?” we asked.

By now, she was beginning to wonder herself……..

Suddenly a  shout came from an open door. The man beckoned us in and lead us to an old film studio that appeared to be lost in time. We had entered the headquarters of ‘Secret Studio’.

FRIGHTS-CAMERA-ACTION!

We’d signed up to take part in an escape room set in a fictional down-at-heel schlock movie production office. It wasn’t until the Games Master started telling us the plot of the game that we realised this was no ordinary adventure.

This was a scary adventure.

The story goes that after screening the latest film, one of the film crew noticed something was wrong. They’d stayed in the cutting room overnight to try and figure things out but  now they had disappeared.

Could our team solve the mystery and bring back the missing crew member?

Or, worst-case scenario, could the room be haunted?

“You’ve signed us up for what?”

I’m not a great fan of horror and hearing the introduction made me a little concerned. I needn’t have been. There are surprises, and bits that are creepy, but nothing extreme.

Oh, and there are dolls.

Just saying because one of our team hates dolls. (Another team member collections national dolls so each to their own, I guess)

Locked in a schlock movie production office

As a team of experienced escape-gamers, we chose ‘Impossibly Difficult’. We were warned this was not an easy option and that less than 50% of people escape in time on their first attempt.

Challenge accepted.

Striding purposefully into the the cutting room, we were ready to begin our search and rescue mission. The set and props conjured up a down-at-heel movie production from 1979 with lots of retro technology.

We split up and started searching. A few nudges were needed to get us on the right track, but then we hit our stride and were working well as a team.

There are some nice touches and puzzles we hadn’t come across before.

Did we get out?

Yes we did. With a couple of minutes to spare.

And the last puzzle…….

……..will have to remain our little secret. I know the way we solved it gave the Games Master a jolly good laugh though……….

secret studio

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Time Run: Lance Of Longinus

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Luna Fox had sent us a message via our team leader.

We were to meet at a certain location at a certain time. We were required to wear flat shoes for Time Running and warned that, while we were not to be late, we were also not to be early.

“Do not ring the doorbell until exactly your allocated time slot.”

As we huddled outside a doorway in East London, one brave adventurer decided to flout the instructions we’d been sent and try her hand at ringing the doorbell 10 minutes early.

It was ignored.

But at 6:30pm sharp the door swung open to reveal the Time Portal and our time travelling adventure could begin.

Instead of being greeted by a games master, we were met by Luna’s assistant Aubrey Defoe. He showed us into his “office” for a briefing on our mission. To make travelling between time portals easier we were required to leave our bags and coats behind. Loading the storage crate one member of our team snagged his finger and had to be taken to get a plaster. Aubrey remained in character, telling us that time travel was not supposed to be that dangerous, and ad libbing until all the team were back together.

After the briefing we were shown into the staging room where we “met”  Luna’s other assistant, a robot called  Babbage. He was to be our guide between the time portals. We had more instructions from Luna and then we were off to solve the first puzzles and challenges in an attempt to retireve the Lance Of Longinus.

The puzzles were good and the production value of the sets was amazing. Time Run is  a really impressive immersive game.

Being non-linear, all team members were free to search and solve as we moved between time portals. And we did. Sometimes we worked as pairs, sometimes as a group and sometimes we tried things alone. (Looking at you, “silent solver”.)

We managed to retrieve the Lance Of Longinus and escape back to our time zone with a few minutes to spare.

As well as making it onto the leader board, we were given a report card during the debriefing. After some careful consideration Babbage had decided we were “the Academics” who were both helped and hindered by the raw power of our intellect.

A fair assessment and a great game.

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Book of Secrets

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It’s New Year’s Eve 1999

Master Magician Alistair Wilson performs an amazing trick

And  literally disappears

He is never seen again!

The big questions remain:

  • Why did he vanish?
  • How did he disappear?
  • And what became of his “Book of Secrets”?

With so many questions left unanswered, my team of adventurers set off early one Sunday morning to find a little magic in Mile End. Our quest took us to Clue Adventures

Our mission was to find out what happened to Alistair Wilson on new years eve 1999 and to find his Book of Secrets. Time was of the essence as his flat was due to be demolished. We’d only have 60 minutes before the answers would be lost forever.

clue adventures

Entering the Zone

Wearing our hard hats we completed our briefing before entering Alistair Wilson’s flat. 

Players are offered a choice of play modes. The clues are the same but the amount of hints offered is different. Fun mode gives you a little nudge in the right direction and is good for all levels of player. Experienced players can choose Ultimate where you are asked if you would like a hint before one is given. Players can choose to take the hint or refuse it. 

Despite the look of horror from one team member, our group decided to go Extreme, where you are not offered hints but have to ask for them. Admittedly we had not read the reviews before playing that said Book of Secrets is one of the hardest escape rooms to solve.

Alistair’s flat

This escape room begins in Alistair’s flat and has you searching around finding clues, puzzles and even magic tricks. That’s a nice surprise.

In fact, magic abounds in this escape room. As well as allowing you to perform tricks, the whole experience makes reference to great magicians of the past and present. This adds another level of enjoyment to the game trying to spot different magicians.

Of course, the real object of the game is to solve the mystery and find the book. We were lucky to have a team of four as we could split up and search the room, which is packed full of stuff.

The game is non-linear so everyone gets the opportunity to solve. However you may discover things that require something else to be found before you can use what you’ve uncovered. Good communication is essential. As is remembering what you’ve discovered as you may need to refer to it later.

The big question 

Having solved the first two questions, we still needed to find the actual Book of Secrets. The finale pulled all the team together with literally seconds to spare. 

A recommended adventure.

 

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