We’re getting that question from walk-ins, call-ins, and even people who overhear us talking at lunch or shopping at the store.
According to Julie, currently our only hired help, and a mostly uncontested candidate for employee of the month, an escape room is “A room with a series of puzzles and …,” she takes a hard thinking pause, “… what else? Puzzles and clues? I guess? That you have to put together before your time runs out. Oh god are you writing everything down?”
It isn’t quite an easy question, not without a frame of reference, and that frame doesn’t yet exist in our corner of Missouri, at the Lake of the Ozarks. So, not only have we been facing the task of learning how to design, build, and run, an escape room, we’ve encountered the unique challenge of explaining to the uninitiated, just what it is that we do, and why.
“You see a mousetrap, I see free cheese and a challenge!”**
(Scroobius Pip, Poet)
Drew likes to tell people that it’s like a living board game, and Evan likes to start by talking about puzzles and locks. Me, I like to talk about the story, and jump right to the part where I let them know that they’re never actually “locked in.” But boil down the questions and the details and the nuance, and what you have is a challenge, a mental and social challenge, that forces you to work as a team and think in flexible and creative ways. There’s the challenge, but where’s the cheese?
When you find yourselves in the brig of a pirate ship, frantically searching for keys and hidden compartments, collecting map pieces and gold coins, you know that the threat of walking the plank is just playing pretend. What’s completely real is the growing reward of satisfaction as small accomplishments, like unlocking a lock, start to grow into the pride of success. You figured out how to decode that series of colored dots? Your partner solved a riddle that opened a safe? That 11 year old kid in your room just figured out how to open a door that had your entire team stumped? Seriously, how did they do that?
Those are the steps along the path, the small and building moments of victory that you will walk out reliving and laughing about. You will be the one stumped, and also the one with a solution, both a leader, and a follower. As the tension of dwindling time builds on the achievement of the puzzles you’ve solved, you will face the challenge as a team of family, friends, coworkers, or even strangers. And at the end of that 60 minutes, whether you’ve made it out the door, or come just soo close to completing that final puzzle *, you’ll have been tested and measured, as individuals and as a team, and you’ll share the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, as you revel in the moments where confusion turned into a solution and you triumphantly came through, cracking codes, unlocking locks, and flexing your mind in ways that you very well might not have for a long time. For us, it was that celebration, that excitement, that lasted long after our pictures had been taken and we had walked out the doors, that led us to create this experience for the Lake Area. Relationships, self awareness, and adventure are all built on the shoulders of challenge. That’s the cheese, and it’s yours for the taking.