An Escape Room: The Best Getaway

How many people would consciously lock themselves into a small room with no sure way to get out? This question is shared among many due to the rise in popularity of “escape rooms.” In these live-action games, groups of friends or strangers have an hour to use hidden clues to solve puzzles and stories in order to find a way out of the room. There are at least 2,300 escape-room locations in the U.S., a large contrast from the couple of dozen that existed back in 2014. The attractions have also gotten more complex, evolving from basic setups with simple locks and puzzles in small rooms, to theater pieces where visitors interact with actors and games can feel like haunted houses. How was this new craze able to grow at such a rapid rate?

The location of an escape room is first and foremost in achieving success and popularity. Puzzle Break, the escape room company headquartered in Seattle, failed in its attempt to start a franchise in San Francisco for this very reason. Even though the space was in a fantastic location with lots of foot traffic, it had room for just one game. This severely inhibited individuals from becoming repeat customers because if they wanted to play a game under a new theme, they had to wait at least a year until Puzzle Break tore down its existing setup to start over. The ideal space for an escape room is an old doctor’s office or dentist’s practice because they already contain a lobby, along with plenty of rooms that can be built out individually or combined. The corporate office of Puzzle Break was originally built to be practice spaces for musicians. As such, it already had a number of small, soundproofed rooms.

As with many companies, employing the right people is another crucial piece of the puzzle when putting together a successful business. Securing the game masters, the people who run the escape rooms, can be a simple process, if not hindered by challenges along the way. University students are sought after for these positions due to their flexible schedules and willingness to put work into a job that pays a whopping $15 an hour at the bare minimum. Nonetheless, another critical job for a game master is putting the room back together after a team has gone through. Forgetting to lock a door or put a piece back can ruin a game.

With everything in place, the price of admission averages $30. While this may be a steep price, it is offset by the wide range of customers willing to pay for an escape room. Many teenagers elect to test their minds when they are bored on a rainy day, in hopes of achieving the rush of pride that comes with a successful escape. In addition, countless company managers have brought their employees to escape rooms to bond by working together to find an escape route. For example, Anheuser-Busch recently set up escape rooms at universities such as Princeton to give students a sense of the skills for which Anheuser-Busch seeks in employees: resourcefulness and a team-oriented mindset. Whether it be for the pride or the bonding, countless individuals are rushing to experience this new craze, and escape room companies would be wise to continue feeding such demand.