Time to plan your escape

Posted by on July 12th, 2018

Want to combine the unpleasant experience of being locked in a room with the tedium of solving complex puzzle problems?

While this may not sound like a lot of fun at first, the “escape room” experience has become something of a cultural phenomenon. But you don’t have to pay big dollars for a high-tech experience at one of the many businesses hosting the games.

Whether dinner parties, family game night or birthday bashes, you can design and build your own escape room at home.

It can be a bit intimidating. Isn’t it going to be a lot of work and cost? After all, don’t businesses make huge outlays for authentic costumes and high-tech gadgetry?

Take a deep breath. The true magic of the escape room experience lies in creating puzzles that are difficult without being frustrating, and hiding essential clues that are “in plain sight” but not obvious to the undiscerning eye.

Keep these simple concepts in mind, and your home can be the hip new neighborhood party spot for kids and adults alike.

Begin with the end in mind. How much time do you have? Is this for players or all ages, or just kids?

The whole objective of an escape room is to open secret boxes and locks and find clues to escape. If you have a (comfortable) room that can be locked from the inside, and a number of items with combination locks, you’re halfway there.

If you have the time, set up the reason for the escape with a back story, videos and costumes. While homemade or downloaded extras like these are fun, they’re not essential to the escape room experience.

Next, set up puzzles, math problems and ciphers for people to solve. The solutions are the numbers or letters you need to open the locks. If you don’t have combination locks, you can improvise by making keys the reward for solving the puzzles.

Add to the intensity with a very visible countdown clock or timer. An ordinary clock works, but nothing beats the second-by-second countdown from an online stopwatch on a computer screen.

Ramp it up even more with music. Like a movie soundtrack, you start off fairly slow and easy (or silent and spooky), and really pick up the tempo at the end so it puts your players in a frenzy.

If you don’t have time to design your own game, many online downloads are available, and board game companies are also getting in on the action

The game is best thought of as a fun way to spend time as a group or family. For the best party experience, do a couple of test runs to iron out any kinks. In the end, you can let your imagination unlock your home’s true escape room potential.