We’ve all heard of escape rooms, those life-sized interactive games that have been spreading like wildfire since 2012. The concept is simple: you’re trapped in a room with a small group of people and have an hour to escape, working together to solve puzzles, decipher codes and discover keys that will unlock doors. According to the Escape Room Directory—an online catalog of escape rooms across the globe—there are currently over 600 of these games in the United States alone, and more than 150 of them are located in the South.
Which brings us to The Escape Game, an escape room founded in Nashville, Tennessee, by Mark Flint and Jonathan and James Murrell. Since The Escape Game launched in April 2014, the immersive puzzle game has become Nashville’s No. 1 tourist attraction. Max Magura, marketing coordinator at The Escape Game, says the attraction brings in a wide variety of people, from families to bachelorette parties to corporate groups. “We attract anyone who wants to have an interactive entertainment experience,” he says, “someone who wants to be the game, not just watch it.”
My husband and I recently had the opportunity to play our first Escape Game with a couple of friends to celebrate a birthday. We reserved our spots for “The Heist,” one of seven games available.
We arrived at The Escape Game and learned we’d be playing with our friends, David and Kelly, and two other couples we’d never met before. I wondered if playing alongside strangers would affect our performance. However, I had no time to dwell on that question; after a quick exchange of names, it was time to begin.
We were ushered into a room that resembled a small art gallery where we were briefed on the rules of the game. Sixty minutes appeared on the clock, and then the countdown began. We immediately started to scour the room, finding clues and keys that would lead us to the painting we were required to “steal” to fulfill our objective.
I quickly realized that working toward a common goal made the hesitation of playing alongside strangers dissipate. We were suddenly a team, shouting discoveries to one another and wracking our brains in an effort to determine what each clue meant. Puzzle after puzzle was eventually solved, and with a only few minutes remaining, we had the combination that would allow us to “escape.”
After the game, we snapped photos to commemorate the event. Then we went our separate ways—but not without exchanging a few victorious high-fives with our teammates.
The Escape Game has been used as a team-building exercise since its conception, and it’s easy to see why. The game has the power to bring co-workers together in a way that a ropes course or cheese tasting never could. It forces them to think critically as a team and solve problems using limited resources, all within a fun, low-risk setting.
Big companies with locations across the South including AT&T, Bridgestone, Disney and the Tennessee Titans, have used The Escape Game as a way to build community in the workplace. Co-workers are able to build trust with each other, while employers learn which of their employees are good leaders or creative thinkers.
But whether you play the game during a company outing or for a birthday party, one thing is for certain: if you don’t learn to work as a team, you won’t succeed. And that’s a lesson that extends beyond the game room.