What of These “Escape Rooms”?

Those of you who have read my articles thus far might assume that I am the type of person who dislikes things because they are popular. This is not true. I am quite fond of dogs, cheese, and documentaries about serial killers. I am not universally opposed to popular things. In fact, I am more often baffled rather than bothered by them.

Escape Rooms are a great example of this. I am not morally against Escape Rooms. And, since I’ve never participated in one, I can’t reasonably say that I hate them. I’m also not really sure if people still like Escape Rooms. Or, if they, like the vuvuzela and Chuck Norris jokes, have faded into cultural obscurity. Either scenario honestly seems plausible at this juncture. As previous articles should indicate, I am not always up on modern trends.

I know several people who have gone to Escape Rooms. Yet no one I know actually seems to enjoy them all that much. I think the most enthusiastic response I ever received was a tepid, “yeah, it was fine”, which is not a ringing endorsement of Escape Rooms. This, of course, brings me to my first question: Who are Escape Rooms for? There are specific elements of Escape Rooms that seem appealing, but I cannot think of anyone I know (and I know far too many people) who would find the overall format of an Escape Room enjoyable enough to go to them multiple times.

Apparently Escape Rooms are very popular among overworked young professionals and stressed out students. As a part of the former category (and a part of the latter category until fairly recently), I am doubly perplexed by them. Being trapped in a small room with other people for a specific length of time while we work to solve a series of unnecessarily vague riddles sounds like the exact opposite of what I want to do when I’m stressed out. It also sounds like the exact opposite of what I want to do at any time in my life. Still, I can understand why people are drawn to certain elements of Escape Rooms, even if the entirety of the experience sounds like a recipe for amicicide.

A quick session with the Googlebox indicates that the average cost of escape rooms is $25-$30 per person. While this isn’t unreasonably expensive for many people, I can think of MUCH better uses of that money than a kidnapping simulator. Luckily for you, my precious baby pandas, I have compiled a list of alternatives to going to Escape Rooms. So the next time your friend has a ‘great’ idea for the next group outing, or Karen from HR insists that you do a ‘team-building activity’, here are some alternative suggestions based on what element of Escape Rooms seems more appealing.

Like puzzles?: Consider actual puzzles. Go to the nearest thrift store and buy six different jigsaw puzzles. Dump them out and mix the pieces together. This will probably cost you about $8. And then you can use that remaining money to buy snacks. Since all of the puzzles will inevitably have pieces missing, this will also give all you ‘creative problem-solvers’ out there with the opportunity to create your own pieces. And that’s how you get a one-of-a-kind jigsaw puzzle where Bigfoot is chasing a bunch of tourists down a beautiful mountain vista.

Adrenaline junkie?: What about skydiving or roller coasters? If you’re afraid of heights, or running low on funds, maybe consider spelunking or urban exploration. If you’re afraid of heights, enclosed spaces, and law enforcement, maybe consider not being an adrenaline junkie… or start a competitive mumblety-peg league.

Want to do a team-building activity?: Literally anything else would be a better choice. The reason I say this is because, if you are trying to ‘build a team’, you are likely in a workplace environment. In such settings, it is usually advantageous if you don’t actively want to kill your coworkers. For me, Escape Rooms seem like they would encourage my dormant homicidal tendencies to emerge.

In fact, at my boring office job, one of my work friends once suggested that we do an Escape Room for a Team Outing. On our team was a person we will call ‘Linda’. Linda was, to put it bluntly, universally loathed. There were many, many reasons for this. In fact, I still use her antics as dinner party conversation. When Shakespeare wrote “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/Her infinite variety”, I’m relatively certain he was talking about Linda’s astounding ability to piss off every person she encountered with her ever-bizarre parodies of human behavior. When my work friend suggested we do an Escape Room, I am relatively certain he was (somehow, miraculously) forgetting about Linda. Because I can honestly attest that if I were to be locked in a room with her for any amount of time, only one of us would be making it out of that $30 recreational hostage situation alive. And I was one of the easy-going members of that particular team.

On the extremely unlikely chance that any managers or HR professionals are reading this, please take heed: there are far better ways of encouraging workplace camaraderie than locking people in a room together to solve riddles like you are the corporate equivalent of Jigsaw.

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