The escape room business in Calgary has been expanding rapidly this year as an innovative way to entertain large groups.
According to Melanie Ellyce, member of the Calgary team of Smartypantz Entertainment Corp., an escape room is a themed room where a group of guests (usually six to eight, depending on the room capacity) need to solve a number of puzzles to achieve an objective.
“It’s a real-life board game, full of emotion,” Ellyce said.
Located on 14th Street S.W. at 16th Street, Smartypantz, an escape room company which has also locations in Vancouver and Edmonton, opened to Calgarians in March. According to Ellyce, there is a lot of competition in the industry.
“You really have to be at the top to be a game player,” she said.
Romson Dela Cruz, owner of Cognito Escape Games at 805 14th St. N.W., said escape rooms have become popular with people who are looking to do something more creative than bowling or laser tag.
“These didn’t exist before. It has mental challenges that people enjoy doing.
“It’s a mental thing,” Dela Cruz said.
Cognito Escape Games opened in May this year, and Dela Cruz said things have been growing rapidly.
He said after Cognito Escape Games opened its doors, two more locations did as well, and added that the industry in Calgary has been “exploding.”
Nonetheless, even though there is a lot of competition, Dela Cruz said there’s a lot of friendliness in the industry.
He said that the “good companies” in the business, the ones who provide a high-quality service, talk to each other and recommend each other to attract new customers.
“We want to send them (customers) to a happy place.”
The average escape room client ranges from 18 to 35 years of age, and many played video games when they were children.
Ellyce said escape rooms are originally designed for adults.
However, kids like to play them and it’s even easier for them since they are more creative and don’t complicate things as much as adults do.
Dela Cruz said the essence of an escape room goes beyond making it hard and fun.
“Make it challenging enough, solvable, and a fun experience.”
He said it’s important to take the time to develop a creative storyline because some puzzles are overused, and to also ask customers for feedback since many escape rooms don’t do it and it’s very useful.
“It’s important and surprisingly uncommon,” he said.
According to Lock Academy, the first live escape room was created in 2007 by the Japanese company SCARP, and then it was expanded to the rest of Asia and Europe.
In 2012, the same company opened in San Francisco, and later expanded across North America.
Ellyce considers escape rooms as a way to get permission to have fun and encourages people to try them.
“This is a place where you can be a kid again.”