Brick and Mortar Escape Rooms: Much better than in a box!

Written by: The Bat

Brick and Mortar Escape Rooms: Much better than in a box!

My original passion for escape rooms was born in the halls of a brick-and-mortar escape room. Running back and forth between rooms, picking up pieces and props, writing things on a whiteboard, that is what I knew an escape room to be.

I later discovered that this is not the only type of escape game that you can play. There are escape games in a box! We went to a game store, bought a few, and reviewed them for you guys. (Read here for our adventures at the game store). To incentivize myself to play these games, I told myself I would not do a brick-and-mortar escape room until I had played all three box games we bought.

The box games were fun, I’ll give you that. And they do have their upsides. But when we went back to brick and mortar games with The Third Gate, It definitely hit home how much I had missed it!

Dragon: I will say one thing for box games that I think can be more appealing over Brick and Mortar is that some at least serve as a great low commitment introduction. This is in part because you can make the rules of a board game optional. Doing so can help kids and adults alike who might not be as quick to adopt the concept.

The three reasons I think brick and mortar escape rooms are more fun than escape rooms in a box are

  1. It is a fully immersive event
  2. The props and space are real(ish)
  3. The Game Masters are more responsive than a hint system

1) It is a fully immersive event

You walk into a brick-and-mortar escape room. What do you expect to see? A lobby, maybe some riddle games or a tv screen, game masters, lots of doors. Some are a bit different, more thematic from the start, which I love. But they all have one thing in common.

They are not your house!

You can not see the uncompleted homework sitting on the counter next to the table, or the dirty dishes in the sink. No kids or roommates to burst in and make you pause the timer. You make plans and put a section of your time to attend a brick and mortar escape room, and in this time, you leave your home at home! No matter how many rules you make about paying attention to the game, it is much harder to fully commit when surrounded by your day to day.

But back to the escape room. You walk in and are drawn into the routine of the event. Your phone is usually taken away or you are ordered to keep it away. You watch the start up video, you are shown to the room (or the other way around) and given the extra instructions. In my case, you run to the restroom one last time so it won’t interrupt the game.

Then you cross the threshold into a new world! You look around and see the setting of the story, all around you. It isn’t perfect of course, if you look too hard you can probably see the signs of other groups or set design, but if you suspend disbelief, you are in the game! And I don’t know about you, but I can’t get that at any escape game in my house.

2) The Room and Props are Real(ish)

The game has begun. You begin to look around you and you see pictures on the walls, cupboards with locks to be opened. Objects to manipulate. They may or may not be part of the puzzles, but they are all part of the game. Sensory input for most of the senses (I doubt you will be tasting things). This makes me feel like I am in the game, and does not give my mind many choices to focus on other than the game.

The physically existent props (as opposed to pictures on cards) and the physically present space (as opposed to a description in a book) seem to encourage me to be more actively involved, and I bet it does for other players as well. I want to get up, run from room to room and touch everything! Tell me it doesn’t set your pulse racing, your endorphins up and the excitement level soaring!

I admit this has the slight downside of being a bit distracting at times. I once carried a doll that had no hints at all through an escape room because I thought she was creepy-adorable.

Hi, I'm Chucky

But if you remember that winning is only part of the goal, that type of thing is super fun!

3. Game Master Hints are Responsive

This is, of course, a bit dependent on the hint system of the venue and of course, the game masters. But if the game master is any good, the hint you receive will be relevant to the puzzle you are working on, the part of the puzzle you are on, and maybe even in response to a particular question. Even if they are using prewritten hints, these hints are usually given with enough variety that the game master can apply them properly. And if the pre-written clues/hints don’t work, many game masters will help you off the books as well, to the best of their ability.

Dragon: The human element in a helper is FREAKING HUGE! I love technology but damn it the amazing technology of the future movies promised me growing up are shite!

One of my biggest annoyances with the In-The-Box games was the limitation of the hints. They were prewritten and sometimes applied to parts of the puzzle we had already figured out. And when they were exhausted, you were left with nothing. Of course, you can cheat and look it up online, but that takes away from the immersion, in my opinion.

All this being said, will we still play and review In-The-Box games here at Daring Damsels? Yes, my Readers, we will. They are fun in their own right. But for a truly immersive escape, I definitely recommend going out to play!

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