The Good and Bad about Escape Rooms– the hot trend in team building

If you have not experienced an Escape Room, it’s a new form of entertainment for small groups, dates, or a family outing. It entails going to a facility that is built out to support an entertaining theme (Pirates, Zombies, Sherlock Holmes, Time Traveling, Break out of Jail, etc.). The premise is that your group (of up to 10 people) needs to figure out how to “escape” the room(s) in one hour or less. In order to do this, your team must look at and manipulate objects in the room and figure out what they mean. It is essentially a series of puzzles that are designed to go along with the theme—and eventually yield the numbers, letters or directions that will unlock many different types of locking mechanisms. If you succeed at figuring it all out, your team will be able to exit the room.

It can be a great team building experience for a small group if the right escape room facility is selected. They are definitely not all the same. Here are the pluses, minuses and how to select what’s best for your team…

Pluses

  1. The cost is pretty reasonable. It amounts to about $30- $50 per person, depending upon how many participants. We would recommend buying out the room for your group. This would be about $275- $500, depending upon the facility.
  2. Many facilities and scenarios to choose from. Escape Rooms are springing up everywhere, and there is probably one right in your city.
  3. Entertaining and fun. Some facilities have built some pretty elaborate sets for these rooms. There is a wide variety of scenarios to choose from. Most escape room facilities offer two or three different escape room experiences. This means your group could certainly do more than one of these experiences if they like them.
  4. Great for small groups of 10 people or less. Not all team building events work well for a group of 5- 6 people, but this does.
  5. All indoors, so bad weather is never an issue.

 

Minuses

  1. You have to be there at an exact time and be done by an exact time. There is little to no flexibility, because other groups may be in the room before you and after you.
  2. Not everyone enjoys solving puzzles that are not straightforward. Some escape rooms can be very difficult, and usually within a group some of the participants will be more into it than others. Some may actually disengage.
  3. You have to do your own observing and debriefing, which is an important component of team building. If you do not relate the experience back to what happens in your workplace, you are missing out on a great deal of its value.
  4. It can only accommodate 6-10 people at a time, depending upon the facility. Larger groups would either have to divide up and experience different rooms—which can defeat the purpose of doing something together.
  5. Some escape rooms are not very big, and having 10 people in a relative small room (about 12’ x 12’—some even smaller) can be difficult for some. Yes, people can leave at any time, but you certainly don’t want people to be uncomfortable.
  6. If you don’t “buy out the room” (usually $275- $500) for your group, you may be sharing your experience with people you do not know (“the public”).
  7. If you do not choose the right facility and theme for your group, they may finish too soon or not at all. We know of one group that was done in 15 minutes and wanted their money back. In other cases, the hour expires, and the group is not even close to getting out (succeeding).
  8. Some people prefer outdoor events for team building. Escape Rooms are all indoors and most of the rooms do not have any windows.

 

How to choose the best Escape Room Experience for your group

  1. Ask friends, colleagues about their experiences. Read the reviews.
  2. Go and check it out. You and some friends can experience one of the escape rooms at a particular facility before you decide to bring your work team there – to experience the other theme offering.
  3. Reserve early in order to make sure you can get a date and time that works with everyone’s schedule.
  4. Review the facilities rules and ask about contingencies. What if you have to cancel or change the date? What if you arrive late? Are there penalties? Can you get your money back if needed?
  5. Consider who the participants are: level of sophistication, physical fitness, tenacity, sense of adventure. Make sure you match the right experience to the group. Some escape room facilities offer challenges that are a bit more physical. Ask questions!
  6. Does the escape room facility provide a person who guides the group through the experience? There are many levels of employee involvement offered at these places. Here are some that we have seen:
    1. No one from the facility is there to help or guide the group, nor are they monitoring the group’s progress at all. The participants can call (on a walkie talkie) to get one clue during the hour. That’s it.
    2. There is a “guide” that physically stays with the group and provides hints if the group seems to be having trouble making progress.
    3. There are video cameras so that employees of the facility can see what your team is doing. They communicate with your team through a TV monitor that will provide written hints, notes or cautions. Your team can wave at the monitor and ask (specific questions) for clues at any time.

 

How larger groups can experience an “escape room” adventure…

Several team building companies, including Corporate Games, offer “escape room events” for larger groups (20 to several hundred participants). These would take place at a venue of your choice. If the venue is unique (like a museum, aircraft carrier, mansion, etc.), elements of the venue can be incorporated into the theme and the game itself.

An intriguing scenario is provided to support the venue or even the industry of the group. Participants are on teams of about 8 people. Each team attempts to locate clues, find mysterious elements, figure out codes and puzzles that will ultimately let them unlock a series of different mechanisms to succeed at the challenge. Facilitators are there to assist and provide hints if needed.

It’s a one-hour challenge that offers the best elements of team building: group problem solving, time management, creativity, resourcefulness and more! Plus, these customized events can be done anywhere—even outdoors.

Contact Corporate Games to get complete details on this extraordinary activity: Call 800-790 GAME (4263) or email us at Info@corpgames.com

 

 

 

“The Escape Plan” Decoder

Here is a look at one of our “Decoders” from the Escape Plan, our newest “Escape Experience.” This one was designed for an event aboard the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier Museum. Can you figure out how to use it without reading the instructions below?

A Decoder from The Escape Plan, a Team Building Game

Using the Decoder

If decoding letters into a number:

  1. Point the black arrow on the inner disk to one of the symbols on the outer disk.
  2. Locate the letter you are trying to decode. If the symbol that now appears below that letter is the same, then the number just below the letter is correct.
  3. Point the black arrow to a different symbol on the outer wheel if the first one does not match up.

Decoding symbols and numbers into letters/words:

  1. Locate the number on the inner wheel and note the symbol below it.
  2. Line up the black arrow to the same symbol on the outer wheel. The letter that now appears above the number you are decoding is the correct letter.

Be a great boss to your team and set a good example. The holidays are a perfect time to reflect on being better…

  1. Create good will—not hate. It is up to all of us. This requires communicating—not isolation. “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” What does this really mean? Sometimes it feels like it means just to the people who are like ourselves—not everyone. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, but unfortunately it is not always given freely.
  2. Remember that “Talk is cheap”—this is a positive statement as well as a negative one. You can use it for good or bad—it’s up to you. How often have you thought of something nice about a person—but failed to tell them? All the time. Why is that? Also—we are quick to recognize mistakes and slow to appreciate doing well. This is true at home as well as in the workplace.
  3. Whatever happened to just being happy to receive a gift? Now everyone is judgmental and returns things, exchanges things, etc. I can understand if the sweater does not fit, but the weird object d’art that someone chose for you—just graciously accept it and be glad they even took the time to think about you.
  4. Be glad that you are in a position to give. And remember that giving does not have to involve spending money. I feel sorry when I can’t give everyone what they would like to have at Christmas—including the expense expectations that I think they have. We all need to get over it. I should feel good about giving anything and not continue to figure out how much I spent or didn’t spend on each person. We can’t help it.
  5. We need to slow down. Too many fatal accidents and too many mistakes are made because we are operating at a faster and faster pace. This also increases stress and blood pressure. It would be a lot healthier if we gave ourselves more “cushion”—and not pack every day as full as possible.

How has team building changed or evolved?

How has team building changed or evolved over the past couple of years? Has technology contributed to the innovation? The essence of “team building” has long been fun and games. It started out as a way of getting people to interact and ultimately get to know each other better—leading to a higher comfort level among employees and hopefully better communication and collaboration. Many of the first team building companies offered things like inflatable games that eventually became the staple of grad nights across the country. Team Olympics in a wide array of formats were also popular and continue to be. However, more companies are looking for events that also have more direct bearing on teamwork and group problem solving –not just fun (though fun will always be a key requirement). These activities include design and construction events, scavenger hunt variations, and other unique team challenges where there is no one “right answer.” Though technology does offer new possibilities in creating these challenges, the basis of team building is still through face-to-face interaction. For example, in some of our challenges, we require internet access to find answers or decipher clues. The common use of GPS also has provided lots of possibilities when it comes to scavenger hunt events. And there companies that have developed apps that provide a scavenger hunt done totally by Smart phone.  At Corporate Games, we don’t like to rely too much on electronics for a number of reasons, the most obvious one is that it is something else that must work flawlessly in order for the event to succeed. What happens if you can’t connect or when devices are not working properly?

Reality TV and the entertainment industry in general has influenced the direction of team building events also. People like to believe they could compete in Survivor, Amazing Race, or other reality TV competitions and game shows. They do, after all, require teamwork -and reveal the difficulty and angst that often comes with trying to work with many diverse opinions and abilities. Many companies, including Corporate Games, have found ways to incorporate elements of these shows into intriguing and entertaining events. These challenge everyone’s team-player abilities and allow them to practice working together in a “safe situation,” because even if you don’t “win”–it will still be fun and you will have learned something about yourself as well as your teammates.