I love eating out. I love eating out with my husband. I love eating out with my husband along with friends.
But sometimes, as with other things, it pays to shake up the routine a little. Do something different, move outside out comfort zones, and take a chance.
A couple of Saturdays ago, Beth-Anne and I did precisely this with our husbands: a double date night of escape room gaming at Mystery Room. What exactly is this? In our case, it meant that the four of us were trapped in two rooms (Revenge of the Mummy) and had to use our collective problem-solving skills to solve multiple puzzles that allow our escape and save the world from destruction. (Nathalie and her husband couldn’t attend because they were travelling in actual Egypt. Boo hoo for them.)
I first heard about escape rooms from my 18 year old niece, and was thus primed when I recently heard the CBC do a spot on the phenomenon. Escape rooms are an extension of online gaming, and with its in-person challenges, are becoming extremely popular in North America, as they have been for years overseas. They combine the adrenaline of games with a strong social component, and the mutual reliance on your co-escapees makes it easy to see why many businesses use them for team-building exercises.
But for my demographic, the (often bedraggled) moms and dads with kids, the appeal is even simpler. Most parents spend a lot of time, energy, and money ensuring their kids lives are a lot of fun, but don’t often have much of that fun themselves. I thought the escape room experience could address that. Moms (and dads) just wanna have fun, too.
We arrived at Mystery Room a bit giggly. We were all newbies at this, and it showed. As did our age: we could have given birth to everyone else in the sitting room (equipped with tables, board games, treats, and a popcorn machine). It makes sense that escape rooms are so popular with younger crowds, people who might be too young for bars and who haven’t quite coupled off yet into serious relationships, and default into fun in groups. Prices, which range from $24 to $20, favour the group too – the more people in your group, the less each person pays.
All the youthful allure notwithstanding, our foursome would soon discover that escape rooms hold just as much appeal for those of us who are older.
When our group walked into the escape room and began looking for clues, there was excitement but also, I thought, a quiet assurance in the air. None of us spoke it aloud, but I’m pretty sure we were all quite confident we would successfully escape from Revenge of the Mummy, which actually contained two rooms we had to break out of. The website says 50% of participants get out of this beginner level game, and, well, I think we think we’re above average. (Everyone believes that, statistics be damned!)
But holy mummy – we didn’t get out!!
I don’t mind telling you, we kind of couldn’t believe it. And we were slightly haunted by the memory of the boisterous boys who went before us and got out in 26 minutes bragging it was because they were engineers (or more likely engineering students). (Which, I can tell you post-game, has nothing to do with anything.)
But when our time was up, there we were, yelling (excitedly, not rudely) to the young room attendant, pleading for an extra couple of minutes because we were sure to get out of the room any moment. And though she was nice about it, the next group was waiting, and we watched her with defeated interest as she revealed the clues we missed.
dissected discussed it afterwards, of course, over dinner. There was the one confusing clue which we actually saw but didn’t think was a real clue. We wasted a lot of time on that clue, before finally calling the help line for a hint. It was all because of that clue that we spent 53 minutes in the first room and only got 7 for the second. We were whirlwinds in that second room, I mean, you should have seen us. If we had 10 or 12 minutes in that second room, we’d probably have escaped. Oh, for sure. Oh yeah. For sure.
So… what’s the takeaway from all this? Firstly, we could easily have done another game. We were pumped up after the first one and, well, kind of wanted to another chance to prove our escaping prowess. Alas, we hadn’t planned for this, but all of us would have enjoyed another round.
Second, fun needs to be more democratic. Adults, especially adults with kids, should try to avoid putting their own fun on the backburner. Adults with kids who are older should absolutely do escape rooms with their kids. It would make a fabulous alternative to the usual movie night.
Finally, our double date ended with a great dinner and better conversation. I still love eating out with my husband and my friends, and I’ll never stop doing it. But it was great to have something unique to talk about during dinner, something we shared together. It was a great time, even if we couldn’t stop the apocalypse.
Many thanks to our friends at Mystery Room for hosting an amazing evening for us! Mystery Room boasts 2 locations (Downsview, where we went, and downtown Toronto). It has 10 different escape zones of varying difficulty, all of which challenge you to beat the odds and save the world. Happy escaping!