The escape room industry in Calgary has been rapidly expanding as an innovative way to entertain large groups of young adults and even children.
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 (around 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 emotion,” Ellyce said.
Located on 14 St. and 17th Ave SW, Smartypantz, an escape room company, which has also locations in Vancouver and Edmonton, opened to Calgarians March 2017, and according to Ellyce, there is a lot of competition in the industry at the moment.
“You really have to be at the top to be a game player,” she said.
Romson Dela Cruz, one of the owners of Cognito Escape Games located in 8 Ave and 14th street SW, said escape rooms have become popular since people are looking to do something more creative and not just physical-based, like bowling or laser tag.
“These didn’t exist before. It has mental challenges that people enjoy doing.
“It’s a mental thing,” he said.
Cognito Escape Games opened in May 2017, 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.
“We cannot consider others competitors.”
He said that the “good companies”, the ones who provide a high-quality service, talk and recommend each other to attract new customers.
“We want to send them (customers) to a happy place.”
The average escape room audience goes from 18 to 35 years old, which is also the target market, along with the people who played video games when they were children.
Ellyce said escape rooms are originally designed for adults, however, kids like to play them and it turns out to be easier for them since they are more creative and don’t complicate themselves 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 added that it’s important to take the time to develop a creative storyline because some of the 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, California and later expanded to 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,” she said.