As escape rooms mature from novelty status and approach a sort of middle age – they have been around New Hampshire for almost a decade – this hands-on form of group entertainment is looking to get a wider variety of hands involved.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business for people to enjoy. Instead of relying on people who already play escape rooms … what better way to make the escape-room industry stronger than by introducing a whole new clientele?” said Gregory Slossar, owner of Escape Room Concord.
The escape room at 240 Airport Road, which has been around for 6 years, has added a space-themed room aimed at kids, although grown-ups who are new at the concept and want to start slow can enjoy it, too. This is a departure from a common industry practice of limiting rooms to adults or at least nobody under 12.
The Deep Space room is cheaper than other rooms – $100 vs. $150 for a private booking – and runs a maximum of 45 minutes instead of an hour. It has proved popular, Slossar said, particularly with families.
“Parents enjoy escape rooms and they have kids now who say I want to go to an escape room,” he said. “This gives the opportunity. If I can get the kids interested at a young age, they’ll move on to the more advanced rooms later.”
Escape rooms are, as the name suggests, rooms where up to 10 people get locked in (although they’re not really locked since this is for fun) and have to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape.
They started in Japan in 2007 as a real-world outgrowth of video games and made it to the U.S. a decade ago. About a dozen operate in New Hampshire, often in strip malls where former stores can be partitioned into multiple rooms. Pandemic lockdowns shuttered some but the industry seems to have rebounded pretty well. Slossar says those that have survived did so by turning into “real businesses” rather than a fad.
Puzzles in rooms can range from simple arithmetic problems to finding hidden doors to interacting with infrared beams to walking on steps in a certain order indicated by the solution to an earlier puzzle. Doors can fly open, lights can alter, colors can change and noises full of clues can appear, depending on what you’ve done. The possibilities are just about endless although figuring out the combination of locks is almost always necessary.
Success requires not just thinking but the ability to cooperate on the fly. The best escape rooms produce a fun intellectual frenzy with lots of running around and shouting at each other, full of “aha!” moments that makes it unlike any other kind of group entertainment.
Room themes can be as varied as the imagination of the owners. At Concord Escape Room there’s a library, which has been there since it opened and “is our best seller,” Slossar said, as well as a lion’s den, a dragon chamber and The Enigma, which can’t be easily be described. Many rooms are adjustable depending on the past experience of the group renting it out: “You can flip a few switches and that all of a sudden makes everything a little more difficult.”
Slossar haunts antique stores looking for props and furniture, and he experiments with technology and puzzle design. “There’s no books about this, on making rooms,” said Slossar.