Sunday March 01, 2015

'Room escape games' are putting a new spin on immersive gaming

Members of the Ornstein family and Mike and Ruby Yuan after playing a Real Escape Game.

Members of the Ornstein family and Mike and Ruby Yuan after playing a Real Escape Game. (Photo by Tomas Urbina)

Listen 14:03

This story first aired in March 2015.

Everyone likes to do a puzzle, solve a riddle or go on a treasure hunt now and then. But what if your life depended on it? That's the basic premise behind the room escape games. The real-life games are popping up all over Canada. Basically, they challenge groups of people to escape from a locked room by solving puzzles and finding hidden objects before the clock runs out. If not, players could face anything from fictional murderers to zombies to a major radiation leak.

The games started out online. Some people have traced their origins to the classic virtual world computer game, Myst. But the real-world versions are putting a whole new spin on the idea of an immersive environment.

Spark contributor Tomas Urbina met up with a group of players at Toronto's Real Escape Game as they tried to escape from the time travel lab or risk being lost in time and space forever.

And, we hear from Neil Randall, Director of the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo. He says these games are part of a broader trend away from single-player video games toward live, more collaborative game-play experiences.