‘Escape the Room’ Launches in Boston

This popular interactive game locks a group of (consenting!) people in a room. The goal? To see if they can make it out within an hour.

escape the room boston

Photo by Madeline Bilis

Steps away from the Common, there’s a group of people locked inside an office. They’re trying their hardest to get out, searching around for clues, and reaching a few dead ends along the way.

But don’t panic. They chose to be stuck there, at least for an hour.

The popular interactive game Escape the Room, which took New York City by storm last year, opened a Boston location in December. The premise is simple: You’re locked in a room and have one hour to find hidden objects, solve puzzles, and figure out clues to locate the key that will set you free. Sounds easy enough, right?

Not so much. Escaping the room is a serious challenge. Only 20 percent of players actually make it out before the hour is up. Even Al Roker couldn’t escape in time when the Today Show cast tested their wits.

But Escape the Room founder Victor Blake has hope that Boston will defy the odds.

“The Boston crowd is super smart and they love to do different things,” he said. “There’s so many colleges, universities, and different tech companies.”

Blake founded Escape the Room in November 2013. It started as a pop-up, but after gaining popularity, he opened a second and permanent location in NYC’s midtown in February 2014.

“I just thought it would be something fun for me and my friends. Word got around and people had a great time and it kind of just grew from there. I didn’t set out to build an Escape the Room empire or anything like that,” said Blake, who played the well-known online game created in 2004.

The former mathematics major (and proclaimed lover of puzzles) eventually quit his day job to pursue Escape the Room full-time. Blake now brings in a professional production team to build movie-quality sets with more complex puzzles, clues, and gadgets.

“Making the game is still my favorite part,” said Blake. “Figuring out the theme and the hook. They key isn’t making any one puzzle or any one part of it. They key is getting them all to work together in a way where a group of strangers that I’ve ever met, that I don’t know, that could be any age or from any background, can go through it in a way that gives you the same emotional satisfaction of a good book.”

Up to 10 people can compete in the Escape the Office version of the game located downtown.

“The record is about 32 minutes,” said Blake. “Almost every time there is a record broken, it’s not by a team that bought all 10 spots and they all know each other. When everybody knows each other, the power dynamic is set. Everybody looks to the same people every time.”

Right now, there are games open in NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Houston. Spin-offs in other cities include Escape the Apartment, Escape the Theater, and others. Two additional games are set to debut in Boston on March 5. What types? We’ll have to wait to find out.

“You ever watch Indiana Jones? He sets the amulet in just the right place and the sun comes through and he saves the world? Everybody wants that. Everybody wants to drive the narrative and everybody wants that feeling of ‘Aha! I did it’ and this is a way to do that,” Blake said.

boston escape the room

Photo by Madeline Bilis

$28, tickets by reservation only, 33 West St., escapetheroomboston.com.