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Escape Rooms Blend Fantasy and Reality

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Photo credit: Bill Collins

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Written by: Colby ShoupOctober 26, 2016

Kristie Brillien said she has always loved playing video games. Now she brings scenes from them to life.

Brillien is general manager of Room To Escape, one of four escape rooms to open in Fort Wayne in the last two years.

Escape rooms feature themed cells that customers attempt to escape using clues hidden in the enclosures. The rooms have been popping up across the country since 2013, and are becoming a popular attraction for families and corporate outings, according to the LA Times.

“I think people are getting excited about escape rooms for the same reasons I was when I found out about them,” Brillien said. “We all mostly have pretty dull everyday lives, and this is a chance to do something different and exciting and act out what you normally only get to see on a screen.”

Room To Escape was founded by Jay Hatfield in 2014 and features four themed rooms for customers to escape.

Employees work together every few months to decide on new themes, create clues and build sets for the rooms. This makes the process of creating the rooms as collaborative as the process of solving them, Hatfield said.

“In both cases you’re communicating and you have to strategize on how to solve the puzzles in a timely fashion,” Hatfield said. “People communicate with each other all the time, but that communication is very surface level. With escape rooms you have to learn to communicate on a much deeper level, both when you’re solving a room and when you’re creating one. It’s great for families in that way.”

Bill Collins started Escape Fort Wayne as a family business with his daughter-in-law in 2015. The company has since grown to include two rooms and frequently works with charities around Fort Wayne.

Escape Fort Wayne’s latest project is The Wizard’s Room, a “Harry Potter”-themed room in which visitors must escape a room in Hogwarts, the fictional school from the book series and film franchise.

The theme was chosen in honor of Halloween by Collins and his daughter-in-law after a process that took several months.

“We start by deciding what the theme is going to be and about a month out we decide what we’re going to do,” Collins said. “Then we decide what furnishings we’ll need and we put the furnishings in. Once we decorate the room we find out what the clues are, put the locks in and find out how people will be able to escape. We try to make it so that people have to work together as much as possible, which makes it more fun.”

Overall, the goal of escape rooms is to leave customers with a fun and memorable experience, Collins and Brillien said.

“In my first time, I didn’t know what to expect, but it was even better than I thought it was going to be,” Brillien said. “I’m never going to forget the first time I went to an escape room. That’s for sure.”