It is quite easy to find acquaintances who are willing to make plans with you. It is noticeably more difficult to keep friends who will keep true to those plans and follow through, time after time after time.
The year was 2018, and in the middle of a summer where everyone was trying to find different ways to cope, Marco, Dina, and I had decided to hang out together and try something new.
We stepped into the submarine themed escape room and did our best to escape… We did not.
As we scooped the consolation prize of Afters ice cream into our mouths after our crushing defeat, we talked about the room and how it was an interesting experience.
Then someone said something along the lines of…”if you guys want to do the other room…. I’m down”
We did exponentially better in the wizard themed room and when the first secret door reveal occurred, Marco exclaimed “Grab the daggers, we are fucking doing this!”
The rest is history.
Our escape room addiction spanned every genre imaginable, from a super mario themed gen one escape room to an immersive theater/scavenger hunt/escape room hybrid on a farm in the middle of nowhere.
Along the way, our roster also grew and shrunk as we invited friends and acquaintances to join us on our adventures.
But in the end, it was always us three that would be down to do “just one more” after completing a room.
In many ways, the challenges we faced in those 67 rooms were metaphors for the challenges we faced in our real lives.
Many times just like the door that just swung open to reveal a pitch black room, our next steps with our careers or big moves were just as obscured to us.
Oftentimes we waited in anticipation to do a room only for that room to be closed down or tragically destroyed.
Other times, we thought our roster was set and at the last minute someone dropped out or some random person was added into the room.
Some of the worst memories were when we shelled out our money but lost terribly in the escape room. One time we didn’t make it past the second or third puzzle and that was quite the awkward ride home.
On other occasions, I vehemently argued that I was right in a scenario as I steamrolled the opinions of Dina and occasionally my other teammates, only to discover later that I was in fact wrong and an asshole.
There was no lack of lessons from those experiences and I thank everyone who joined us on our adventures!
As I’ve seen the metaphorical leaves change color as the end of this season approaches, I’ve been filled with very confusing emotions. On the one hand, I’m so excited for what is to come, and my heart is so freaking hyped for what is next. On the other hand, endings are something that I have only recently come to appreciate.
As Marco, Dina, and I were preparing for Project Minotaur this weekend, a room that Marco and I had heard was being built 1.5 years ago, I felt a twinge of sadness as I realized that this could be the last time that we could all be in one place to do rooms together.
As I let the sadness run its course, I realized how grateful I was that Dina and Marco were my companions in this epic and expensive journey we had been on. During the height of our addiction, we were doing 2-4 escape rooms per weekend, and our friends and family looked at us with disdain when they realized how much money we were spending.
Other friends feared for our safety when we fell off the find my friends map to do escape rooms in uncharted parts of California.
But looking back, we realized that if we had not been as enthusiastic about completing rooms as we had been, we would have missed out on so many memories and so many room.
2020 was a year that killed so many small businesses, but escape rooms got hit especially hard. Many of our favorite rooms had to close their doors for good in the wake of the pandemic. It wasn’t until the three of us were sitting in the lobby of QuestTavern’s Last Supper, that we realized that the Cromwell Estate, Evil Genius, and countless other rooms no longer existed.
Dina and Marco will always be the ones that I associate with bravery, ingenuity, and teamwork. From our time running shifts together at Chick-fil-A to the countless times we escaped with seconds to spare.
We had to run into rooms that we were terrified to enter.
We had to think outside the box to solve unorthodox problems and puzzles.
And ultimately, we had to set aside disagreements in order to work cohesively as a team.
I’ll never forget our memories together as: ghosthunters, DEA agents, archaelogists, serial killers’ would be victims, secret agents, dinner guests, time travelers, lab rats, and scientists.
I believe that, as much as this is a blog expressing my gratefulness for Dina, Marco, and my other escape room collaborators, this blog is ultimately a thank you to every creator and game master who has invested into the task of worldbuilding.
It’s a huge risk to attempt to build an escape room, and it’s incredibly expensive to own and operate one. On top of that, it’s incredibly brave to take an idea or concept and create it in the physical realm for the world to consume and critique it.
On our journey we’ve met so many kind and creative escape room owners and creatives. It’s inspiring to see your faces light up when we ask about certain puzzles or ask about ideas you have for future rooms.
Us enthusiasts always remember the way that y’all fall into character when you are both the gamemaster and the owner. We see the excitement that you have to share your idea with the world and we are grateful that you chose to share them with us.
I’ve loved it when y’all have pulled us behind the scenes so that we could see how things work. It’s been an honor to get into your creative process and to see the evolution of your rooms. We celebrate with your successes and mourn with your tragedies.
You fill such an interesting space in the entertainment industry, and we are grateful to y’all for doing so.
It was interesting how even though the goal of the room was to escape, oftentimes we played the rooms to escape from whatever stressors were currently affecting us in real life. And while running from our problems isn’t the healthiest way to cope, making memories and learning how to be a better team player aren’t terrible ways to deal with the less pleasant parts of life.
I talk a lot about travel and adventuring outside of your comfort zone. A resounding theme in my blogs is embracing uncomfortability and asking questions you don’t have the answers to. Another theme is that of just taking leaps of faith in order to pursue goals that you might have. Most of these themes have been a direct result of my experiences in escape rooms.
To be quite honest, after I graduated from college my opinion after travelling to a handful of countries was that the United States was superior in almost every way, so why even bother visiting other countries. If it wasn’t for my obsession with adventure in the form of escape rooms that was born in the summer of 2018, I don’t know if I would have said yes to the Turkey trip of 2019. And if I didn’t go to Turkey, I don’t know if I ever would have gone back to Mexico City.
In my blog about the marathon, I spoke about how I needed to force myself into a challenge in order to prove to myself that I was capable of seeing something that seemed impossible, to its end.
In many ways, escape rooms were mini challenges that gave me opportunities to grow certain traits within myself that I wished were true about me, but maybe were not a reality yet.
Whether it was being brave, giving space for opposing opinions, taking risks, or making split second decisions, the lessons that I learned in escape rooms have laid the groundwork for real life applications.
In conclusion, we do not become who we are overnight. If we desire to grow and change, it is a process that comes through trial and error. If we never place ourselves in situations that test us, we will never give ourselves the opportunities to grow.
Wherever you may be, embrace the process and give yourself opportunities to grow and more importantly to fail. Find people who will accompany you on the journey, and be sure to appreciate the time that you have with them as all seasons end eventually.
But the fact that something ends doesn’t make it any less memorable or beautiful.
P.S. Attached below is a list of all the escape rooms that I have done. Most of them have company names attached to them as well. Several no longer exist, but some of the best ones are still open! I have ranked my top ten and included honorable mentions. I hope that you get to enjoy some of them as much as I did!
1. Mario (square) (LOST)
2. San Diego themeless one
3. Minnesota business espionage one
4. Phantom Soldier (square)(Lost)
5. Harry Potter (square)
6. Escape the Darkest Hour (Mission Escape) #9
7. Jack the Ripper (LA mazerooms)
8. The Cromwell Estate (closed)
9. MurderCo (Black Market Escape Rooms)
10. Bloody Elbow (Questroom)
11. Ghost Ship (60Out)
12. Cannibal’s Den (Questroom)
13. The Basement Chapter One (lost) Repeated 1/6/19 and won
14. Secrets of Suburbia (Breach Escape)
15. Zoe (Escapade)
16. Red Giant (Questroom) #1
17. Stashouse (Stashhouse) Honorable Mention
18. Jumanji (60out)
19. Occam’s Apartment (Evil Genius CLOSED)
20. Norcross Art Gallery (Evil Genius CLOSED)
21. The Hydeout (Mission Escape)
22. Fun House (Crossroads) Honorable Mention
23. Trapped in Time (Puzzle Workshop)
24. Davinci’s Challenge (Questroom)
25. Prison Break (Foxinabox)
26. The Attic (Escapex)
27. Labrats (Hatch Escape) #8
28. Welcome home (RealityX CLOSED)
29. A.I. (Exit Game)
30. An Hour to Kill (Exit Game) Honorable Mention
31. Evil Mastermind (Exit Game)
32. Psych Ward (Crossroads)
33. The Hex Room (Crossroads)
34. Amityville (60out)
35. Zombie Lab (Foxinabox OC)
36. Exodus (Exodus Escape rooms)
37. Sorcerer’s Study (The Exit Game SD LOST)
38. The Escape (Unlockables in SD)
39. Cartel (60out)
40. Cursed Crypt (Escape Hotel) #7
41. The Virus (Get the F out)
42. The Attic (Escape Hotel) (lost)
43. Mafia Heist (EscapeX)
44. The Elevator Shaft (The Basement) #2
45. The Pyramid (Escape Room LA)
46. The Study (The Basement LOST)
47. The Courtyard (The Basement) Honorable Mention
48. The Experiment (GTFO)
49. Ground Zero (Prism Escapes) (lost)
50. The Morgue (Evil Genius CLOSED)
51. Perfumer (Questroom)
52. Hyde and Seek (60out)
53. Sister’s Secret (Unlockables)
54. The Curse of the Black Knight (Escapex)
55. Cabin 13 (Legacy Escape Rooms)
56. Smuggler’s Tunnels (Escape Chronicles) #10
57. Decades (Level Escapes CLOSED)
58. Operation Longbow (Mindtrap)
59. Conspiracy (Mindtrap)
60. Resurrection (Questroom)
61. Amnesia (Questroom) #3
62. The Strange Thing (Cinema Escape)
63. Irvine School of Wizardry (Hidden Donkey) #5
64. Headcase (Breaking Point) #4
65. Whitmore Estate (Breaking Point)
66. Project Minotaur (Questroom)
67. The Last Supper (QuestTavern) #6