Imagine being trapped inside a room and trying to find your way out. To make the challenge more realistic you are not playing a computer game with a console, or using a mobile device, you are experiencing it in real life.
Welcome to the Real Escape Game, a live game event created by Takao Kato, the founder of Kyoto-based free magazine Scrap. The concept is derived from online games in which players click on their screens to get hints about their next moves. In the real-life version participants gather in a designated location and try to escape by finding clues hidden in a real-world space. They are also required to solve puzzles within a set time limit, usually about one hour to 90 minutes.
The Real Escape Game was launched in Kyoto in 2007, and quickly took off in cities across Japan. It has recently gone overseas, with tens of thousands of players in Shanghai and Singapore taking part. San Francisco will have its own version next month.
Taipei is currently hosting an installment of the game titled The Real Escape Game: Escape from Werewolf Village at Taipei Stock, No. 34, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City. The event started on Feb. 11 and is scheduled to run for four consecutive weekends until March 11.
The game has a simple plot: In a distant village, werewolves live among the human population. Players need to uncover their true identity and escape the village before the werewolves attack.
However, the objective is not as easy as it sounds. None of the team that took part in the noon session on Saturday escaped. On average, less than 10 percent of players make it to the end of the game.
“It is not as difficult as the Google Puzzle [an html5 puzzle designed by puzzlemakers at Scrap]. It is challenging because the riddles are designed in such a way that they require different logic and reasoning to solve. In addition, you need to walk around the venue to find clues and have to do all these things under time pressure. That is all part of the fun,” said Lily Chen (陳郁欣) of Comma, Comma, a local concert promoter that operates the game with Scrap and Bad News in Japan.
Doing well in the game requires good communication with other players, the ability to stay clear-headed and a never-say-die spirit.
What is more interesting is the excitement you get from solving the mysteries as a team. It is nothing like playing online team games in a virtual world. You get to exchange ideas quickly, pick up non-verbal clues about how people are feeling, and feel good about the whole team working together to solve a riddle.
The design team in Japan has devised games suitable for different settings ranging from outdoor amusement parks and stadiums to indoor theaters and churches. Games have been staged at venues as large as the Tokyo Dome and as small as a locked room with enough space for just 10 players.
“Different games evoke different feelings. Some people like the feeling of trying to escape from the confines of a small room. Others like to run around in a big, open space,” said Erh Li (而立) from Bad News, which is responsible for promoting the game in Asia.
Organizers said there is no age limit for players, but most participants are in their 20s or early 30s.
“We expect participants in Taipei to be younger, because lots of junior-high students said they would come to play on our Facebook page,” Chen said.