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The Reluctant Adventurer: 60 Minutes to Escape

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

 

Photo Credit: Flickr 

It's important to know your strengths. 

I have some.

I'm a good editor. I make a mean guacamole. I can rollerskate backwards. 

These are things that in no way helped me on Sunday when I was locked in a room with six other people, attempting to help a spy from a fake country do something I don't remember. [SPOILER ALERT: I HAVE A TERRIBLE MEMORY.]

I was at 60 Minutes to Escape, "Portland's Immersive Escape the Room Game," along with thriller writer Chelsea Cain, her husband Marc Mohan (also a writer), their daughter Eliza (a ridiculously smart 10 year-old), comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and a date who shall remain nameless to protect his innocence. (Okay it was Scott, but that's all you're getting out of me, copper!)

Here's a tip: when suggesting activities for dates, choose things that highlight your strengths. For me, that would entail something like a binge-watching festival, vodka pong or a seething contest. 

Do NOT, repeat, do NOT choose an activity that does the opposite of highlight your strengths. That would be something that someone with a fear of commitment would do. Someone who acts like they want to be in a relationship but in reality finds tiny ways to actively NOT recommend themselves to the person they're dating.

That would be weird. Wouldn't it?

In any case, we entered the basement of an undisclosed SE location (134 SE Taylor Street...DAMMIT I'M BAD AT THIS!) and were faced with a seriously cool door (pictured right). 

Upon entering, we sat in office chairs facing a small television and a wall of clocks showing the times in various locations. (Is it going to be important that I remember what time it is in Budapest? If so, we should just leave now and get a cocktail. Maybe we should leave now and get a cocktail regardless. Guys?) 

It was here that we were given our instructions by one of co-creators of the game. 

We were all secret agents who needed to go into an office and figure out wha wha wha wha whaaaa wha wha whaaaaa. (Sorry. That's what I heard.) Not to reveal too much, but there was a hurdle we needed to overcome before even getting into the office. 

We used a crying kid. Worked beautifully. Highly recommend you bring a 10-year-old obsessed with Dr. Who on your next caper.

Once we got in, it was a pretty standard office, aside from a propaganda poster and a large, black, looming supercomputer at the far end of the room marked "OPTICON."  

There were about 8-10 puzzles that had to be solved in order for us to be able to get out of the room. 

Some were word puzzles, some involved noticing patterns (or lack thereof) and some were straight-up awesome re-imaginings of old school spy shit.

Chelsea and her posse, including her daughter, went to town. They're all avid game players and really invested in finding the answers. They immediately broke up into groups and started solving.

I...asked questions.

"What're we trying to figure out again?"

"Is that an A or an H?"

"Do they have snacks?"

"Do you think I could fit this typewriter down my shirt?"

"Why is Kanye West so obsessed with Beyoncé?"

I realized about halfway through the hour that my inner child is either dead and buried, or has become so cynical as to quash any hopes of role-playing outside of the occasional stint as a naughty nurse or risqué radiologist. 

Photo Credit: 60minutestoescape.com

While everyone else was scrambling to beat the clock to get out of the room in the hour we had allotted, I was doing what I could to help, but I couldn't shut the voice up that was saying, "You do realize we could literally sit on the floor and talk about the season finale of Project Runway All Stars for an hour and we'd still get out of the room once our time's up, right?"

Even with my brain's crap attitude, I was able to help solve one puzzle about 30 minutes after we'd already solved it another way. This is because the creators have included enough puzzles in the game that everyone in the room will get a chance to be the brains behind something, as long as they're willing to work as a part of a team.

In the end, we didn't end up beating the clock (evidently, only about 25% of teams do), but just as I suspected, they came in and let us out after filling us in on the final clue we missed.

I definitely felt some of the burden for the failure was on me and my inability to get fully invested in saving the agent from wha whaaa wha whaaa wha wha. Next time, I think a costume would help me get more into character. Although I'm not sure how a naughty nurse will be able to help the Republic of Monblovia.

If you decide to go, the best piece of advice I can give you came from Kelly Sue. After it was all over, we realized a key clue had been essentially staring us in the face for most of the hour. Kelly had been the first to notice the most subtle puzzle in the room and was lamenting missing that last one.

"You just can't assume anything is inconsequential," she said. "If you see anything even slightly of note, it probably means something."

As for choosing to bring a date to something I knew I wouldn't be good at, I'm not sure it meant anything. For one thing, I knew I wouldn't excel at it, but I had no idea exactly how hard I would blow so it's not like I did it on purpose. 

And b: I have other skills that more than make up for these weaknesses. Did you read the part about roller skating backwards?

60 Minutes to Escape134 SE Taylor Street

RECOMMENDED FOR: Role-playing fans, puzzle-lovers, engineers, spies, 10 year-olds who are smarter than me.*

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Claustrophobics.

*Note: The age limit for 60 Minutes to Escape is actually 14 - they were nice enough to make an exception for us. 

Courtenay Hameister is the Head Writer and Co-Producer of Live Wire Radio, a syndicated radio variety show distributed by Public Radio International. She is currently working on a book that will be released through Audible.com in 2015. Follow Courtenay on Twitter at @wisenheimer.

 

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