Perhaps you don’t associate the words “mind games” and “escape room” with a fun night. However, good times can transcend creepy word choices, and escape rooms are no exception.
Simply put, an escape room is a type of game where participants are locked in a room and have to solve a series of puzzles within a certain time limit in order to escape. If you solve the puzzle before time is up, you win. If you don’t, you lose, but they still let you out.
Escape rooms have become extremely popular, with even President Obama’s family playing in Hawaii over Christmas (they won by the way—not a political statement, I’m just saying). Businesses use escape rooms for team building, and people have birthday parties at them, and even double dates. Blind dates? Now, that might be interesting. Nothing like a high pressure puzzle to get to know a person.
In Fresno and Clovis alone there are about five escape room businesses, and most of them have two-to-four room options, and varying degrees of difficulty. All escape rooms have a beginner course if you want to ease your way into adventure.
Let the Mind Games Begin
FresYes writer Natali endorsed escape rooms as fun last April when Breakout Fresno opened, but I remained skeptical about spending my night out stuck inside a room for an hour. However, owing to peer pressure from my friends, I arrived at Mind Games in Clovis determined to solve the puzzle. Escape rooms have different adventures and themes, and require at least two people. Whether it’s zombies or wizardry, you’re sure to find something that thrills you somewhere in town.
Mind Games owner Liz Brase and her family have a background in designing local haunts, such as Hobb’s Grove in Sanger. One of their most popular rooms, Escape Your Nightmare, plays to their expertise in spooky adventure. Liz’s daughter is the game master and her husband is a retired electrician and general contractor. He uses his expertise to add surprises and thrills to the adventures he creates. Maybe because it’s family owned, but Mind Games is one of the most welcoming businesses I’ve been to.
My adventure was The Skip Tracer room at Mind Games. A detective theme set in the 1940s, the room contains antiques and a giant safe. It didn’t look elaborate, but I was amazed at the layers of hints and clues. Many of the clues led to major brain teasers. It’s fun to walk into a room and know there’s more than meets the eye, with mystery under every…well, I can’t tell you, it would spoil the surprise.
With an hour to crack the case, hints are given in the form of advertisements from a radio. Typically, clues are given to you on a TV screen, so this is a unique feature appropriate to this room’s setting in the 1940s.
Escaping Your Problems
If you decide to try an escape room experience at Mind Games, you’ll need friends, a reservation, an hour, and about 25 bucks. When you arrive, the game master goes over the rules and gives you the background for your adventure. Once your time begins, you’re on camera the whole time so the game master can watch and hear you. They give you clues as you progress and will repeat clues if you need more help.
During the game, I tried not to act like a crazy person but failed miserably. When time was running out, the sound of sirens blared over the radio. Of course it was fake, but since I was so invested in the game at that point, I felt like failure would be akin to arrest. At this point, I productively ran in place and yelled about how to turn a combination. Happily, we won with 15 seconds to spare. The staff seemed almost as excited as I was about our win, and gave us water bottles and smiles.
Owner Liz thinks escape rooms are so popular because people like to be part of solving a puzzle. She loves running a place that gives people a great time. Every morning, she goes through the photos from the evening before, digitally frames them, and puts them on Facebook. She says it’s nice to see all the smiling faces. In an age where we’re all on our phones, or watching a movie screen, Liz is glad she provides a place for people to actually play with their friends. She’s also noticed that sometimes people need to escape the stresses of their lives, and she enjoys providing people with a way to relax and focus on a puzzle instead of on their problems.
Do you need to escape for an evening? I can attest to having a ridiculous amount of fun playing Mind Games. As a bonus, they’re right across the street from Pad Thai!
Have you participated in an escape room before? Do you have a favorite place or room in town?Is eating thai food before shutting yourself in a room with friends for an hour a good idea? These are all questions you alone can answer when you drop me a comment below.