Why an Escape Room is a Great Holiday Gift Idea
The holiday season is upon us, and whether we like it or not, we are constantly reminded everywhere we go and with everything we watch on television or hear on the radio that we are obligated to start buying gifts for the people we care about. In my house, my wife and I have too many things, too much stuff. We don’t need more trinkets and doodads and clutter, so we prefer to go out and do things because memories and experiences don’t take up valuable space in the apartment.
Concerts and sporting events are great, and we’ve done that but one thing we haven’t tried is an escape room. An escape room, if you are unfamiliar, is a themed room where you and some other people work together to solve a series of increasingly complicated clues in order to unlock the mysteries that are keeping you in the room. If you are in the New England area or are a fan of the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut I suggest taking a stroll through the Tanger Outlets and check out Spellbound. I recently got the opportunity to chat with one of the co-founders and overseer of communication and narratives and asked a few questions to help newcomers to escape rooms (like myself) learn a little bit about them in general, and Spellbound specifically.
Tell us a little bit about Spellbound, and what it’s all about:
Spellbound is a new escape room and adventure game venue located in the Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods Resort and Casino. We’re a high-production escape room, which means that our rooms utilize a lot of complex electronics and props to create real-life special effects that happen around you as the game unfolds. It can be a lot more engaging than simply trying to find padlock combinations or hidden keys over and over again.
Tell us a little about the team behind Spellbound:
Spellbound is produced by AURA Experiential Entertainment, a Worcester, Massachusetts-based production company specializing in interactive, experiential entertainment for special attractions as well as experience-based marketing and brand activations. The creative force behind Spellbound is the three-person founding team: Carlos Torres, Rochelle Traina, and Jennifer Killoran. Our skills were honed over ten years in haunted attractions, escape rooms, and themed environment fabrication, as well as marketing and merchandising. We’ve brought together a lot of diverse skill sets, but what we all have in common is a passion for creating magical, one-of-a-kind experiences for our guests.
What sets Spellbound apart from other escape room experiences?
The biggest differentiators for Spellbound are the immersive environments and high-quality props. Many escape rooms are built by escape game enthusiasts who love designing the gameplay but lack the resources or know-how to build a world-class environment. We’re lucky to have both – we love the games, and we love creating sets and stories that totally transport the player to another world! Our focus is definitely on fun. We don’t see players as adversaries, and we want everyone to win! (I mean, winning is the fun part, isn’t it?) We don’t take pride in low escape rates or puzzles so hard they’ll reduce players to tears. We try to create a story and an environment that is fun and gives them all the tools they need to succeed, and our amazing Gamemaster guides the whole experience with showmanship, flair, and panache. The goal is always to immerse players in a world where everything is extraordinary from the moment they walk in the door.
When/how did you come up with the idea to embark on this journey?
Becoming Spellbound was a really natural evolution for us. We’ve worked on other escape games in the past, from individual props and set pieces to complete room setups, and as we watched the market expand we wanted a chance to get really creative and build something spectacular without any restrictions like the venue’s operating budget or specifics from a third-party designer. Spellbound is our chance to show the world what we’re capable of in a real-world setting, and to make the games we always wished we could play. The best part of all of this is that we get to imagine something we would call ‘the perfect escape room’ and then watch it come to life as we build it. The only downside is we never get to fully enjoy the surprises and story beats as a player would since we always know when a big reveal is coming!
What are a few things that Spellbound offers that provide a more competitive atmosphere?
We put a lot of focus on the immersive nature of the environments, so clues and puzzles feel like a natural part of the world you’re delving into. For example, we’ve recently debuted a game called The Temple of The Laughing God. It’s a totally immersive adventure where players are exploring the ruins of a lost Mayan temple, so you won’t find things like metal padlocks or modern combination safes in there. Every piece of the game is designed to look and feel like a real artifact that could be found in a Mayan archaeological site, which makes it easier for players to embrace the escapism that is inherent to other RPG genres. The only modern technology that is plainly visible is a screen that allows our Gamemaster to deliver clues and hints that help the players progress through the game. We take every aspect of a room into account: the way it feels to inhabit the space or to touch the props and scenery, the sounds within the game– even the smell of the environment!
What are some of the themes that clients can expect from Spellbound?
All our adventures are totally original stories– we don’t buy pre-made rooms or narratives, they all come from our in-house designers to ensure a unique and truly spellbinding experience for every customer! Our current offering, The Temple of The Laughing God, is a fun temple crawl that will make players feel like archaeological explorers discovering supernatural secrets within a lost Mayan ruin. We haven’t officially announced our next games, but players can look forward to a variety of themes that range from lighthearted and funny date night hijinks to intense snatch-and-grab heists and some really out-of-the-box concepts that defy definition!
When a group decides to tackle a room, what should their expectations be?
If you’re a first-time player, there are some general basics– like knowing what an escape room is in the first place! (Our Gamemaster, Nick, has written a helpful article that explains What Is An Escape Room for novice players!) A great game will be designed to give you everything you need to win without requiring any outside knowledge. The most important factors in winning a game are communication and teamwork: when you discover a new clue or item, tell your team about it right away! Keep track of which items you’ve already used, and if you think you’ve found the answer to a puzzle but it doesn’t work, have another teammate give it a second try. Don’t worry about racing through the room to set the speed record, either. Even if you succeed, you’re probably cheating yourself out of taking the time it takes to notice the little details and easter eggs that someone has carefully designed to enhance your experience. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help– from your teammates or your Gamemaster! Remember that the Gamemaster isn’t your opponent, they’re more like a coach who can watch from the sidelines and offer advice when your team starts to go astray. At the end of the day, an escape room is a game and games are all about having fun!
If you’re looking for something unique and memorable to gift to someone, I strongly suggest checking out this escape room experience. You won’t have to rearrange the furniture to fit it in the house, you won’t have to worry about someone snooping in the closet or under the bed in a vain attempt to glean some insight into what their gift might be but you would have some great memories that you can carry with you forever. You also can’t lose it. It can’t be accidentally left in a pants pocket and run through the washing machine and ruined. It can’t be borrowed and never returned, or re-gifted. It’s something that you get to share with people you care about, and in the end, isn’t that the best type of experience you can have?
Patrick Rahall covers entertainment for MFST.