An Arresting, Yet Liberating, Team-building Activity
It was with apprehension that I agreed to try an escape room experience as a team-building exercise. In the past, group activities such as trusting that a colleague would catch me when I fell backwards or relying on my coworkers’ help to safely navigate a ropes course terrified me.
For the exercise, our group of eight was voluntarily trapped in a cabin at the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum in Tacoma, Washington. The scenario was that it’s 1855 and 100 Hudson’s Bay Company blankets have been stolen from the Sale Shop at the fort. Edward Huggins, a clerk at the shop, has narrowed the suspects down to a fur trapper named Percival Fitzgerald.
Our team has been asked to search Percival’s cabin to uncover any incriminating evidence that proved he stole the blankets. Percival will return within the hour. If he finds people rummaging through his belongings, he’ll be furious.
We must find the evidence, secure the key that unlocks the back door and slip out of the cabin undetected before Percival returns.
Ready, set, go and time begins. Each of us goes in a separate direction digging for paper clues, looking under beds, inside pots, attempting to open drawers that are locked, and the scene turns chaotic. No one is making any progress alone so eventually, we decide we should combine forces.
Then we heard the 40-minutes (left) warning. Feeling stressed about not getting out in time, we each turned to other members of our team for help and slowly smaller groups of two or three emerged. Each cluster of players was working on a different clue or puzzle. I later found out this behavior (trying to do it yourself and then working together) runs standard for most groups in this situation. Previously a team from Travel Tacoma had gone through the same escape scenario.
“There were six of us, and we each ended up finding individual ways to contribute to what was ultimately a team goal, and we nailed it,” says Matt Wakefield, communications manager for Travel Tacoma. “Such a cool, period-accurate escape room. We did it as a team-building activity, and it was fantastic for that.”
As our group started to solve clues, everyone cheered us on. In the end, we were out the door and out of Percival’s sight with four minutes to spare.
At the debriefing Allison Campbell, events and volunteer coordinator at Fort Nisqually Living Museum, guided our discussion. We reflected on the game experience and drew parallels to our workplace interactions.
“In these conversations, I ask participants to examine how they performed individually and as a group and to imagine what they could have done to be even more successful playing the game,” says Campbell.
When asked what participants can learn from the escape room experience and the debriefing, Campbell replied, “Sometimes people’s strengths and individual contributions are more intensely felt during the game and can be highlighted to illustrate the value of including different ideas and perspectives in the decision-making process.”
“The game often allows different people to take on leadership roles who might not normally assert themselves in the office environment,” says Campbell. “The debrief helps tease out these observations and relate them back to the workplace,” she adds.
If you are looking for a new type of team-building exercise, try an escape room for a much-appreciated change of pace. Your clients will thank you.
Trapped: Escape Fort Nisqually
• Maximum number of participants: Eight
• Room: One
• Team building extras: Debriefing and a place for a meeting or lunch after escape experience
REDMOND AND SEATTLE
FLEE the Ultimate Real Life Escape Game
• Maximum number of participants: Eight in Redmond, 12 in Seattle
• Rooms: Prison Escape, Magic Wonderland, Dream Traveler, Museum Heist, Ancient Egypt, Bourne’s Mission and Bio-hazard
• Team building extras: Debriefing, photo session with photo props, can set up a light refreshment table for before or after, and tabletop and floor games in the reception area
• Maximum number of participants: Owner and game designer John Harlacher says he has accommodated 5,000 players and specializes in large parties, but most rooms take Eight to 12, some can handle 25
• Rooms: Captain Deadbeard’s Revenge, Hack Attack, The Black Lace, Enter the Machine and Ninja vs. Zombies
• Team building extras: Debriefing and playful analysis of your crew, dueling competitions, a full seminar room for catered food and/or additional meeting time
Escape the Hood
• Maximum number of participants: Eight
• Rooms: Agriculture-based and Travel Agency
• Team building extras: debriefing
Escape the Room Oregon
• Maximum number of participants: 28 in escape rooms. Additional space and activities for those waiting
• Rooms: The Study, Spy vs. Spy and Bio Lap (teams choose to either work together in Co-op or versus each other in Head-to-Head)
• Team building extras: As part of the team-building package, managers have the option to observe and listen to their teams in action. Meeting space is available and you can provide your own catering
Portland Escape Rooms
• Maximum number of participants: up to 10 depending on the room
• Rooms: Trapped in a Room with a Zombie, American Revolution, Arcade, Steampunk Airship, Kidnapped and Madame Neptune’s Voodoo Curse
• Team building extras: By running six rooms at the same time, 61 can play. Debriefing and special team-building times are available
Hidden Key Escape Games
• Maximum number of participants: 10
• Rooms: Northfork Cabin and The Vigilantes
• Team building extras: Flexible scheduling, debriefing, outdoor meeting area in summer
The Grand Escape Room
• Maximum number of participants: 10 to 12
• Rooms: Abandoned, Colorless and Shipwrecked
Big Sky Breakout
• Maximum number of participants: 28 in one wave or 60 in multiple waves
• Rooms: Legends of Fire, Embassy Escape, Through the Looking Glass and Pinetti’s Prestige. “We also have ‘break-in boxes’ for groups of 10-80 that we can bring to a hotel or conference center,” says owner Ralph Walters. “The boxes are for a 20-minute team-building game. Or we can train someone in your business on how to run the ‘break-in boxes’ and then you can rent them.” Walters also recommends Diamond Heist for 12-30 players, an hour-long escape room that can also be done at a hotel or conference center.
• Team building extras: Walters says he offers everything from in-and-out large events to full-house rentals with catered food and drink. A full team-building package includes a warm-up game, the escape room games themselves, and a full debriefing based on the Myers Briggs personality/leadership profiles
• Maximum number of participants: 12 in one room, 30 in all three rooms
• Rooms: Labyrinth, The Heist and Tick, Tock…Boom!
• Team building extras: Flexible weekday scheduling, debriefing, choice of games, photo(s) of your team, and customization.
Escape This Live Boise
• Maximum number of participants: 40
• Rooms: Dueling Pirate Rooms, Wild West Saloon, Wizard Room, and Jungle Room (coming soon)