Let’s escape the mundane

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Let’s escape the mundane

Sunday, 12 December 2021 | Shalini Saksena

Let’s escape the mundane

Are you tired of being cooped up at home and not able to meet friends? Fret not. Participating in virtual escape rooms with them is the perfect answer to your blues, says SHALINI SAKSENA

What if someone were to tell you that you can breakout from your mundane daily activities and have some fun with your friends sitting hundreds of km away? All this and much more is possible with Breakout’s escape rooms now.

According to Hareesh Mothi founder, Breakout, who is based out from Bengaluru, the pandemic had a huge impact on the experiences. “One that was most affected was the entertainment industry. We were closed for seven months. We couldn’t operate here in Bengaluru. This is when a client called and asked if we had a virtual solution to the problem? He said: ‘We are working from home and want to do something that is connecting us with friends’. There we started the app-based blogger’s escape room,” Mothi recalls.

 The idea is simple. You log into an online version of the app, there are about eight different puzzles and you have to navigate as a team by discussing. But 15 days into this experience, there were mixed responses.

“We realised that the biggest problem of this experience is that it only entertains only a small segment of the population, which is the young 21-year-old segment. That doesn’t represent the rest of the people. Sadly, only 3/10 people were actually participating. Others are just logged in and then spending some time there. Companies are having huge problems with engagement right now. We consulted a US company and built Asia’s only live actor’s escape room,” Mothi says.

After Generation 1, 2 and 3 Mothi came up with 4. Take an example. There are cops who have died under mysterious circumstances. An investigative journalist is  trying to figure out what happened. This journalist is tipped to come to an abandoned military war room. She looks up all the military assets in India and sees that the place is struck off from a list. There is curiosity and she goes to check out that place. When she steps inside someone locks the place. She realises she has 50 minutes before the oxygen runs out. Now the only chance of surviving is for super smart journalists (participants) to step in and help her.

 The biggest difference between Generation 3 and 4 is that unlike Gen 3 the person is actually in character inside the room.

The team is connected on Zoom and they have to solve a live mystery with a real person stuck inside the room and everything is live. A nail biter is created.

“There is no danger to the person inside the room. We just create the illusion of danger. The person is trying to survive by taking help. The actor is  trained to work in an unbiased environment. There are various scenarios and actors plays in those scenarios. We have four different scenarios that need to be finished within 50 minutes. If they don't complete it within the time limit, the video feed gets cut off,” Mothi explains.

Of course one can play the game again but most participants feel bad because they couldn’t save the agent/detective/actor. “They really get annoyed but come back for seconds to finish the whole story,” Mothi says.

The Generation 4 which started in February 2021 has been the most amazing thing that the company has ever done. Their global reach has been completely organic.

“Today we host for 30 countries which are completely organic. We got a call from Google, Canada because their counterpart had this epic experience in India. We hosted a team of 10 from the US just the other day. They said that their experience was unique. Now we are signing with the company for the whole world,” Mothi tells you. Unfortunately, for now only 100 peope can play at one go in batches of a maximum of 12.

“It was 50 and we are doubling our capacity to 200 soon because we are getting so many requests from 1000 people. We are not able to take those companies on board. But it’s a very challenging thing because it has to be precise and there is a lot of training involved. We have well-defined roles and responsibilities like one game master, facilitator, actor. It’s very closely monitored — building that excitement and putting the thought process into play. Making it all sound and feel real along with the story narration. How you visualise the whole story is all part of the training. People have found that this event keeps them connected during this disjointed time. The price to play this game? Generation 4 starts at Rs 500 plus taxes for Indians, otherwise globally we charge $15 plus taxes per person,” Mothi tells you.

And there are large takers for this gaming experience. Mondays are busy for everyone so less bookings. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are good days. Thursdays and Fridays they are sold out. Saturdays and Sundays are off.

“Our physical experiences are rated 4.7 stars across all the platforms. We have over 3,000 experiences that are rated. Our virtual experiences are rated 4.9 stars and we have over 4,000 reviews on Google so far. There are advantages and disadvantages in both of these. In a physical experience, you can divide yourselves and communicate with others right back. In a virtual experience that’s not possible, but the team stays closer together which solves the problems that the companies are facing right now. So they feel connected with the experience because they feel the same thing at the same time.” Mothi says.

There are other experiences as well along with the virtual escape room. “We do something called the codebreaker which is a nice experience with bigger teams with sub-division. We do challenges, group them up and put them in an escape room. We have tangential activities but with the same principles of what we create for escape rooms,” Mothi tells you.

 Don’t want to play virtually? No worries. If you are in Bengaluru, these escape rooms are operational and one can play with them physically as well. “Our physical rooms are open but we will remain virtual as well. This is because 60 per cent of our teams are global. The present pandemic has brought together the teams globally. Different teams from different countries all playing the same experience. Plus the online learning and development is a great team building exercise. The traction, feedback and learning that we are getting only tells us that Generation 4 is here to stay,” Mothi says.

 

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