You can rob a museum, escape from prison or a psychiatric ward and you don’t have to leave the city or actually risk yourself in any way. All you need to do is participate in these live quests. You have 60 minutes to sort out puzzles and find hidden clues to escape from the room in which you are locked. Are you in for a rush of adrenaline? Buckle your seatbelt and dive into an awesome adventure.
A couple of gangsters are locked in a room with the corpse of one of the most prestigious detectives in town, who has been murdered in a mysterious way. The gang had nothing to do with it but, still, its members are the main suspects, because that private investigator had been trying to catch them red-handed for a long time. Now they are inside the victim’s office with his dead body lying on the ground and they must find their way out before the police arrive. Will they be able to do it?
This is the plot of a thriller. It’s not one you’ll read about or watch on the big screen, but rather one you’ll take part in, if you have the courage to do so. The scenario is called ‘Detective Spencer’s Office’ and is one of the two games you can play in Eureka Leg, which opened in September 2014 as the first place to offer real-life escape games in Argentina and South America.
The origin of this sort of game can be traced back to 2006. In Silicon Valley, a group of system programmers created the first real-life escape game ever, following the logic of video games of this sort. The main concept is that, in 60 minutes, participants must find clues and strategies that will help them find the key to open the door of the room in which they are locked. The experience was a success, and a year later, Japanese Takao Kato, one of the main players in this field, followed suit with another escape game in Kyoto. Since then, the phenomenon has spread all over the world. It is believed almost 250,000 people have participated in these activities in the US, Asia, and Europe, where these games are extremely popular.
Although quite new in Argentina, such activities have been in the spotlight recently. “People come here looking for adventure and fun. They are tired of going to pubs or cinema, they need something different,” explains Cristian Buono, who owns Eureka Leg, along with Diego Pontoriero and Roy Christensen. They receive around 1,800 visitors every month and are currently designing new rooms to keep up with a growing demand.
These escape games not prove to be a great place to hang out with friends, but they could also be used a good a sort of “personality test” for companies wanting to analyse their workers.
“Human resources use these games to see how their employees analyse a situation, how they work under pressure, and also as a team-building strategy, because it’s crucial to work together in a group to find a solution. It is very difficult to solve the puzzles on your own,” points out Danil Tchapovsky, one of the founders of Juegos Mentales, in San Telmo.
Tchapovsky first came into contact with the concept in March 2014 in his native Russia. “I played in Moscow and it was mind blowing,” he says, and as soon as he arrived in the country shared his idea with his friend and now business partner, Alexander Matviychuk. “At first we weren’t sure if it was going to work out but decided to give it a try. We didn’t have much money, so we used our savings and did as much as we could, ourselves: we decorated the place, painted the rooms, it was really hard work,” he remarks.
They opened Juegos Mentales in March and, at first, it wasn’t exactly a success. “People didn’t know what it was about. But once it got media coverage things changed and now we are almost always fully booked,” he concludes, adding that over 10,000 participants have visited Juegos Mentales where two possible scenarios are offered: the psychiatric ward and the museum robbery. They are currently working on four other options – including one called ‘The Pirate’s House’ – that will be inaugurated in spring.
“There is no age limit: we receive children from around eight [it is not advised to take younger kids because the puzzles might be too difficult form them] and others who are over 60. And also we get visitors from both genders and different interests. We have even received claustrophobic people who tell us that had such a good time that they forgot all about their problems and enjoyed the game all along,” remarks Buono.
Why do people enjoy this type of activity so much? “They like the challenge it represents. They love sorting out puzzles and it’s also something completely different and new here,” he adds.
“I believe the rush of adrenaline visitors experience is very much like the one they have when riding a rollercoaster,” concludes Tchapovsky.
Juegos Mentales is based in San Telmo, at Venezuela 638. Prices range from $320 to $620 per group, depending on the time of day and size of the group. Visit their website for more information and reservations.
EurekaLeg is in Almagro, on Billinghurst 835. Prices range from $120 to $255 per person, depending on the size of the group and the time of day. Visit their website for more information and reservations.
Follow Desirée Jaimovich here: @djaimovich