Megan and Adam Schmidt have devised a new way for Winnipeggers to escape the winter months.
During their first experience with escape rooms in their hometown of Kitchener, Ontario, Megan had to coax Adam into the unusual date idea, and they lost their first round against the game of swiftness and logic.
In their second attempt, they became the third quickest team through, and they were both hooked on the adrenaline rush.
The couple conceived of the idea to bring the escape room concept to Winnipeg, and after months of deliberation, they couldn’t give it up.
“The idea just stuck with us,” says Megan. “Especially with Winnipeg and the cold winters, I think it’s a good alternative for people to do.
“We just loved it so much.”
Both of them have demanding vocations (Megan in physiotherapy; Adam is a commercial pilot), and they also devote a lot of time to their one-and-a-half-year-old son, Henry. But their off-time is now spent perusing Home Depot looking for inspiration for their next escape room idea, or supervising the day’s teams trying to flee the escape room.
“We’re concentrating 100 per cent on our groups while they’re in there,” says Megan. “We help them out – redirect them if anyone is stuck for too long.”
A screen plays the entirety of the room’s activities in real-time, which allows them to track teams’ progress and allows competitions to take place – competing teams can sit and watch their competition struggle through the challenge once they’ve finished.
“It’s a fun job,” says Megan. “It’s interesting to see how people’s minds work. You kind of make assumptions on how far they’re going to get based on how they’re doing, and then they might surprise you.”
Without giving up too much, the Schmidts describe the escape room as a test that involves words, colours, all of the senses – and thinking outside of the box.
A series of puzzles have to be completed to unlock the next clues, which will eventually lead to a key to exit – and each group has an hour to get through the challenge.
“All puzzles are completely different from each other, so it’s designed to include all different kinds of thinkers,” says Adam. “Everybody always contributes.”
Before you think about sneaking your iPhone in to help trump all the codes, know that technology really can’t save you in there. “Google won’t help you,” says Adam. “It’s not like a trivial thing. We have to design it so the answers are all in there.”
Currently, the theme of the escape room at Unit B-2003 Portage Ave. is a “nuclear meltdown,” accompanied by appropriate set dec and special effects while you press on orchestrating your escape.
The next room design will be based on escaping death row, which is set to launch in April. The Real Escape plans to switch its room theme every six months to allow people to return to play a new challenge.
Since opening in November, the owners have seen no shortage of demand for the experience. “So far the group has always said, ‘When can we come back?’” says Megan.
Running Facebook ads and having people’s success and failure photos shared through social media has helped the business book up two weeks in advance – and since opening, it has seen two new escape room businesses join the landscape.
“I think there’s room (for all of us),” says Megan, of the competition. “I think expansion would be a good idea for us,” adds Adam, “but we like that it’s very personal. Some escape rooms have four rooms and they’re not as attentive to their customers.” The first step in expanding The Real Escape will be to welcome new staff to the family business.
Corporate team building and windups have all taken place at The Real Escape, along with groups of friends and families trying their luck. “It’s rewarding to see people bonding over something that we’ve built,” says Adam. Visit http://www.therealescape.ca/ for more information on The Real Escape.