There’s been a move away from the usual lock-and-key mechanisms as escape rooms in China try to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. Last month, The Global Times in China revealed some insights into how a few escape rooms are utilising automated technology such as Wi-Fi signal receivers, motion detection sensors, QR codes and specially designed apps to evolve ahead of their competitors.
Before digging into the news article further, I went looking for what escape rooms are called in China again and I’m going to bring up Dan Egnor’s post over at Exit Games UK last year – the most common name is Chamber of Secrets. With the help of Google Translate, the Chinese characters for the term Chamber of Secrets is 密室 – or Mìshì (Romanization of the Chinese characters). As a long time Harry Potter fan, I think it’s a great name.
Other names found during my search of Dianping included Escape the Chamber (逃脱室), Escape (密室逃脱) and Reality Escape or Live Escape (真人密室逃脱).
Escape Rooms in China
After the initial first wave of escape rooms, many facilities had plenty of locked boxes and favoured the continual search for keys or combinations within a room. Over time, people didn’t just want to find keys in order to unlock the next part of the background story and escape room designer, Zhao mentioned to The Global Times, “The traditional way of finding a key in the room to the door of the next room is boring.”
The way technology is implemented within an escape room can help to create a unique point of difference – Starroom located in Chaoyang (within Beijing, China) gives participants a particular order such as open a door and lets the group figure out an unusual way of opening a door – from touching different parts of a door in a particular sequence and also pointing laser beams.
There was also a mention of Wi-Fi signal receivers where participants type a code into a device, the receiver intercepts the frequency and carries out a programmed action. Similarly in Taiwan, motion detection sensors have been used to detect movement in a room and the right movements by a team could help unlock additional features of the room.
Plus there’s also been the use of QR codes attached to walls and near puzzles to help players. Players who get stuck use a mobile device to scan the QR code and retrieve a hint from it. While another idea has been to build an app for the escape room company – players get virtually attacked by viruses and their health in game is reduced but they can later be revived.
One evolutionary aspect of escape rooms that is already visible in China is the move towards multi-level structures, whereby the next room is above the participant and they need to climb a ladder in order to get into the room. Or instead where a section of the floor is covered with an object but participants realise the object can be pushed aside, revealing a hole in the floor and again the next room to progress into.
Within Jixie Micheng, an escape room located in Beijing – one room contains a deer head fixture attached to a wall. When the deer is rotated, it triggers an unseen mechanism and another wall within the room starts moving towards the participants, as if it would crush them.
A designer for Jixie Micheng called Wang Xiaofeng created another escape room where the theme was Terracotta soldiers. Each statue had a Wi-Fi receiver attached to it and to progress the story along, every single Terracotta warrior statue in the room had to be rotated in a particular direction.
As of July 2015, there are around 2000+ escape rooms in China according to Dianpang.
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