Imagine being locked in a dark room with your friends, trying to solve a series of puzzles before time runs out. You have only your combined intuition, creativity and the clues and objects in the room to save you.
Welcome to the world of escape rooms – a phenomenon sweeping the globe that is rapidly growing in popularity in Canberra.
Chris Krajacic and Jesse Mount opened Canberra’s first escape room – Riddle Room – in 2016 after Chris’s girlfriend tried one while on holidays in Thailand. She was so impressed she took Chris to Sydney for his first escape room experience immediately after she returned.
“On the drive home from Sydney I couldn’t stop thinking about how Canberra always misses out and that Canberrans should have close access to one too. I knew then and there that I had to make it happen.”
Chris recruited his housemate Jesse and the two set out to raise 10k to pay for a commercial space. They created a crowd funding account with Kickstarter, but only raised $5,000 and because of the rules (raise it all, or get nothing), they walked away penniless.
Downhearted but not deterred, the pair rented Chris’s parent’s garage and spent months fitting it out and creating an amazing escape room experience.
“We got lots of online reviews where people said they were kind of worried walking into a garage in a home, but once they were inside they were captivated. About six months in we were asked to represent Canberra escape rooms at the 2016 PAX (Penny Arcade Exhibition) which was a huge honour.”
Their business took off, and it wasn’t long before the two were able to quit their jobs (Chris is a teacher and Jesse a public servant) and focus on Riddle Room full time.
They leased a space in Mitchell and now have 3 popular escape rooms.
The Nightmare and The Dungeon each give you 60 minutes to solve a series of puzzles, work through an intriguing story line and solve the riddle before the clock strikes zero.
Their latest room, The Bomb Defusal, is a more intense game where you have 35 minutes to defuse a ticking bomb.
The pair created all their own puzzles and storylines after travelling around Australia and experiencing every escape room the country has to offer.
“We wanted ours to be a culmination of all the best things we had experienced in other escape rooms. We’re lucky in that we’re completely independent and self-funded so we can basically incorporate anything we want.”
When asked whether they were upset that other escape rooms had since opened in Canberra, Chris replied, “Not at all! Once you do an escape room, you can’t do it again because you know the answers. So once you’ve done all of our escape rooms, you have to go to other escape rooms to continue the experience.”
Riddle Room has had over 5000 people through their doors, and as the concept gains traction the pair field an ever-growing number of bookings every day.
“It’s a great team-building activity and we’ve had everyone from 18th birthday parties to retirees, and now a lot of corporate team building sessions. It’s a really good social activity and allows you to block out the world (no technology allowed) and get creative. A lot of the tricks appear like magic and it’s all pretty intense.”
Every session at Riddle Room is private, so you only go in with people you know. You can book for 2-6 people for The Nightmare and The Dungeon, and 4 people for The Bomb Defusal. The whole experience takes 90 minutes and includes a briefing, safety instructions, and game time.
Prices start from just $35 pp and is recommended for ages 15+. For more information, head to the Riddle Room website.