Escape of good hope

Each month we host a guest during our all-team stand-ups meetings. When we invited Dr Panagiotis Fotaris, Principal Lecturer in digital games development at the University of Brighton, to talk to Make Real about escape rooms, he had quite the captive audience.

Mixing mystery with challenges, puzzles and teamwork is always going to be monstrously good fun, but what can escape rooms offer in terms of adding educational value to a learning experience?

Well, first there’s the active participation that escape rooms demand. You can’t sit back passively when the game only moves forward by you taking part. And when people are actively involved in an event – whether mentally, physically or both – then it’s more likely they’ll foster a genuine interest in the subject compared to passively listening to or reading information. There’s also an abundance of advocacy, from Plato to Thomas Hobbes, that learning through doing is highly effective. The act of doing embeds into our memories much better than hearing or seeing alone.

Then there are a host of benefits from learning in a social environment. From collaboration and communication, through to showcasing the usefulness of diversity of thought, our homo sapiens’ brains have been primed for learning in a social setting since our hunter-gatherer ancestors teamed up to bring a woolly mammoth home for dinner. There’s also a degree of friendly rivalry and competition that come from learning socially that can be a valuable motivator for some – albeit not all – learners.

But even when attempted individually rather than as a group, escape rooms in a learning context have a useful role to play. Regardless of setting or story, they’re effective at hooking the learner by setting a specific, clear goal – whether escaping from a room or solving a specific problem. Learners can only achieve this goal either through the acquisition of knowledge or the development of the skills they need. The goal or challenge further incentivises the learning by giving it an application that is immediately useful to the learner.

In order to succeed in tasks, learners must have a willingness to persevere and to learn from failures. They also need to deal with time pressures and apply creative, critical thinking to problem-solving. By putting together a scenario that matches your key learning objectives, using an escape room device can an intense and enjoyable way to deliver your learning experience.

Getting quizzical beyond the physical

Creating an escape room doesn’t necessarily require a physical space, nor do participants need to actually be locked up. In 2021, a project Make Real had originally designed as a physical escape room was successfully adapted for digital after the pandemic hit. It gives learners a brilliant overview of data science, balancing interesting learning points with satisfyingly challenging puzzles  (see our case-study Descape).

But escape rooms don’t even need to be high-tech. With the right level of puzzling and intrigue, you can create your own experience on the back of a sheet of paper. Some brilliant brains have been putting escape rooms into books and desktop games, even on t-shirts and postcards (check out the Enigma Emporium for some very cool stuff).

So, with that in mind, and inspired by Dr Panagiotis, we’ve created for you an escape room in this very blog post. Exciting!

Escape from the carpark: an escape room blog post

Below are two puzzle boards showing you clues embedded within a carpark where you have become trapped. Speaking as someone who once got stuck in the Shepherd’s Bush Westfield having used up my 15-minute exit window trying to find where I’d parked my car, escaping from a multi-storey is no mean feat!

In order to get out of the car park, you’ll need to find:

  • a date;
  • a year;
  • a person’s name; and
  • what the person did on that day.

You can click each image to open it at full size in a new browser tab/window to make reading a bit easier…

Good luck  – and if you get stuck, don’t give up. There are some hints below to help you. Click each Hint N: to reveal the hint; don’t worry we’re not tracking or judging you! Think you know the answers? Why not let us know on our socials.

Hint 1:

Looking for space in a carpark? What do the bays represent?

Hint 2:

Upset “It’s a solo mystery”? There’s a sign in this sign.

Hint 3:

The blue arrow faces down, the yellow faces up. Remind you of anything?

Hint 4:

Counting left to right, what positions are the blue downward facing cars in?

Hint 5:

You may have worked out by now that the nine bays represent the planets of the solar system, starting with Mercury on the far left. If each bay represents a planet, running in their order from the Sun, what can you spell with the bays where the yellow cars are placed?

Hint 6:

Registration plates provide a clue to the year that connects them all.

Hint 7:

Have you noticed that the parking ticket instructions are faded in places?

Hint 8:

Take a good look at the wall with all the mindless graffiti. Except, some of it isn’t quite as mindless as it seems…

Get in touch

We’re always happy to talk to you about how immersive technologies can engage your employees and customers. If you have a learning objective in mind, or simply want to know more about VR, send us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.