Heyl: Got game? Escape if you can
When it comes to embracing cultural trends, there's no escaping the fact that Pittsburgh often lags behind other places.
So it's refreshing to see the city ahead of the cultural curve in regard to the interactive gaming experience of escape rooms.
Popular in Asia and Europe, less trendy domestically, escape rooms are part brain teaser, part immersive theater. Small groups of people are placed in themed, prop-filled locked rooms, then given 60 minutes to win their freedom by solving puzzles and piecing together clues.
Intrigued by the concept? You won't have to travel far to try it. Escape Room Pittsburgh is slated to open Nov. 7 in a storefront on Greenfield Avenue in Greenfield.
The venture is the brainchild of cousins Joe Deasy, 24, of Munhall and Corey Deasy, 32, of Greenfield. They have transformed the vacant space next to Anya salon into two escape rooms resembling theater sets.
Applying the finishing touches to the gaming area on Tuesday, Joe Deasy said he hopes people in Pittsburgh will become as hooked on escape rooms as he was after his first trip to one.
“I spent a month in Europe with my sister and two cousins, and we Googled what to do in Budapest because that's what you do in Europe,” he said. “Escape Room Budapest was the No. 1 attraction listed, so we booked the room and absolutely fell in love with it. The day we landed back in the U.S., I started working on an escape room business plan.”
In researching the plan, Deasy discovered that while escape rooms had proven successful in cities such as San Francisco and New York, the concept has yet to take off nationwide. Convinced he could be getting in on the ground floor of a national craze, Deasy conceived and built two escape room games.
One is Dr. Stein's Laboratory, which Deasy described as “mad-scientist themed, with puzzles focused around science, simple machines and special devices.”
The other, Prison Escape, “is just like the jail cell you spent a night in when you were a teenager, but you can actually escape this one without any legal problems,” Deasy said.
The place has an operational website, escaperoompgh.com, and the Deasys have had about 10 invited groups test the rooms. “Only about four of them couldn't get out in the allotted time,” Joe Deasy said.
Teams play for pride, not prizes. Successful teams will receive their team name and score (which starts at 100 and decreases as the hour dwindles) on a leaderboard that makes it easy to compete with friends and other teams.
If the initial escape rooms are successful, Deasy promised others will follow.
“We have some pretty cool ideas for more of them,” he said. “Hopefully, we're just getting started.”
Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.