Adventures in teambuilding: Escape rooms offer corporate teambuilding, icebreaking activities.

Author:Kelly, Lindsay

Imagine this: you're driving down a road, a dead cell phone at your side, when your car breaks down and you're forced to go trudging through the woods seeking help. That's when you come across a burly figure, looming ominously over a body.

To escape the clutches of this 'mountain man,' you run to a nearby cabin where the only way out is by solving a series of puzzles --within the hour, in the dark, and with only a flashlight to guide you.

It's the premise behind The Cabin, one of five escape rooms, each with a different theme, offered by Countdown Escape Rooms, which was launched by Marcy and Mario Audet in Thunder Bay in October, 2015.

Countdown is part of a new trend of live, interactive strategy games, which challenge players to make their way through the room by solving a series of clues and puzzles until the final mystery is solved.

"It's very interesting to see people in these rooms. I find it brings out different characteristics, especially when they're working on a problem," said Marcy, who comes up with the room concepts.

"Some people do it very teamlike, and others want to take the puzzle and go off by themselves, or others get very angry and frustrated easily."

The Audets were on vacation when they completed their first escape room and decided Thunder Bay needed its own version.

Both Marcy and Mario work full-time--she as a medical lab technologist and part-time instructor at Confederation College, and he running the diagnostic lab at LifeLabs--but they spend several hours a month writing storylines, gathering props and building their escape rooms all to offer customers an immersive, realistic experience.

Based on the "escape-theroom" videogames of the 1980s, live escape rooms started in Japan in the early 2000s before spreading to Europe and the U.K., and finally hitting North American shores some time around 2014.

Today, they're billed as a fun way to spend time with family and friends, but are also becoming increasingly popular as a corporate teambuilding activity, which urges employees to work collaboratively to meet a common goal.

Mario, who has extensive leadership training, estimates 10 to 20 per cent of their clientele are businesses looking for teambuilding activities.

In order to effectively complete the room, team members have to communicate with each other and place their trust in the other members, which encourages creativity, strengthens relationships, and heightens problem-solving abilities, among other skills.


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