Washington D.C. welcomes the opening of the East Coast’s first virtual reality escape room, “Oblivion.” The thrilling 60 minute brain teaser marries the adventurous concept of escape gaming and the technological marvels of virtual reality.
May it be of historic or political significance, throughout its history Washington D.C. has been home to quite a few firsts. However, not many would have guessed that the nation’s capital is going to be in the headlines when it comes to escape rooms.
In terms of history escape gaming is still a relatively newborn concept, since the first rooms have only opened little more than a decade ago. The idea behind escape rooms is cleverly simplistic: create a room full of puzzles and brain teasers, “lock” in a group of people (usually friends, families or co-workers), and give them 60 minutes to solve said puzzles in order to escape, or “win”. Teamplay, a ticking a clock, some excitement, and you have all the main elements of a proper entertainment.
Escape rooms usually have a theme, may it be a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery or a doomsday bunker, the setting is half the fun. This is where the idea of virtual reality comes into play, as Alex, the owner of Insomnia Escape Room DC puts it, “I had this idea for a while, putting together escape gaming and VR”. He adds, “I have quite a lot of experience in IT, and our escape rooms has been here for two years now, and I though, somehow marrying the two could be fun”.
Insomnia Escape Room has established itself as one of D.C.’s prominent escape rooms, they entertain hundreds of people every month. With Oblivion the creators went an extra mile to create a unique atmosphere, something that is futuristic enough for VR, so haunted houses were out of the question in this case. They needed something techy.
Enter Oblivion and it’s immersive story, which centers around a scientist by the name of Michael Hall, who is credited with inventing the world’s first artificial intelligence, ELIZA. In Oblivion’s lore artificial intelligence proved so successful that people began to use it in critical processes and everyday operations. However, suddenly ELIZA stopped responding to its masters. A built-in automatic security protocol, preventing anyone except the creator to control the A.I. was put in place. The problem is that Michael disappeared and can not be found. Society fell into a complete panic, and this where the brave escape room players enter, as they are the ones sent to figure out what exactly went wrong with ELIZA.
The future of escape rooms?
Many feel that the idea of escape gaming came at the right time. The tactile nature of pulling levers, fiddling with switches and searching for clues came as a welcome alternative to the somewhat disconnected nature of online gaming. Families finally had something fun to do together, not to mention the immense opportunities of corporate team building activities. After all, employees working together in a fun – non stressful – environment is the dream of all HR department heads!
Enter virtual reality, and we might have a match made in heaven. In the past three years VR headsets have outgrown their shiny tech gadget status and started making real headway in the entertainment industry. With more advanced headsets coming out every year, we could be talking about a $162 billion industry by 2020. With such trends already in motion, we would not be surprised to see Oblivion as the first of many VR escape rooms to come.
The preceding post was written and sponsored by Insomnia Escape Room DC.