For students, there’s no escaping the fun in these rooms

Being trapped in a room with only some obscure clues to help you escape may not be everyone’s definition of fun. But escape rooms are a recent craze capitalizing on this unique sensation. Last Thursday and Friday, students lined up in anticipation to try out this rising trend at Sonoma State University.

The Student Center’s second floor meeting rooms were transformed into escape rooms with different scenarios that challenged students to use clues to solve puzzles in a limited amount of time to escape the rooms. The scenarios included “Extinction,” “Patient Zero,” “Boom Room,” and even a room based on the “Harry Potter” series.  

The Student Involvement department brought back the escape rooms as a standalone spirit event after their success the previous year. 

Mo Phillips, director of programming, said she anticipated to have at least 250 - 300 students go through the escape rooms each day.

“It’s nice to have these events for students, especially on [Thursday] and Friday as an alternative to going out and drinking,” Phillips said. “We also wanted to do something different and fun, and everything we do is based on community, spirit, and tradition.” 

 Phillips hired a company called Neon Entertainment to set up all the escape rooms before they opened up for students. Rooms had different forms of lighting and spooky music, along with props such as locked briefcases, cryptic notes and bloody lab coats to set the mood.

In groups of up to twelve people, students used teamwork and problem-solving skills to make their way through puzzles and other obstacles. Each room had a different backstory to immerse participants. 

The “Patient Zero” room challenged students to reverse the DNA of “Dr. Figaro Skaramousch” to neutralize a virus before everyone became infected and turned into zombies. 

The “Boom Room” scenario emphasized time sensitivity, with the ticking clock of a “bomb” pressuring students to quickly solve clues. 

In each room, students were granted 45 minutes to figure out how to escape. According to Phillips, the success rate of students escaping the rooms last year was 20 percent.

After completing some of this year’s escape rooms, several students filed out while exclaiming how they were “only one clue away” or wondering what would have happened if they “only had a few more minutes.” 

 This year, students couldwalk into an escape room and join a team without having to reserve spots. Many students joined groups with people they didn’t know and bonded over the frantic challenge of trying to escape the room. 

Juliana Ponce, a fifth-year Student Involvement member who helps Phillips put on campus events, said the goal of the event was to bring people together.

 “It’s so fun and brings everyone together,” Ponce said. “We have a lot of staffs going in together as well, [and] we even have some professors going in with students, which I think is really cool.” 

Sophomore Kristyna Hewitt said the opportunities for bonding and bringing friends together were exactly why she tried the escape rooms. 

“These are all my sorority sisters [in] Lambda Kappa Pi,” Hewitt said, gesturing to all her sisters. “I was looking for something fun to do with my sisters because we love bonding all the time.”

Hewitt said she and her friends were trapped in the “Patient Zero” escape room and were not able to figure out the last clue to win the game.

“I felt really smart during it, and after not so much,” Hewitt said, laughing. 

Although the success rate with escape rooms may seem low, the popularity seems to be very high as well as the opportunity to have lots of fun. 

Phillips said that she believes the popularity of escape rooms is rooted in their difficulty and the opportunity they provide to bond with friends.

“It’s the challenge of trying to finish something, [and] it’s also working together as a team,” Phillips said. “You could do it probably on your own, but it wouldn’t be as fun.”