Escape Rooms Have Totally Gone Mainstream In Australia

This weekend I did an escape room in Parramatta.

In Parramatta.

I live in Parramatta and I was as shocked as you. I thought a regular night out in Parra involved going to watch the Eels and getting paraletic in the RSL up the road.

(I kid, I love Parramatta. It has some absolutely bitching restuarants)

But I don't think it's a stretch: when you think 'night out with friends in Parramatta' you're not thinking 'nerd pursuits', you're not thinking 'escape rooms'. The fact there's now an escape room is Parramatta, it's confirmed something I've been thinking for a long time: escape rooms have gone mainstream. They've gone mainstream in a really big way.

My wife is a decent canary in the coal mine for this stuff. A few months ago she asked me about escape rooms. "This sounds fun," she had said. "We should do one together."

My wife is not a 'nerd'. My wife watches The Block. She barely plays video games and when she does it's mostly a result of brute force on my part. Her asking about escape rooms. That's a big deal.

Then, a month ago, we had a bunch of friends over. Another couple: "we really want to try one of those escape rooms".

Again: not a nerdy couple. Not the type of friends you might associate with that type of pursuit. Something is going on here and I have no idea what.

So, this Friday I decided to book a room for myself and that couple — at the Labyrinth Escape Room in Parramatta. Then, for some reason, the news got out among some common friends. Within an hour I had gotten so many messages from those friends that I had to literally book out both rooms. I then had turn some of my friends away because too many people wanted to come along.

I had a blast, predictably. Escape rooms are an incredible amount of fun, and of the three I've done, Labyrinth was up there with the best. Both teams completed their respective room, both teams were chattering like hyped up buzzards, all of us wanted to come back. We talked about booking out the rooms the very next week (to try other room).

But I was curious. What were some of the other escape rooms like? Should I give them a try? I'd done a couple in Sydney — the Enigma Room and Mission — as team building exercise alongside the Gizmodo and Lifehacker teams. But after a quick google search I was blown away by just how many escape rooms had popped up in Sydney over the last couple of years.

There's The Mystery Puzzle, Room Escape, Escape Hunt, Strike Escape Rooms, Break The Code, CT Adventure alongside Labyrinth, The Enigma Room and Mission. One quick Google, minimal effort. No asking around, no shout out on social media, nothing. A Google search.

These things are everywhere.

I wonder why. Why now? Is it a result of the tightened lock out laws in Sydney? Is it a sign of geek culture going mainstream? Was it that one Big Bang Theory episode where Leonard and the gang solved the puzzles way too fast? It's hard to tell. Either way, everyone seems to be talking about escape rooms.

It feels like a good thing. Well designed escape rooms are marvelous, they bring people together, allow them to share a night out of the ordinary. It's not going out for dinner, it's not going to the cinema, or heading to the pub to get blitzed. It's not even a board game night — it's a night that requires zero prior knowledge or expertise. No need to understand a complicated set of rules. Escape rooms are a lot of things rolled into one: game mechanics, set design, and drama combine to create a unique experience that you'll never forget — particularly if you do it with the right group of people.

I just hope it's not some sort of weird fad. I remember walking down Church Street on a busy Saturday night two or three years ago. I spotted a Frozen Yoghurt bar, then another, then another. I distinctly remember saying to myself, "Frozen Yoghurt... in Parramatta?"

All those places are closed down now. Most of them are fancy burger joints.

Hopefully escape rooms have a longer shelf life.


    Man, haven't been to parra in aaaaages. In high school, the Westfield was THE place to be...

    This bitch is dissing Parra? Let's get the boys and beat jump him.

      Mate, Parra matters.

      I've been living there for like six years!

      Be all like 'uz cunt

      Or ooz?


      You know, that punching sound dipshits make

        ootz :P i can't beleive i even got that reference lol

    @markserrels The best one I've done in Sydney is right around the corner from your office (I think). PaniqRoom in The Rocks. Highly recommended - we did a bunker-style one, but apparently their other one has each participant locked in individual cells, and I reeeeeally want to go back and try that one.

    I've done a few - the ones at Strike Bowling on King Street Wharf are ok, but nothing to write home about.

    Last edited 14/03/16 2:17 pm

      My strike bowling has three of them. I was going to do one for my birthday, but a lot of people weren't interested. I would still like to do it, even though I was awful at the red room and blue room flash games

      They have a third room now too. which looks amazing

      A guy in our office went to PaniqRoom recently. Said it was brilliant. Definitely thinking about going.

        there's also one on Hunter St in the city. that one's pretty cool. but it's the only one i've been to, so I've got nothing to compare it to.

        but i wanna go back / do another one.

      A guy in our office went to PaniqRoom recently. Said it was brilliant. Definitely thinking about going.

      My work team did one at the King St Wharf and in our hubris chose the hardest one. It was all math problems instead of logic and a shonky padlock cost us about 20 minutes because we assumed our correct answer was wrong and attacked the problem about fifty different ways looking for an answer that worked before we finally convinced the supervisor to just tell us the code and realised we had it right much much earlier. Ultimately we only got halfway - I personally think we deserved an extension - so it was pretty disappointing.

      I'm keen to try some other rooms, maybe ones that are slightly more forgiving. :/

      Last edited 14/03/16 3:00 pm

      Another one not listed is Clocklocked: which we did for a team building at work recently. It's about a 5-10 minute work from Broadway, if you're in that area of the city.

    Decent burger joints won't go out of style - and neither should Escape Rooms, though I definitely see them as more of a tourist thing. You'll see them in Sydney and Melbourne and Gold Coast more, but the odd one will pop up here and there. And yes - they are great fun. They are also expensive.

    Our generation (born in 70s/80s/90s) never really cottoned on to the 'murder mystery night' thing, this sounds like a similar thing to that. I did always want to do one of those.

    Which is great, I love the 999/Virtue's Last Reward/etc conceit, it's quite exhilarating.


    Without giving too much away, was there like a mole or villain role?

    Were the puzzles that different from booking to booking? The amount of sheer planning involved is mind-boggling.

    I'd also like to know if there were any true 'game over' states?

      In my experience as a one-time escape room participant:

      - it's players vs. puzzles, the villain was more of a concept, like: "escape the room in one hour or the killer will catch up to you!" kind of thing. I guess you could potentially have one of the players recruited as a mole of some kind but I haven't heard of escape rooms that do this. Then again, I guess advertising that there's a mole role would rather defeat the purpose.

      - the King Street wharf Strike bowling bar in Sydney has several rooms of varying difficulty. I imagine they don't update them often as I assume they don't really get people wanting to do the same rooms over and over. Labyrinthine that Mark went to seems to have two with a third coming soon.

      - game over means running out of time. You get an hour for your booking and once you run out of time the game is over. I guess there could be rooms where you could spectacularly screw up a puzzle but I feel like the games are still designed so you play for your booking time no matter what (unless you blitz it and get out super early).

    Hard to call it mainstream its a Tough business model to run cause repeat customers is hard and you either banking on word of mouth or advertising or people stumbling into it... else you got to be remodelling or releasing variations constantly to geberate repeat business, like a performance company doing seasons.

      Yeah I did think about that. Hard to change rooms up frequently. These things take a lot of work to design and build.

      Most places have multiple rooms though, so it's feasible to have repeat customers at least 2 or 3 times, depending on how many rooms they have (average seems to be 3).

    I need in on stuff like this >:D I think Australia needs more things where people can get active and get involved.

    So mainstream I've never even heard of escape rooms.

    Try the Sunshine Coast. I went to Caloundra for my honeymoon and we stumbled upon an escape room in a mall of shops off the main road.

    When it hits small towns, that's when you know it's "gone mainstream".

      I think when it hits big bang theory its mainstream.

      Clown town is a Massive Metropolis busting at the seams.

    mate, you dont need escape rooms in parra.. you live in western sydney, every fucker keeps trying to escape that shithole

    Have been to the escape room in South Yarra, Melbourne with friends. Was the Da Vinci themed room, one hour to complete a heap of hidden code puzzles scattered throughout bits of art, mirrors, blacklit on walls, keys hidden in objects. Great fun but definitely shows how dim you can be compared to your friends who are teachers......

    Ultimate Roomscape in Perth is awesome!

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