A local escape room experience company has been nominated for a USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice poll.
Escape Experience Chattanooga-located at 1800 Rossville Ave.-is part of a national poll to determine the best escape experiences in the country. The business is in the top 10 since voting began Tuesday morning.
Twenty escape rooms from across the country have been nominated. Voting closes Sept. 26 at noon.
According to the nomination page, Escape Experience Chattanooga offers “realistic sights and sounds with immersive missions . that make even a seasoned escape artist forget they’re playing a game.”
Currently, the company offers three rooms-C-Block, The Inheritance and Vaccine: Search for the Cure-with plans to open a new room called The Bunker soon.
“It’s nice to be recognized for our hard work and attention to detail,” owner Michael Rowland said. “So many other companies just lease vacant offices and throw up escape rooms that are subpar at best. We build ours from scratch and really pay attention to the details.”
The first escape room game opened in Kyoto, Japan, in 2008, according to USA Today. Later, the “physical adventure games” began popping up all over Asia and eventually made their way to the U.S. It’s estimated that at least 2,800 escape rooms existed worldwide by 2015.
Rowland’s business was one of the first 20 escape room experiences to open in the country and the second to open in Tennessee. Since then, he said his work has inspired a lot of other escape room company owners to open scenarios in their hometowns.
He said the keys to a quality experience are total immersion and elements of surprise.
“Most escape rooms are just one room-you are just trying to escape from the first room you enter-but the good ones are multitier, with hidden, secret rooms,” he said. “We’re not just about opening a box with a lock on it; rather, we’re about unlocking the next tier/level that your friends can explore together.”
It’s this focus on staying ahead of his competitors that has forced Rowland to constantly push the line of creativity. The next experience is expected to have more tiers, levels, rooms and “reveals” than any of the previous experiences.
“We try to be the first at everything . to be the most innovative escape room game company out there,” he said. “The Bunker will be so darn immersive, it will feel more like an experience you might expect to have [on a] Universal Studios ride.”
Escape Experience Nashville, Rowland’s other location, recently added a virtual reality experience called Cosmos. He plans to bring the virtual reality component to Chattanooga in October.
Escape Experience Chattanooga is based on a concept similar to downloadable room escape puzzle games like “The Room” and “Forever Lost.” Available for various devices, the games encourage problem-solving, adventure and teamwork.