Photo Gallery | Get Out MindGames escape room in Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD — The laboratory door closes behind you, trapping you inside with a deadly pathogen.
You open every desk drawer seeking keys or other helpful objects. A medical poster on the wall seems crucial to your escape, but you don't know why. Stacks of textbooks on a tall shelf may contain key information or could simply be placed there to distract you from stringing together the clues, hints and intuition necessary to draw a cohesive picture from these disparate parts. As the clock counts down, your resolve hardens. "I will escape this room."
At Get Out Mindgames, located at 1450 East St., suite 7, in Pittsfield, families and groups of friends test themselves by entering a real-world version of popular escape-the-room games, previously playable only online. This fresh breed of active entertainment is new to the area, and provokes teams to unleash their inner detective. The more creatively flexible your mind, the higher your likelihood of winning the game and "escaping" the room.
"You and your friends enter a room, and inside there's a mystery to solve and you have to work together to solve all the answers and win the room within a time limit," explained owner Justin Clairmont, 25, of Adams. "We don't actually lock people in, and we want people to know that this isn't a horror game. It's accessible to anyone, and it's not scary."
His room-escape occupies a former examination room fitted to look like a modern laboratory full of pertinent equipment and textbooks. Clairmont guides groups inside for a tour, closing the door behind them. The group is exposed to a fictitious pathogen and instructed to access the cure within 60 minutes. Clairmont watches via CCTV from his desk out front, lending clues as needed.
This nascent trend grew out of popular point-and-click games playable online, but no video game experience is required. Get Out's challenges combine the dazzle of cinema, the social thrill of a board game night, and the camaraderie of group achievement.
"I'm selling a product that no one really knows about, so part of the challenge is educating the public," said Clairmont, who's been promoting on local radio and Facebook. "It's something unlike anything most people will have done before, and it's so hands-on. Most of the entertainment we have these days is passive. It's a really social thing to do as compared to going to a movie."
Combining skills learned from constructing skateboard ramps and working as a sound engineer, Clairmont built the laboratory from scratch. The bright room looks flawless, decorated with functional furniture, detailed accouterment, and some major surprises that would seem at home in films like "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" or "The Goonies." Gamers may be reminded of The Legend of Zelda or Myst.
"I had a friend who managed a much larger scale escape-room in Illinois. When I lived there, I got a chance to play the different rooms and see behind the scenes. I thought it was so much fun," said Clairmont. "When I moved back to this area, it struck me that Pittsfield is a perfect spot for this because you hear young people say, 'There's nothing to do in Pittsfield.' So to open this thing that's low-cost, under-21 friendly, and local seemed like a great fit for the area."
The business targets adults and youngsters alike, although children younger than 10 are discouraged. Age doesn't necessarily translate into success, though. The current room has a 60 percent success rate, and the record time of 30 minutes is held by a team of four high schoolers. Ideal team size is four to eight.
"Within the hour most people get close," said Clairmont. "It can be disappointing if you lose, but it's still fun. You still had a fun hour in there."
This reporter can vouch for that. My team won, but with barely a minute left. The four of us, between ages 24 and 33, grew giddy over the hour of mental perplexity and frantic discoveries. As the clock ran down, I danced like a child having to go to the bathroom, while attempting to unscramble a clue, two teammates shouted back and forth like ER doctors, and our fourth buried her nose in a textbook. Even if we'd lost, that shared vitality wouldn't have dissipated. We emerged giggling like toddlers.
Teammate Karla Reid, 24, of Great Barrington was skeptical.
"I thought it was going to involve much more two-dimensional puzzle solving, but it was really realized in real space," she said. "When I first heard about escape-the-room a few years ago, I thought it would be so cool if it was actually escaping a real room, which this is. It makes you think in ways you probably don't think during an average day, and I like stretching mentally."
She left as a convert.
"I went in thinking it was going to be much easier than it was, but ended up feeling so proud of myself when I solved a clue," said Reid. "It was like I was in 8th grade and got an A-plus on a paper. It was a huge deal."
New escape scenarios are coming soon.
"Each room has a shelf life. It's only fun once because you learn all the answers," said Clairmont. "That's why we have turnover of rooms. Right now we have another under construction, and during October it'll be a completely different set of rooms."
Give it a try
What: Get Out Mindgames, Escape Game and Live-Action Adventure Facility
When: By appointment
Where: 1450 East St., Pittsfield
Cost: $24 per person, $19 for students with ID or second same-day mind game
Information: 413-822-8482, www.getoutmindgames.com