At the The Escape Key, we love all kinds of games and fun activities. With our indoor escape rooms being closed for much of the last year due to the lockdown we have found ways to adapt the excitement of an escape room by developing lockdown friendly outdoor adventure games. The first, Rosie's Charm launched in December and was really popular ... until Lockdown 3.0 happened.
From 29th March outdoor activities can resume and we have a brand new game called Thirteen Ghosts to challenge you with... but more about that later.
We've been talking to lots of people about our new games and asking what they thought of the idea of an outdoor escape game. Almost everyone felt it was something they'd love to do ... especially as the weather warms up! Through these discussions it seems people have always found ways to pass the time in each other's company in our natural habitat – the outdoors - and while many favour simply going for a walk, there is something about the enquiring mind of humans, its desire for a challenge and to share an experience with others that explains why outdoor games and activities have remained so popular over the years. Read on to learn what games have informed and influenced the creation of our historical outdoor escape games or jump straight to our outdoor games
Hide and seek has surely always been with us, and haven’t we always sought out and gathered items in a kind of scavenger hunt? These games persist as there is such a special excitement in an outdoor quest. The concept of seeking and finding games has developed into treasure trails and Easter-egg hunts.
Although these games are commonly associated with childhood, they do provide an origin point from which more advanced outdoor games have evolved.
Personally I've always disliked running as a form of exercise but at school, with a map, compass and a team mate at my side I'd run for hours on orienteering courses where players use a map to navigate between control points and get to the
finish line in the quickest time. The success of orienteering was that mental skills of map reading and route planning were as important as physical fitness for success. Most regions including the North East have an orienteering body if you're interested in getting involved in the sport.
TREASURE TRAILS AND WALKING TOURS
For the less competitive and those who want to go at their own pace, treasure trails are ways of exploring towns and cities using a self-guided themed walk. The route requires players to solve clues which are often linked to the local sights and surroundings, and they are enjoyed as a fun family activity across the UK. There is even a website dedicated to this type of outdoor adventure activity.
City walking tours can be found in nearly every city in the UK – if not the world. They usually involve a guide taking a group around an area, seeing some of its most famous landmarks and sights, so that they can learn new things about the city and its heritage. These make for a more educational, yet still incredibly enjoyable and popular outdoor activity. Iles Tours in Newcastle is a firm favourite of The Escape Key.
TECHNOLOGY ENHANCED GAMES
There are now more smartphones than people in the UK and while mobile gaming is undeniably popular, it is the GPS capability of these devices that brings together technology and the outdoor environment and led to new types of outdoor games. Parents we spoke to said how great it would be to have something fun to do with their teenage kids as 'they're sick of them playing computer games all the time'. Rather rather than preventing people from getting outside in the fresh air with others, technology can encourage them and when employed skilfully it can enhance that experience.
Geocaching was the first to marry technology to outdoor activities – players use a GPS enabled device, typically a smart phone to find and seek containers or caches at specific locations. Cachers will then fill in the log and re-hide the cache where they found it.
"Twenty years ago, there were only 75 known caches worldwide. In 2019, over 3 million caches are hidden in cities, towns and in the countryside in over 190 countries around the world." writes Laura Gauld in her blog.
The explosion of smartphone usage in recent years has been a game changer for outdoor activities. Augmented reality apps have increasingly become very popular. Remember Pokémon Go, the game the internet went crazy for in 2016? Users could locate, capture, train and battle Pokémon on their phones whilst searching for them in real outdoor locations - bringing to life a storyline by placing it in local surroundings. Augmented reality adventure apps like Pokémon Go use GPS on phones to function whilst encouraging outdoor physical activity so you can see how they have evolved from activities like orienteering and geocaching.
OUTDOOR ESCAPE GAMES
Our games draw on the best elements of the activities described in this article. The historical information of city tours and treasure trails, the team race element of orienteering and the GPS navigation of geocaching combine with the immersive stories and fun puzzles of the best escape rooms to bring a unique and exciting outdoor experience.
What makes The Escape Key different to other escape rooms in the North East is the inspiration we get from the regions history and heritage. In a previous blog I talked about the importance of narrative in creating immersive experiences and we've applied the same principle with our new outdoor escape rooms. With theatres closed it has been a tough time for local actors so we were delighted to feature talented local actors to draw you into the stories of both Rosie's Charm and Thirteen Ghosts.
Just as in an escape room, players must work together to solve a variety of puzzles to make progress and eventually complete the final task to finish the game. Once restrictions are lifted these outdoor games will be a fun activity for families, groups of friends and city visitors. Both games will be available on our website from the 22nd March.
So, from hide and seek to augmented reality, a brief look at the evolution of outdoor games and activities. The highly developed games of today have evolved over time from the playful interactions which help us to connect with others and our environment. It is clear to see why outdoor games have remained an exciting part of our entertainment.