Jared Reichman, ’00: Offering an Escape from Everyday Life
Zombies have overrun the research facility where you work! This strange plague quickly kills and transforms its victims into mindless walking dead––and you have been bitten by one of them! Now, trapped in the bowels of the laboratory, you have one hour to find the serum that will cure you and escape before the dead break through the barricades!
That’s the premise of Lock and Key Escape Room in Buffalo, N.Y., an interactive adventure game that puts you at the center of a horror scenario where you have to follow the clues to solve the puzzles that will release you.
Jared Reichman, ’00, is the mastermind behind the game. After having experienced a few escape rooms in Niagara Falls, Ontario, he decided to bring the concept to Buffalo. He began scouting locations and researching design teams that created settings for these kinds of games. This summer, it all came together when he found space for rent in the basement of a building on Elmwood Avenue and purchased a zombie scenario from a European-based company that had developed rooms across the globe. His first escape room, “Virus Outbreak,” opened in October.
Jared, a Walking Dead fan, added his own touches to the game, including naming a doctor in the adventure "Andrew Lincoln" after the lead actor in the TV series. He notes that the theme is the jumping off point that suggests the storyline and the kinds of puzzles that ultimately give players the clues they need to escape the room.
“You try to create the tension that you feel in the scene of a movie,” he says. “You can’t just design the puzzles, you’ve got to tell that story and get that theme across.”
It’s also important that the puzzles require diverse skills to complete, so that you create an environment where people with different abilities can be engaged in the tasks, he says.
Teams of between three and seven are locked in the room after Jared gives them a quick introduction to the game. There, they have one hour to find, and solve, the puzzles. Jared monitors their progress, offering hints when necessary to keep things moving along.
“You want them to have fun and enjoy the experience, and if you get a group that gets stuck on one puzzle for too long, that’s not fun. The players end up getting frustrated,” he explains.
Jared also wants to see how people react to the puzzles and whether or not they have to actually be completed before players can move on to the next step in the escape. He says that he makes slight adjustments as necessary to improve the game.
At the end of the hour, Jared debriefs the group, offering insight about what they did right and what they could have done better, and answers any questions they may have. He says that the most successful groups are those with members who are able to work together and communicate with one another rather than having one person who tries to do it all.
“As long as you’re smart and willing to work with others, that’s the type of personality that will succeed at this,” he says, adding that the game can be used as a team-building exercise for corporate clients.
By early December, 41 groups had gone through the room, nine escaping successfully. Jared’s goal is to have a 25-30 percent completion rate. He acknowledges that, while he wants to offer a challenging experience, it also needs to be an enjoyable one, even if the players don’t successfully complete it.
“That’s what my job is,” he says, “making sure that people have a fun and unique experience, even if they don’t escape.”
Jared is planning to open a second room in early 2016 and is looking into puzzles with a Lovecraft theme. Eventually, he’d like to design turnkey rooms to sell to other escape room proprietors. “It’s something I feel I can do alongside this,” he says.
For more information about the Lock and Key Escape Room, visit www.Buffaloescaperooms.com.