Our Executive Board kicked off the semester by having our usual reviewing/planning meeting for the coming semester. However, we also had some pretty intense team building exercises…including solving a murder mystery.
To keep things interesting, part of this year’s exec retreat took place at the newly opened Philly Street Escape Rooms! While none of us were really sure what to expect, everyone seemed to be looking forward to it. All we knew is that the room we booked was “The Baker Street Mystery” and that it would definitely require some teamwork to get out of there.
A little background: “An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit. The games are physical versions of “escape the room” video games.” The game last 60 minutes, but the goal is to finish before that. You are never in any actual danger, and you can absolutely leave the room at any time if you have to, though it would ruin the experience.
“Baker Street Mystery challenges players to solve a murder mystery while attempting to dismantle the notorious Baker Street Five, a high-profile gang that has been terrorizing Victorian London. Can you carefully observe your surroundings, pick up on the subtlest of clues, and correctly piece together the information to identify the members of the Baker Street Five before the trail grows cold?” As if the murder mystery wasn’t intense enough, when we started the Escape Room a massive storm including thunder and lightning was going on outside, which added to the intensity of the murder mystery we were working on.
The “gamemaster” sitting outside has her eyes and ears on you at all times through live audio and video feed. She is also there to give your group 5 total hints, if you want them. The only rule is that the entire group has to agree to ask for the hint.
When we went into the room, everyone seems to start grabbing whatever they could find, looking for clues. Thankfully, things that are not supposed to be moved are literally nailed or screwed shut. After everyone searched for a few minutes, we had enough clues to get started! Except, we had no idea what the clues actually meant.
It only took us a few minutes to figure out that this was really a team exercise, and that if we kept running around by ourselves we would get nothing done. We were finding lots of clues, but no one had started working on what they could possibly mean. Eyes were already glancing at the clock. Under 55:00 minutes left and no ideas, the clock seemed to be moving a lot faster than we thought. Did we want a hint already? “Part of me thought that taking a hint meant accepting defeat. But then when we came to a group consensus and we realized that taking the first hint and asking for help would put us in the right direction, and that asking for help did not make us failures” Amanda, the Historian said.
Accepting the first hint put us in the right direction, and things were going smoothly. A few of the clues didn’t make sense right away because in our early frenzy of looking for clues we found some things before we were supposed to. Once we had enough of the clues, everyone took turns analyzing, individually and in small groups. Everyone has a different set of eyes and a different thought process, which was very important in this murder mystery. This became very evident whenever one person figured out a clue or step in the puzzle. Everyone seemed to have at least one “eureka” moment and a face that lit up when they figured out part of the mystery!
Kelly, our Student Engagement chair, agreed by saying ” It was interesting to see how everyone worked in a group and see how each person contributed. We really learned a lot about each other!” For example, without revealing too much, we learned who the math wizards are, who is better with words, and who was better with visuals, but it took all of us working together to figure out how everything fit in the end.
While it may have been a stressful situation (the raging storm outside wasn’t helping) we pulled together and strategically used our five five and combined with everyone’s participation we never faced a clue or challenge that absolutely stumped everyone. Matt, our Executive President, had a similar recount of the event “This years escape room gave us the chance to really learn each other’s style of leadership and what unique skill sets we all bring to the executive board table. Our problem solving, creative thinking, and working as a team really shined as we worked our way through the puzzle.”
But in the end, with Matt running to the door with the final key, we finished with under 50 seconds to spare! They congratulated us, informing us that only around 15-20% of teams actually finish, and we should be very proud of ourselves to be part of that statistic!
We may be a little stressed out, and extremely over-caffeinated sometimes, but by working as a team we get everything done. This years executive retreat was a great example of that.
We would recommend to any group of friends, teams, or colleagues to check out the Escape Room. It really forced you all to work as a time and everyone gets a chance to show their strengths. Maybe you’ll even beat our time! Good luck.