The Franklin Institute has debuted its second escape-room experience: An Island Escape experience on Wednesday joined the Intergalactic Escape that opened earlier this month. The institute is calling these rooms the largest and most technologically advanced escape-room experiences in the city.
For the thrill of it, a group is placed in a room, and members must use critical thinking and collaboration to solve various obstacles, from working a puzzle to matching melodies to finding a code to open the door to the next level. The Franklin Institute is the first science museum in the country to install the escape rooms, which are growing in popularity. There are already several in the Philadelphia area, including South Philly's Escape the 1980s, which was designed by Steel Owl, the same company that designed the institute's rooms.
The rooms total 4,000 square feet, but it's not only the size that makes them different. "This is like Hunger Games," said escape-room developer Elisabeth Garson.
The game master, who controls the game behind the scenes, can change each experience based on the activity of the players. According to the institute, this is unlike any other escape room.
In the Intergalactic Escape room, it feels like the set of Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century with its colorful yet minimalist space-age layout. The group's goal is to escape from room to room using teamwork, all in less than an hour. You're transported from a space shuttle control room to what feels like a miniature space cavern.
The Franklin Institute rooms, Garson said, integrate technology into the fabric of the game in a way that other sites don't. In the institute's rooms, the players are given electronic wristbands that allow them to interact with the room and its obstacles, while other escape rooms use manual means, like lock and key mechanisms, to navigate.
The goal of the game is also particular to the Franklin Institute: In the Intergalactic Escape, each crew member has a role in helping "save" Derrick Pitts, the institute's chief astronomer, from being trapped in a black hole.
Larry Dubinski, president and CEO of the institute, said the games were an effort to broaden the museum's reach to all ages and to extend its Science After Hours program, an event series that offers evenings of experiments, games, even "cocktail concocting." Dubinski said the Franklin Institute aimed to provide "experiences that spark a passion in all things science and technology."
"There are people [age] 21 and up looking for things to do," said Dubinski. "This is fun, collaborative, and you learn things about each other."
There is also space to lounge and host a happy hour after the game in the museum's conference space. Dubinski encourages organizations' and companies' leaders to participate.
"Everybody's looking for new ways to build their team," he said. "This teaches that, and it teaches it quickly."