Murdoch Mysteries escape room game is a digital escape

Growing phenomenon encourages social interaction and teamwork without looking at screens.

murdoch mysteries, escape room

Murdoch Mysteries Escape Room:

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Murdoch Mysteries fans now have a new way to interact with the hit, turn-of-the-century CBC TV show with an escape-room game based on the series officially opening its doors in Toronto this week.

“The Secret of Station House No. 4” puts players in the role of police constables as they search for the show’s protagonist, detective William Murdoch, who has gone missing.

As with many escape games, players are locked inside a room and have an hour to solve a variety of puzzles. Escape can only be achieved through teamwork and a bit of ingenuity.

With puzzles ranging from figuring out simple visual patterns to complex mathematical codes, games can be a lot of fun for people who enjoy problem solving or working as part of a team.

Originating in Asia more than a decade ago, escape room games have become a sensation in North America over the past few years. Travellers who tried them in Japan and China brought them over first to the United States and then to Canada, where they’ve quickly multiplied.

There were about 40 games in the Greater Toronto Area alone when I wrote about the phenomenon two years ago. That number is now estimated at more than 70.

Part of the appeal has to do with technology, or rather the desire to get away from it. Some escape room designers believe people are looking for new group activities that allow them to socialize without having to look at screens.

“We are digitally overloaded right now,” Tina Santiago-Keenan, co-founder of Real Escape Games, told me in 2015. “This is really a new social way to interact with people. It’s a great team-building exercise.”

Murdoch Mysteries producer Shaftesbury Films enlisted Secret City Adventures, which runs several escape room games in Toronto including a series at Casa Loma, for its entry. Set in the historic George Brown House, the game enlists props and actors to recreate the show’s early 20th century atmosphere.

I got to try the game out at a media preview last week and it was lot like my previous few experiences.

I couldn’t help but marvel at how my teammates were able to figure out puzzles I found befuddling. But I also felt personally triumphant when I helped work out a few solutions that no one else could seem to, like a particularly difficult conundrum involving a group of bells.

That’s the beauty of escape room games. No matter how good or bad players consider themselves to be at puzzles or problem solving, everyone usually contributes in a meaningful way simply by seeing things from a different perspective.

The other bonus to The Secret of Station House No. 4 is that no knowledge of Murdoch Mysteries is necessary. While fans are sure to appreciate the show tie-ins, to the non-viewer it’s just an otherwise well-done period escape room game and a fun, brain-engaging way to spend an hour that doesn’t involve looking at screens.

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