By Drew Dodson Photos Kimberlee Miller
Nearly everyone has been trapped in a room trying to figure out how to escape before. Work meeting, anyone? How about a high school classroom? Dentist office? Dare I say, the DMV? The general uneasiness that pervades through us in such situations is the price to be paid for the thrill of escaping the mundanities of everyday life. One Boise business, however, is swapping out the uneasiness for something a little better.
“It’s just fun,” smiled Anik Furlow, owner of Boise Escape, a local business specializing in thought-provoking teambuilding events.
Anik and Blake, her husband and co-owner of Boise Escape, first got the idea for an ‘escape room’ business while traveling Europe and experiencing one in Athens, Greece. For Anik, a self-described “freak fan” of Sherlock Holmes, it was a natural fit.
“For once you can go through someone’s stuff,” she said with a laugh. “It’s like you’re a detective.”
Participants are given a choice of three rooms to escape from, each with a different series of stories, puzzles and riddles. The number of players on a team depends on group size and the game itself, but the rules of the game remain the same: escape the room using as few clues as possible before time expires. Simple enough, right? Apparently not, as leaderboards show about a 20 percent success rate among the current missions: Labyrinth, Lost City of Z, and Tick Tock Boom.
“Communication is the first key,” said Anik. “There are different puzzles for different kinds of intelligence so sharing everything with the team is important.”
While the initial focus was on leisurely family fun, Boise Escape has become wildly popular among local businesses for team building sessions. Micron, HP, Idaho Power, and Republic Services have already gotten in on the fun along with a hodgepodge of other Treasure Valley businesses. To help cater to the needs of such businesses, the entire Boise Escape staff recently participated in a team evaluation course at Boise State, enabling them to analyze team dynamics during the attempted escapes and debrief with participants after (available via special booking).
“Sometimes you discover someone who is a really good leader that you might not realize because that isn’t their role at work,” explained Anik.
With demand growing, Anik and Blake are constantly thinking of new twists for missions and ways to engage participants as much as possible. New missions are deployed roughly every six months, with a new one slated for this April. Without coloring too far outside the lines, the new game will include a museum art heist involving pieces from local Boise artists.
Each new game brings with it a lot of work—tweaking the puzzles, gauging and adjusting difficulty, future mission planning and, of course, execution. Still, Anik says watching her family business grow into something other families and businesses can enjoy and seeing the response from Boise has made it all worth it. Besides, to a Sherlock Holmes freak fan like Anik, masterminding escapes is an escape, itself.