Last week, we visited Mission Escape Games (MEG) in Sydney to partake in a "puzzle game simulator". This involved finding and solving various clues to escape a series of locked, interconnected rooms in under an hour. While strongly geared towards entertainment, the game is also a valuable team-building exercise that can reveal a surprising amount about your employees or workmates. Who has the strongest leadership qualities? Who is the least capable of cooperating? Who is likely to crack under pressure? The answer is likely to be found in MEG's dimly-lit rooms.
Mission Escape Games (MEG) is a Sydney-based "puzzle game simulator" that takes place in a trio of locked rooms. Armed with nothing but your wits and whatever tools you can find, the player must battle against the clock to solve each puzzle and unlock the final door. If you've ever played video games like The Room or The 7th Guest, you'll have a good idea of what's involved: the only difference is that you're actually walking around in real environments instead of clicking on a mouse.
According to MEG, only around 30 per cent of participants complete the game on their first try (although they could just be saying that to give the winners a greater sense of accomplishment). Tickets are $30 per head for a team of 3~6. Parties of two or under are charged an extra $5 although we can't imagine anyone wanting to play this thing on their own. The emphasis is definitely on teamwork and bouncing suggestions and ideas off your companions.
There are currently two different games available at MEG Sydney which are rated at different difficulty levels. We plumped for the "Vampire's Castle", which had a spooky Medieval theme complete with creepy paintings, moving coffins and sacrificial altars.
Partaking in the challenge was our publisher Danny Allen, Luke Hopewell and Campbell Simpson from Gizmodo, Mark Serrels from Kotaku, myself and Angus from Lifehacker and Allure Media's night editor, Elly Hart. We all know each other and get along pretty well which made for a relatively stress-free experience. I can only imagine how frustrating the game must be if you're playing with people you clash with — so choose your teammates wisely.
Following a brief overview of the rules, we were led blindfolded into the first room and left to work out how to unlock the only door by piecing together clues and nearby bric-a-brac. Without ruining anything, this first set of puzzles was the most difficult by far and sapped away more than half of our time-limit.
One thing I found particularly fascinating about the experience was the way everyone's personality traits came to the forefront. The more dominant members of the group quickly asserted a leadership role, while their more passive counterparts kind of faded into the wallpaper, content to listen and watch. Despite the absence of any real peril, I imagine this is how everyone would react during an actual crisis situation.
People's varying sense of competitiveness also became readily apparent. Mark was probably the keenest player in this sense — it was apparent that he didn't want this fiendish mind-trap to get the better of him. As the clock neared zero, this led to a litany of embittered accusations ranging from piss-poor acoustics to flawed game design. (His accent also went full Scottish whenever the tension rose.)
In retrospect, we were probably over-thinking the first room's final puzzle and weren't fully gelling as a team. Everyone was just throwing out suggestions wildly and trying their own thing. Eventually, the solution clicked into place and we were onto the next room. From that point onward, we established a pretty decent groove and completed the rest of the game in short order. It was still a close thing, however: the final challenge was solved with barely three minutes left on the clock.
If you can convince your higher-ups to fork out the cash, I highly recommend MEG as a great way to develop teamwork skills and bond as a group in just 60 minutes. If you aren't based near Sydney, you can find similar "real world puzzle games" in most major metropolitan cities around the world.