Teams of friends, family or co-workers are locked in a themed room and must work together to solve a variety of puzzles in order to escape.

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Filled with thrilling action and brain-challenging puzzles, escape rooms have quickly become a phenomenon.  This booming entertainment industry likely has its roots in a computer game, though its origins are still being debated.

The concept of the game is simple — a team of friends, family or co-workers is locked in a themed room and must work together on a chain of elaborate clues to solve a variety of puzzles in order to escape. Each game is timed, with only one hour to complete the challenge.

Escape rooms: More than just entertainment

“What some people don’t realize is that escape rooms are not just a form of entertainment but are a great way to train logic, work on deductive reasoning, improve leadership skills, and strengthen team bonding,” says Sergey Fahreev, co-founder of Quest Factor Escape Rooms, with three locations around the Greater Seattle area. “It’s especially great for teenagers and young adults. It takes them away from all their gadgets and their rooms and back into reality where they interact with their team, act as leaders and develop all those great skills.”

While some rooms focus on the sole concept of escaping, others take it to the next level and create action-filled quests. Quests are hands-on, immersive, active games that require players to complete a challenge, following an intricate storyline. Participants take on the roles of adventurers hunting for the Holy Grail, solving a complicated murder mystery as FBI agents, or apocalypse survivors trying to escape zombies.

The rooms have a hint system that helps guide the group along the storyline if they struggle to figure out the next steps.

“The key to escaping on time is communication within the group,” says George Albantov, co-founder of Quest Factor. “You have to understand that it’s a team game and you have to work together in order to complete the quest. Through these games everyone finds their strong sides — be it leadership skills, ability to solve mathematical puzzles, or a steady hand for those agility-oriented challenges, as long as it gets you a step closer to reaching the goal.”

And that is exactly the reason why these games are not just booked for leisure time and birthday celebrations. They have also become a go-to among corporations to hold their team-building events to strengthen morale among their employees.

“I’ve played two escape rooms already and the puzzles were always just as fun and challenging every time,” says Lana Borodina, escape-room player. “It’s very engaging and I get pulled into the story every time. I hope to do it again soon, and this time challenge another group of friends to beat us at it.”

George Albantov works behind the scenes on a new escape room at Quest Factor.

Escape rooms: Behind the scenes

With new rooms popping up all over the country, it’s time to get a look behind the scenes. Every room is unique and depends mainly on the intentions of its creators.

“For escape-room creators, it really is a realization of our own childhood fantasies,” says Albantov, who’s been operating Quest Factor since 2016. “Ideas can be inspired by movies we’ve seen, novels read, history and much more. You just let your imagination go and create a story and decorations that would transport your audience into the world that you wanted to portray.”

It all starts with writing a script. While many beginners start off with writing their own, some outsource it to movie or theater script writers. Once the script is ready, all attention goes into making it come to life through the technical elements of the game, puzzle creation and lifelike room décor. It can take anywhere from four months to a year of development and construction for an idea to become a quest room.

“It’s very important for all rooms to be top-notch from a standpoint of somebody who doesn’t just want to make money but present people with the best product possible,” says Albantov.

Escape rooms constantly evolve and bring in new and intriguing things to make each experience unique. It all started with first-generation puzzles that involved mostly locks that needed to be unlocked, jigsaw puzzles and logic puzzles. Today, emerging rooms feature high-tech puzzles with electrical and mechanical systems, augmented and virtual reality, and even live actors within the game.

“Each escape room can only be played once, just like a movie. You can replay it but you’ll already know all the twists and turns,” says Albantov. “So, it’s very important to make each one count and make it an unforgettable experience.”

Quest Factor offers premium live-action escape rooms with state-of-the-art puzzles, compelling storylines and movielike ambience in the rooms. Look for three locations throughout the Greater Seattle area.