You wake up in a dark room, blindfolded and handcuffed to the bench you are sitting on.
The last thing you knew, you were on a flight that had been hijacked. As the airplane cabin depressurized, you lost consciousness, and now you are in this room with only an hour to get free and figure out your captor’s evil scheme, which seems to involve a major sporting event.
What will you do?
What. Will. You. Do?
Of course, it sounds like the plot of holiday movie thriller, or maybe the fate of a few unfortunate souls who find themselves in such a predicament.
But this really has happened to thousands of people around the country, even in downtown Lexington, on a near-daily basis, as people play Breakout Games.
The Lexington-based company, which now has 1,000 employees nationwide, was the brainchild of some of the same folks who brought Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt and Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen to Lexington.
The group had read about breakout rooms in other places, particularly Eastern Europe, and it had played one in Nashville. In 2014, they partnered with another group that also was looking at opening a breakout game business and launched Breakout Games.
“We really want to provide an experiential, fun entertainment option where people get to work together,” said Bryce Anderson, co-owner of Breakout Games. “People these days are so often staring at their screens. You have a family of four at dinner, and they’re staring at their screens and not talking.
“This is a chance where they have an hour. No one’s on their phones, and you’re working together to solve a series of clues.”
Since 2014, Breakout Games has hosted a variety of participants, including businesses that bring employees in for team-building exercises — and even the occasional job interview — and social groups, birthday parties and families.
Anderson says that one of the prime booking times for Breakout Games is during the holiday season.
“Grandparents, parents and the kids will all go in and play together,” he says. “It’s really a multi-generational, multi-personality kind of thing.”
During the holidays, families are together and looking for things to do after the presents are opened and Christmas dinner has been eaten, Anderson says. And you probably won’t be arguing about politics when you’re trying to get off the island before the volcano blows.
“It could definitely be a way to relieve winter family stress,” says Craig Cammack, who played Breakout Games last year with a group of friends for a birthday celebration.
Breakout Games is a chance to get to know people in a different way and maybe gain some blackmail fodder, Cammack said.
“You find out what you can make fun of each other for in the future,” he says. “It is a great time to work together. You find out some people are more logical thinkers, and others are more tactile.”
One of the appealing things about Breakout Games particular to businesses is the ability to reveal previously hidden strengthens and talents in employees, Anderson says.
There are seven scenarios available in Lexington, and the latest addition is “Do Not Disturb,” a hotel kidnapping game. They include a casino game that has a bit of a James Bond vibe; the Kentucky-specific “Derby Heist;” and “Island Escape,” in which participants must figure out how to escape a deserted island before a volcano erupts.
The games are monitored by a game master, who is watching on a video screen in another room and can give participants clues. In a Friday morning game, some Breakout employees play “Hostage,” in which they are advised by a game master to look for certain types of clues. At one point, she advises them to find a receipt to help them put pieces together.
As they work through the scenario, the participants break codes: translating numbers into words or using an iPad left for them to discover hidden writing with the camera.
In addition to expanding to 27 states and Washington D.C., as far away as Denver and Phoenix, Breakout Games has launched an at-home, by-mail game called Dispatch, in which participants receive packages with clues to solve a mystery.
Anderson says the at-home game is selling well, but the focus is the rooms.
Given the nature of the game, one notion Breakout staff has to dispel is that it is scary.
“The point is not to scare people,” Anderson says. “No one gets scared. There’s no one jumping out at you. It’s not a haunted house.”
“The goal for us is to maximize fun for people. We want people to be on their last clue or to have just broken out when the time is up. If someone breaks out in 40 minutes, that’s also not a lot of fun.”
Cammack says his group did get off the volcanic island in about 40 minutes, but he doesn’t think that took any of the fun out of the game. At another breakout room, Countdown Games, which opened this year across Man o’ War Boulevard from Hamburg Pavilion, Cammack says his team did run out of time as they were breaking the last code, but he also says that didn’t make it any less enjoyable.
“It’s a non-traditional way to have fun.”
If you go
What: One-hour sessions when participants use clues to escape a variety of scenarios
Where: 306 N. Ashland Ave.
Cost: $24.99 a player
Also in Lexington: Countdown Games offers five scenarios at 1872 Plaudit Place. Call 859-447-0885 or go to Countdowngames.com.