Escape the drudgery

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury visits Escape Myst, the first escape room in Bangladesh

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Till the 90s, Dhaka’s citizens could depend on the nearby fields for different sports and recreation. But these have faded away thanks to rapid urbanization.

At most, the entertainment sources available for the middle and upper income groups are the plethora of screens and attachments to them like video game consoles etc., the shopping malls, the few public spots in the city and so on.

Neighbouring countries like India, Southeast Asian countries and developed countries of the world have all gone through these phases, each tackling the issues in their own unique ways.

Authorities in these countries concentrated on safeguarding their playing fields, parks and so on. They ensured that public and private housing projects have recreation corners and sports zones.

While these were helpful, the private and public entrepreneurs of these countries came up with unique indoor entertainment solutions. One such concept was the idea of ‘Escape Rooms’.

Escape rooms are essentially physical adventure games within the four walls of a room, where a group of players are locked in and are expected to reach the conclusion of a given story, by solving a series of puzzles by using clues, hints and strategies hidden in the room in the form of props or otherwise. Players are given a fixed time limit to unveil the secret plot which is hidden within the rooms.

Escape rooms began to be introduced across the world around 2006. As the concept allows groups of players to solve the puzzle all by themselves, such games or rooms became extremely popular across the world.

In Bangladesh, two young mystery-lovers came up with the idea of opening such a room around last year. Following few months of research, the duo opened ‘Escape Myst’, Bangladesh’s first escape room in Dhaka, in April of this year.

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Sadique Salim, one of the founders of Escape Myst, shares, ‘At the moment, we have two different games. One is the ‘Missing writer’. The second game is ‘Stolen Artifact.’

Salim explained that in ‘Missing writer’, players need to find the clues to unravel the mystery behind the murder of a fictional writer. In ‘Stolen Artifact’, much like Indiana Jones, players need to solve puzzles to reach the conclusion of the game. ‘In both games, the players are given a fixed time. If the players require hints, a “game master” provides them after a certain time has passed,’ he explains.

Ishtiaque Khan, co-founder of Escape Myst, says, ‘Our reason for opening Escape Myst was mostly passion and the lack of entertainment that can appeal to everybody.’

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Salim notes, ‘The response we are getting is extra ordinary. For a startup that is less than a month old, we are getting customers daily, when we are open. We do not have any promotional campaigns except for on Facebook which currently has around 13,000 followers. Most people are coming based on reviews and recommendations from their friends who have played the games.’

Khan says, ‘We also have a very high rate of repeat customers and once they play both games they ask for more which we cannot provide now.’

The founders shared that their players range from ages 10 years till 40 years. ‘College and university and early career executives are making repeat visits,’ says Salim.

Salim recalls that they had spent around seven months for research before deciding to do the business. ‘We did an online market survey. Our name is a result of the search survey. Myst is short for mystery also phonetically same as mist or fog which adds to the mystery,’ he says.

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The duo had to spend some time on the two current stories making them relatable to our culture and preferences.

Shafaat Fahmi, an official at an information technology firm, recently played ‘Missing writer’ at the Escape Myst. He says, ‘I enjoyed it as it was my first experience in an escape room. Overall, it was a good one hour spent. Mystery wasn’t necessarily difficult but some clues were hard to crack and had to take hints resulting in the five minutes penalty. Because finding the final door key was the main target, the actual solution to the mystery wasn’t really important in the end. My partner did not even read the name of the murderer.’

Fahmi points out, ‘This is great concept to be brought to Bangladesh. It needs constant updating and addition of stories/mysteries to keep up the hype though.’

About the frequency in changing titles, Salim assures that the titles will change depending on the demand of the customers. ‘Escape rooms are like movies, once you have played a game, it is unlikely that you will play it again in a short time. We have only two rooms right now. Fortunately we have plans to bring in more rooms in different parts of Dhaka as well as in other parts of Bangladesh. The current titles will also be changed in ways that repeat visitors will feel like they are playing a different game.’

For more information please visit: https://www.facebook.com/escapemyst/