That's one of two scenarios played out, with a third on the way, at Quicksand Escape Games on Garnet Avenue.
Escape rooms have been popping up all over San Diego with different themes. They excel in creating clever clues, which attendees must figure out to “escape” the room.
One of latest escape games has emerged in Pacific Beach. Owned and operated by Greg and Jenny Sanders, Quicksand's escape room is concealed at the end of a long, white hallway on the building's second floor.
“Escape rooms started as flash animated computer click games,” said Greg Sanders. “One of those games made it to 'real life' in Japan in 2006. From there it expanded and there is now a huge mature market for it throughout Asia and Europe. In the last two or three years, it's really taken off and become much bigger in the United States.”
The Sanders' escape room was the sixth in San Diego and first opened in July 2016. The couple note they've been ranked the top escape room in San Diego by TripAdvisor.
First exposed to the game-room concept while traveling abroad in 2015, Greg Sanders said, “We started doing them in every city we went to,” adding, “We thought it would be a great addition to the Pacific Beach area for both locals and tourists.”
“They're addictive,” concluded Jenny.
It's obvious the couple has taken great pride – and joy – in designing and outfitting their own theme rooms.
Without giving away any clues, both Sanders-crafted diner and speakeasy are historical reconstructions of similar rooms from those eras, with clues concealed in all manner of ways utilizing props distributed inside both rooms.
“When you go into the rooms you observe and collect different things, maybe numbers written on things, notes, color patterns on the walls,” said Greg. “As your (team) goes around (inspecting) you make logical connections between things, and start to make puzzles of sorts. When you solve those puzzles, it gives you codes to physical locks to unlock boxes.”
Greg said teams of three to eight people work together against time to solve and unlock the riddle of each escape room.
The Sanders are able to watch via TV monitors what's transpiring in their rooms. Greg noted they can “give hints to level the playing field” to help team members struggling to piece together their room puzzles and escape.
“Probably 80 percent of the groups either get out of the room in the last five minutes or maybe need five minutes more (to get out),” said Greg.
Jenny said pricing is “tiered” for Quicksand's escape room with the per-person cost going from $26 to $33 as you go from three to eight players.
“They get their money's worth,” promised Greg. “It's fun and challenging. You get to use your analytical skills.”
“Sometimes, once they break out of the room – or even if they don't – they want to come back and do it again,” noted Jenny.
Though clients don't have to, they sometimes show up in period garb to put themselves in the mood.
Greg said they get a lot of tourists, locals and even families playing, many from all over the world. They have a map with a growing number of stick pins on their walls showing where people are from who've played the Quicksand Escape Game.
Quicksand Escape Games
Where: 1001 Garnet Ave. in Pacific Beach, second floor.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Info: www.quicksandescape.com, 619-929-0152.