By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Kristine Atri is a United States Air Force veteran who says not much scares her.
She in fact is a huge fan of “escape room” game venues.
So much so, that she’s opening the first one in West Seattle, where she and her husband live.
We talked with her today about The Escape Artist, which Atri expects to open this fall in three vacant spaces spanning about 2,500 square feet in the commercial building at 4517 California SW – two on the ground floor, separated by the breezeway, and one upstairs.
First – if you aren’t familiar with the “escape room” concept – it’s a 21st-century phenomenon, Atri explains.
Escape rooms first became popular in Japan, and eventually spread to the U.S. You and a group pay to experience a scenario in which you have to strategize and solve puzzles to “escape” in a given amount of time.
The Escape Artist will offer two hour-long scenarios for starters, one in which you’re in space and encounter what appears to be an abandoned spaceship, another in which you are in an elevator stopped by an explosion. That one, Atri says, will be the first “full-motion” escape-room game in the city – the “elevator” will be rigged so that it moves and shakes, and a video screen will enhance the scenario.
Players get clues along the way, and those clues are within the context of the scenario.
There are many rules (no one under the influence, for example) and failsafes (a panic button if someone is freaking out and needs to get out – plus, you and your half-dozen-or-so fellow players are monitored by a “game master”).
While The Escape Artist will be the first “escape room” business in West Seattle, the first one in the U.S. was here in Seattle – Puzzle Break, with Capitol Hill and Belltown locations – so Atri says there’s pressure to live up to expectations of a first-class experience. That’s what she intends to provide. She also says that out of courtesy, escape-room proprietors don’t replicate the type of experiences someone else in their area provides. Right now, she says, there are 10 in the city. They’re popular, she says, for everything from parties to workplace team-building. The Escape Artist will be open to people ages 12 and up. They haven’t finalized pricing yet, but they’re looking at ~$28/adult/weekdays. And military discounts.
What if you don’t solve the puzzles and “escape” before time runs out? It happens, Atri smiles. She has done 22 escape rooms and solved 16. If you want, they’ll even show you – after time runs out – how it could have been solved, or of course you might choose to come back and try it again. (The scenarios will change, too, so even if you do “escape,” you’ll have a reason to return sometime.) She says it’s all about how clever you can be – like a fox, which she says will figure into the upcoming logo.
Meantime, Atri is dealing with the heart-pounding real-life not-a-game scenario of getting The Escape Artist built (working with a firm that specializes in escape rooms) and open – they’re targeting October.