A small camera is mounted in the back of the room so Andrew Gipson can keep an eye on the participants, but he doesn’t really pay attention.
“I only watch the first five minutes and near the end,” he said.
Anything “crazy” will happen during that time.
Gipson owns and runs Escape OKC, a live-action escape challenge. Groups of two to six pay about $75 to be locked in a room filled with puzzles and riddles. They have an hour to solve them. Ultimately, they have to attain the code to punch into a lock on the door.
After an hour, Gipson will open the door from the outside, letting the group know if it has failed.
A quarter of groups manage to escape, he said. The rest complete about 75 percent of the course.
He and his creative director, Jonathan Cox, aim to make the puzzles “challenging, not frustrating,” he said.
“We build the room in our head,” he said.
They choose one central puzzle or mechanic around which to design each room. Everything else is attached to it, beginning to end.
Escapers have to dig through the room for clues. Rooms available now are fashioned after an abandoned military outpost and a study.
The aesthetic design of the room takes place after the puzzles are finished.
That way, “we get the feel of the room right,” Gipson said. “That’s really important to us.”
The room fashioned after the study has authenticating touches — a big leather couch, a wooden armoire and a full bookshelf.
In addition to making the puzzles doable and the room believable, the designers conscientiously make sure the rooms are orchestrated the same for each group. Gipson double-checks for his own mistakes each time.
“We don’t want groups to fail by design,” he said.
Where it started
After he graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in economics, Gipson followed one of his college buddies back to Australia. There, he met his British girlfriend and traveled back to the U.K. with her.
One day, the couple visited Northern Ireland. He looked at the Trip Adviser page for the small town. The most highly rated result was an escape challenge. They went.
“We talked about it for like a day and a half,” he said.
When he came back to the state, he realized Oklahoma City would be a perfect place for this kind of attraction.
Gipson pitched the idea to some investors in March. They leased the building at 912 NW 23 in April. Puzzles were completed by May, and Escape OKC opened in June.
“We had no idea how it would take off,” he said. “It’s exploded.”
The company has booked every available time slot for each weekend it has been open.
It is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.