Echappe-Toi, a real-life simulation experience based on Montreal’s Parthenais Prison, launched in Montreal on Tuesday, Oct. 7. Created by Montreal entrepreneurial lab Les Entrepreneurs Associés, the game offers participants 60 minutes to escape from a room using teamwork and a variety of clues.
Popularized by Japanese role-playing video games in which players are locked inside a room and must use their environment to escape, the experiences known as ‘Real Escape Games’ have been implemented worldwide to incredible success. Seventeen countries have established escape games so far, with Montreal being the third city in Canada to implement the simulation.
Located on the same street as the historical location of the Parthenais Prison, Echappe-Toi places participants in a room imitating a real cell from the prison. According to Emmanuel de Gouvello, one of the founders of Echappe-toi, a great impetus for introducing the game to Montreal was the unique cultural history of the location.
“Historically, [this] is a jail street,” de Gouvello said. “What we like is that [the game] is related to the part of the city where we are, because Montreal has such an incredibly rich story.”
Setting up the game proved to be difficult in Montreal, where the creators had to consider a number of complex factors, including the bilingual nature of the participants. To add to the difficulty, Echappe- Toi chose not to engage in standard industry practice and visit other escape games for inspiration, opting instead to build the game from the ground up. De Gouvello stated that to do otherwise would render Echappe-toi a copycat experience.
“I know it’s not traditional, because normally you would go see your competition, see how they work, and try and take their idea,” he said. “But I love the idea of being truly original with an idea that has been developed by others in the world.”
Escape games have had an astonishingly low success rate internationally, with only three per cent of participants completing a successful escape, according to de Gouvello. As such, the Echappe-toi team views the game as a means to an end in order to create team chemistry—with escaping the room being just one of the desired goals. With two to six players allowed in each room, the game offers a variety of different clues and activities that appeal to a number of different skillsets, including more tactile-based clues and cryptographic puzzles.
After each session, the Echappe-toi team offers participants a debrief of their activities. According to co-founder Jérémie Abbou, the game appeals to a variety of clients who are intent on improving group dynamics.
“We build packages for schools, friends, families, and companies,” Abbou said. “[Packages include] group coaching, how to emphasize team building, [and] how to improve your efficiency.”
Although Echappe-toi has just launched, the founders are already thinking of new scenarios and rooms in anticipation of repeat customers—despite the fact that the game is almost fully booked for the next three months.
“We will make sure the game evolves,” de Gouvello said. “We’ll change the puzzles inside if you come back or if we have leaks, [so] there’s still value for everyone [….] We already have a few ideas in stock.”
However, the team’s primary focus has stayed steady throughout the process: Making sure that people enjoy their experience at Echappe-toi.
“It’s fun,” said Philippe Prevost, head of marketing for Echappe-toi. “And that’s what people are looking for, the pursuit of happiness […] That’s the objective of the team operating this event—that people leave happy.”