SURREY — Kirsty Peterson and Catherine Doucette love so-called “escape rooms,” and they somehow wanted to bring the fun outside.
The game gives people a chance to explore the great outdoors while completing a series of puzzles, with history and science lessons attached.
Peterson and Doucette last year brainstormed the concept to bring it to the edge of Burns Bog.
“We just really love escape games,” said Peterson, program manager. “We were sitting on my patio one evening and I said, ‘You know, I’d really love to do this for a living, and I wonder how we could build and operate escape games for everyone, in an outdoor setting. I happen to sit on the board (of Burns Bog Conservation Society) and so I wondered if they’d let us try this at the nature reserve, to see if it’d work – what it’d take, what it’d cost. So we piloted it twice and we then applied for funding through the job creation partnership.”
With $100,000 in provincial funding, Bog Escape recently launched with the help of six employees hired to design, build and operate the game.
This summer, a series of themed games will be staged at Delta Nature Reserve, starting on July 13 with a “Pixie Tricks” adventure. The four-day sessions also include “Prove Your Innocence” (July 27 to 30), “Merlin” (Aug. 10 to 13) and “Post-Apocalyptic Panic” (Aug. 24 to 27). Fees range from $20 to $25 per person, and groups of two to eight people can be involved.
“Bring your family and your friends!” reads a post at bogescape.ca. “Work together to solve puzzles and complete your mission while experiencing the unique venue of Burns Bog.”
Game details were showcased during an open house event held May 30 at the Bog Escape office, at #108-8556 120th St., Surrey. The phone number there is 778-593-2097.
A launch project involved groups of school students on social studies-related field trips, with the adventures of explorer Alexander Mackenzie as an educational hook.
“It’s about Mackenzie’s journey into the west, so we’re unlocking the west,” Peterson explained. “Basically, they’ve come across here, they’re on the ship, they’ve landed, they’ve made camp, they’re on their way to Bella Coola and so they wake up in the morning and Mackenzie’s already left, the group is gone, but Mackenzie has kindly left some clues along the way so they can find him. So as they’re racing through the nature reserve, they come across all these different puzzles, and it’s based on the actual journey.”
Doucette has volunteered her time to help create Bog Escape.
“It’s been great to see it all come together after we worked on it, and hoped it would all work – and it has,” she said.
Added Peterson: “It’s a much larger project than we thought it was going to be when we first got into the idea.”
At the Bog Escape office, staff members hired through the employment program learned to design and build puzzles for mock games, as part of training to run the program.
Playing cards, lock boxes, strings and other elements are all part of the fun of solving puzzles that lead participants on the next step in a journey.
“The clues involve things like latitude and longitude, and the puzzles require some lateral thinking,” Peterson said. “It’s not always obvious. Some are math-y puzzles, others are letters. Some of these puzzles are real mind-benders.”
No question, escape rooms can be good for people to develop problem-solving and situation-analysis skills.
James, one of the employees hired through WorkBC’s job-creation program, said building the games for an outdoor environment was a challenge.
“We had to keep weather in mind, and we couldn’t do anything permanent,” said James, who didn’t want to give his last name. “Like, if I wanted to make a tunnel for an apocalyptic thing, we couldn’t just take PVC pipe and nail it to the boardwalk. We had to think outside the box about how to do those kinds of things, and everything has to be waterproof as well, because it does rain in there at times, and everything has to be portable. And it’s just a lot different, in terms of planning, when you don’t have walls to use.”
For now, a big part of the team’s job is to spread word about Bog Escape.
“People seem really interested in this,” said Peterson, whose “day job” involves job-development services at Tong Louie YMCA in Surrey. “The teachers who have gone through already are loving it, especially because it’s in line with the new curriculum, as a field trip. It’s also really engaging, and people just generally love escape games right now, and this one is outside, which makes it different. Plus, there’s nothing cooler than being in Delta Nature Reserve after dark, being allowed in there with a permit. We take them through with flashlights and it’s creepy and it’s just a different experience.”