Escape Manor offers virtual escape-room fun during lockdown

Escape Manor
Steve Wilson (second from left) and the team at Escape Manor have launched a new virtual escape room experience people can play from the comfort of their own homes. File photo

An Ottawa tourism staple is offering residents gripped by cabin fever a chance to escape from the coronavirus-imposed lockdown ​– on their computer screens or mobile devices, at least.

Escape Manor has four locations in the National Capital Region, but the normally booming enterprise hasn’t been able to welcome visitors to its escape rooms for more than a month after most businesses in the province were ordered to shut down in a bid to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Now, its team has found a way to give customers their escape-room fix from the comfort of their own homes. 

Last week, the company launched a virtual escape experience called Taken: The Swiss Account. Participants are given the task of rescuing Gordan Gawans, a “high-level official from the United Nations” who has been abducted.

Escape Manor says the online escape module is designed for one to three players and can be played on both desktop and mobile devices. 

Team members in multiple households can be connected via platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime or Google Hangouts. To access clues, a group member must have an email address and a LinkedIn, Spotify, Facebook or Instagram account. The cost is $12 plus tax per player, and participants get 20 per cent off a future visit to one of Escape Manor’s brick-and-mortar locations.

The Ottawa-born company is just one of many tourism businesses scrambling to find creative ways to replace lost revenue during the COVID-19 crisis.

Escape Manor co-founder Steve Wilson told OBJ last month the company was forced to lay off 180 employees, and the owners themselves are not drawing paycheques while the lockdown persists.

“From a human standpoint, this is a difficult time,” Wilson said. “I’m glad that the measures that are being taken are being taken now. We’d rather see everything shut down and let’s get this under control quickly than have it drag on for years and ultimately destroy our economy and destroy all of our entrepreneurial businesses.”