VIRTUAL WORLD: Brothers bring escape game to Cloverdale

CLOVERDALE — What do a military base, a psychiatric unit, a haunted cabin and an antique museum have in common?

Backdrops to a video game, perhaps?

Well, kind of.

They’re the settings of a virtual-turned-reallife game experience that’s been gaining in popularity in recent years: escape games.

They’ve popped up in Richmond and Vancouver and, for the first time, one has opened its doors in Surrey.

E-Exit creator Justin Tang, who brought the idea to Canada from Hong Kong, described the concept as the "opposite of Google."

"Google is bringing every real-life thing into the virtual world through the Internet. What we do is, we bring virtual entertainment into real life," Tang told the Now.

"Escape game is based on cellphone apps and computer games — and we brought it to real life."

Would-be escapees — two to seven players a game — have 45 minutes to solve puzzles and riddles in order to escape from one room to the next.

Brothers Hardeep and Mandeep Gill first got the itch to open the Surrey E-Exit franchise after trying out the Richmond location’s prison game about a year ago — unsuccessfully.

"We did not succeed, but never had so much fun failing at something," said Mandeep, laughing.

"So a few days later, we talked about it and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have one of these ourselves?’"

On July 1, they officially opened in a 3,300-square-foot space at 15345 Highway 10.

After the first two weeks, they were surprised by how many people came back to play the same game.

Some people have tried multiple times in a single day, Mandeep said, adding it can be somewhat addicting, not unlike your traditional video games.

"One thing about our games is they’re very challenging. Only one per cent escape on their first try," he continued.

And in a world where technology is ingrained in most everything we do, many welcome the real-life experience, he added.

More than 100 people have unsuccessfully tried to escape already, they both said, chuckling. Only six had escaped as of two weeks after opening.

So, any tips from the brothers? While they won’t give much away, they do urge escapees to look closely — the clues can come from the strangest and most unexpected of places.

"It’s not impossible, but it’s challenging enough that it’s fun," said Mandeep.

"You have to use brainpower and think outside the box a little bit."

Online, the facility is at E-exit.ca/Surrey-hwy-10.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

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