If you love adventure games, you might recall playing MYST in the 90’s. This incredible computer game monopolized my life for a week while I played through a variety of puzzles to progress to the end. I seriously considered skipping work so I could immerse myself in the beautiful “worlds” that the creators had built and find clues that would allow me to solve other puzzles in other “ages” as the game developers called them. The graphics, storyline, and sound and musical details were mesmerizing and I greedily purchased all the sequel games that were released later.
As it turns out, I wasn’t alone in my appreciation of this type of experience. Myst was the top selling game for the PC from the early 90’s all the way until The Sims exceeded its sales in 2002. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned that there was a “real life” adventure game experience in Charlotte to play.
Here’s a quick video recap of the Charlotte Stories team taking on Codescape’s escape room challenge;
I first learned about “Codescape” through my membership at Advent, a PlazaMidwood based coworking facility. The members of Advent had scheduled a couple of “teambuilding” events there and since I could never attend, I decided to gather up some friends and check it out one weekend. Since none of us had ever been to anything like this before, we wondered what to wear (would we be running and jumping?) We all opted for shorts and sneakers (just in case) and found we’d chosen our apparel appropriately when we got inside as there is no actual “running and jumping” per se, but I did find myself crouching down behind things and even sitting on the ground for some puzzles…so you’ll want to dress to be comfortable.
Our group of four was paired up with six other people (another crew of four and then a couple) and our guide greeted us in the lobby of the Codescape building. He explained that we should bring only ourselves into the room, we we left our purses, sunglasses, and mobile phones behind in the free and provided lockers on site. Next he explained that he would be with us during the adventure in a “virtual way” in that he could see and hear everything that our group was doing and saying (I guess via cameras?) and was available for hints along the way if we got stuck on any challenge in particular (I should note here that each group is given a one hour time limit to complete the challenge…so spending too much time on one thing means you might not get to finish (or enjoy other puzzles and parts of the game.)
The backstory of our game (we chose to do SHIPWRECKED but they also offer THE RESIDENTS and DEEP SPACE) is still a little fuzzy to me as we were all chattering, laughing and pushing each other as we crowded into a smallish starting space to hunt for clues. I won’t go into too many details here as I don’t want to spoil the fun for future players, but I will say that the sights and sounds were amazing (it is clear that people who knew what they were doing were behind this experience!) The puzzles were varied and not too easy as well (which is a bonus in my book!) Finally, the experience is probably best enjoyed by a group that knows each other as putting ten strangers together in a challenge can be complicated by the rules of good social etiquette (for example: you can solve cube puzzles easily, but are too polite to push the current players that are struggling with them out of the way for fear of coming across as a pompous jerk.)
I took some time afterwards to speak with the founder, Jordan Renda, to find out how he came to be in the business. As it turns out, his career in the entertainment business started off on the scary side as a creator of haunted houses. He and his buddies enjoyed created spooky scenes in their basements and the demand for their creative work led to them renting some land and building more elaborate sets outfitted with additional “event” elements like food trucks and fire performers and an outdoor theater. While the owner/operator of Haunted Productions, LLC he produced Night Terror Haunted House in Jacksonville, Florida which ran four seasons and greeted over 60,000 attendees.
That attraction was even featured by “AmericasBestHaunts.com” website in 2011 and 2012. Additionally, he and his team were the creative geniuses behind “Adner Heights Entertainment, LLC” which produced “The Creep Haunted House Festival in London, Ohio. Mind you this is all before Renda finished college (he graduated with a degree in finance from the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State in 2015.)
Renda introduced me to the coowner Garrett Sutton (who is 25 years old to Renda’s 23) who was one of the first real “customers” to come to Codescape and play “Shipwrecked” back when it opened in late November of 2015. Sutton had graduated from Clemson University with a degree in electrical engineering and after working in the automotive industry, decided to go all in with Renda to bring an even higher level of sophistication to the “real world adventure gaming” experience being offered. Imagine having elements that are activated when you touch two certain panels and complete a circuit . . .lights, fog, lasers . . .I’m not sure what is in the works with these two behind the wheel but whatever it is, I definitely want to buy a ticket!
If you have more questions, the Codescape website features a great “Frequently Asked Questions” page as well as a convenient online booking engine (you’ll need to use a credit card to hold your spot / but can pay with any payment form when you show up.) There are three rooms open for business as of today, and a fourth called Lucidity teased as “opening in the summer of 2016” on their website.