NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Students take on virtual escape room

With the exit doors locked and just an hour to escape a horde of the undead, our (virtual) fate was all but sealed. Luckily, the post-apocalyptic world had never seen the likes of such crafty community college students as ourselves.

On April 8 2021, I, as a reporter for the Observer, along with fellow NECC students, played through a virtual Zoom-session escape room. Escape rooms challenge players to explore and solve riddles, puzzles or whatever else stands between them and the exit. Of course, we had to do all of this before the hour-long timer ended.

Escape Experience, a business physically located in Chattanooga, TN ran our game.

It worked over Zoom like this: an Escape Experience employee wearing a body-mounted camera acted as our eyes and ears. We gave them directions – like “search that cabinet” or “check the cadaver’s pockets for clues” –  in real time.

We were also given a video-game-like digital version of everything our player found in the room. That way, we could inspect them in detail on our screens.

After getting oriented, the six of us were split evenly into two groups. Mine was destined to play through “Vaccine: search for the cure.” Our escape room was set in a fictional post-apocalyptic world where most humans were lost to a zombie outbreak.

We were tasked with finding the vaccine a scientist had been working on in a barnhouse. But there was a catch – we only had an hour before the undead would catch up with us.

Led by my brave companions Krystal Oller, an early childhood education major, and Carolay Suarez, a biology major, we entered. The door shut behind us, and the timer began to count down.

Once we restored the room’s power, the lights revealed bloody handprints, locked cabinets and cryptic messages on the walls. Through a combination of teamwork and wit (and a couple of hints) we managed to escape with the cure.

The other team played an entirely different escape room with a different theme, layout and puzzles. Thiers was called “The Inheritance.” When we reconvened after escaping, everyone said it was a fun experience.

Zachary Cutter, a journalism major, said it was a good team building exercise. He said he liked the way it “made me think outside of the box.”

Toni Pavao, an Early Childhood Education major, was a detective, team members said. She was inspecting their clues and taking notes (two full pages to be exact) so her team could give their player commands.

Stephanie Haskell, Coordinator of Student Activities at NECC, organized the session and reserved our time slot. She also played on Cutter and Pavao’s team.

After hearing such positive feedback and enjoying the experience herself, Haskell mentioned that student life might do this again in person once covid restrictions allow that to be done safely.