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No Locks In This Escape Room, Just Computer Code

Bill Balfour
Escape The Room Challenge
An entire room is devoted to the computer that runs the game.

Escape rooms just got even more challenging with the introduction of digital locks.  Instead of locating padlock keys and figuring out combination locks, players must crack computer code at Cincinnati's Escape The Room Challenge. "Double Agent Dilemma" is the newest game and Danny Craven designed a way for players to go from room to room without physical locks.


Craven, a lifelong gamer and creator, pulled out all the stops. "This particular room was the most challenging of the three (Esmeralda's Curse and Escape the Mob) because I was challenged not to use padlocks, keys are out the window and it all had to be done somehow by magic and it is."

He says it's going to be "a great wow" when it opens.

Statistics show escape rooms are experiencing explosive growth. Three years ago there weren't any in the U.S. and now there are more than 500, and thousands more internationally.

Escape the Room Challenge General Manager Bill Balfour has done escape rooms in Orlando, New York and Columbus, Ohio. As far as he knows, "Double Agent Dilemma" is one of the most advanced games. "The whole goal of this is can we use a control system? Can we use electronics? Can we use magnets? What can we use to do things?"

The electronics are pretty impressive and take up a separate room. Technical director Brian Kienlen explains he wrote 11,000 lines of computer code (using a PLC-programmable logic controller) to .."automatically adjust the behavior of the room based on the guest's experience and how they interact with the guest experience and how they interact with the switches and the sensors that are in this room."

Can you get out?

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.