Exercise brains to plot escape

Travel | Katie Hung 21 May 2019

Children love escape games - and their parents do too as they teach their kids to think and solve problems without it feeling too much like school.

Just in time for the summer school holidays, Lost Hong Kong has just established another line. The first branch of Lost Junior, targeted at kids aged six to 14, just opened at the D2 Place in Lai Chi Kok, featuring escape rooms designed as a magic school, prison or even the lost kingdom of Atlantis.

Operating similar to the original Lost HK concept, it "locks" four to six junior players in one of the themed escape rooms. They are asked to solve the riddles and puzzles based on the given clues within 35 minutes to find their way out.

Compared to the adult's version, which is now also used for corporate training like team building, Lost Junior is less subtle, with clearer instructions on the game cards.

"Lost Junior is more direct, more instructive. It's actually tell the player either A or B," said Lost HK founder Rick Woo. "At Lost, we have 15 to 20 puzzles or riddles in each room. Quantity-wise, it's much more than Lost Junior."

Since the establishment of Lost HK - Lost is an acronym for "learn, observe, solve and think" - in 2013, Woo found out lots of clients would like to bring their children to play together.

However, he realized the level of difficulty was so high that "even some adults couldn't solve the puzzles" - and it inspired him to build a new one designed for kids.

Though there are no direct calculations involved or tasks requiring players to actually build something during the game, Woo said the STEM elements lie in the trial-and-error approach as well as the use of technology such as sensors embedded in the game to unlock gates. It relies heavily on time management. Participants are not informed how many puzzles they need to solve to carry on to the next stage but are only given a restricted amount of time to solve them.

Following Lost HK's strict rule of no electronic devices during the game, observation and communication then play a vital role. Players have to keep an eye on every single tiny item displayed in the room, as it might hold a clue to move on to the next stage. Some of the tasks as well require two or more people to collaborate.

A case in point is in the Alcatraz-themed room. Referencing the jailbreak that happened in 1962 at the top-security Alcatraz prison, the room requires players to find hidden clues to form letters with their bodies and figure out the password.

"I want you to use eye contact, your ears to listen, and your mouth to talk and communicate. This is what I want to train, your social skills," said Woo.

"I want you to talk to people in person, not through a digital screen. And of course, I don't want you to cheat."

Kids may get frustrated if they can't solve the puzzles. But "that's a good time for parents to talk to them and teach them not to feel bad or sad but instead how to face failure," Woo said, adding that there is a hint button available whenever they feel stuck.

The junior players will be given medals and certificates if they can successfully break free from the escape room within the time limit.

The second branch of Lost Junior will open soon at The Mills in Tsuen Wan with five different game rooms of themes varied from characters like Angry Birds to cultural ones such as Hong Kong Tramways.

katie.hung@singtaonewscorp.com

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