New virtual escape room inspired by Queen’s culture

Puzzles in the ‘The Graduation Situation’ filled with tricolour references

Supplied by Matt Rothwell
‘The Graduation Situation’ is a new virtual escape room that debuts on Sept. 7. The Journal spoke with Matt Rothwell, PheKin ’05 and director of games at Sherlock’s Escapes, about how his long-standing relationship with Queen’s inspired his newest puzzles. 
“We tried as much as we could to keep things rooted in the culture and community of Queen’s,” Rothwell said in an interview with The Journal
“You’re able to learn more about your community through an escape room, which I think is pretty cool.”
Now a father and business owner, Rothwell is far-removed from his studying days, yet hasn’t fallen out of touch with the university. He still remembers what it feels like to be a student.
He saw an opportunity when the Queen’s Enrichment Studies Unit (ESU) asked him to create a new game for their students at the beginning of the summer. What started as a re-skinning of old puzzles quickly became an exciting platform-building experience. 
The game’s clever narrative has players investigating the theft of graduation caps by comparing clues hidden in a fictionalized version of The Journal. Successful participants will uncover the thief’s identity and save the day by game’s end. 
“Once we started working on it, it just kept growing,” Rothwell explained. “It went from re-skinning some of our old puzzles into 95 per cent new puzzles and using a new platform that we haven’t used much before.” 
“This was our first full release of a game using Telescape.”
Telescape is an online platform that delivers escape rooms virtually. Rothwell is excited about the freedom it will provide to those who play his newest game. 
‘The Graduation Situation’ forgoes the presence of a room host—as featured in Sherlock’s Escapes other online offerings—while keeping the experience on a timer to up the tension. 
It costs $30 to play ‘The Graduation Situation.’ While the online access code provided to players works for up to 10 people, Rothwell recommends tackling his newest creative challenge in groups of four or five for the best experience. 
“If you want to play with 10 people, play against each other and see who can do it faster,” he said. “It’ll cost you twice as much, but you’ll enjoy your experience [more].”  
Rothwell hopes new students, in particular, embrace his latest game. 
“I think that this is the kind of game that is absolutely perfect for first-year students,” he said. “Some of the puzzles in there talk about the engineers or talk about Harkness Hall or the various locations on campus and streets around Kingston.”
Visit the Sherlock’s Escapes website to book or find more information. 

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