Escape! by Deborah Sengl in Vienna mixes an escape room with a social awareness message. Although we appreciate the idea, the execution was quite lacking…
Escape Room Review
– Short Roar –
Escape! by Deborah Sengl
Location: MQ Wien, Museumsplatz 1, Zugang Breite Gasse, 1070 Vienna, Austria
Games (reviewed): Escape!
Escape! by Deborah Sengl
“ESCAPE! is an artistic intervention on the subject of flight at the MQ Vienna. The idea came from the Austrian artist Deborah Sengl and is a reaction to the refugee crisis of 2015.
“The hopelessness and despair of countless people have shaken me deeply. Many in this country have shown their compassion and helped. Some others, however, have unfortunately reacted in a closed and empathic or even negative way to the stories of the fugitives. This behaviour has triggered a massive sadness in me. Escape! .
,Escape!‘ should not and cannot retell a real escape story. Rather, I would like to give the visitors an impression of the emotional exceptional situations that (are) happening to the fugitives. In this way, I hope to make the incomprehensible more accessible and thus to open the gaze, the mind and finally the heart to those whose fates may seem so strange to many.”
Date of our game: 30-11-2019
“Escape!” is not a traditional escape room per definition as it tries to insert art and a social awareness experiment into the concept. Sadly, this did not work for us and we actually have some major issues with the execution of ideas that, we are sure, came from a good place.
But let’s start with the positive: we are very supportive of the idea of trying to make people sympathise and realize the struggle and personal hell that most refugees have to endure. This is a very polarizing issue and a lot of people forget that there are real human beings behind the anonymous “mass of refugees” that get referenced a lot in the press and politics the last years. So we appreciate the idea and concept a lot.
Sadly we have some big issues with the execution. Before we get into them, let’s just state that this is our own opinion and you are welcome to your own – you can voice it in the comment section if you want to.
Overall “Escape! by Deborah Sengl” markets itself as a 300 square-meters escape room experience, which would make it one of the biggest escape rooms we have in Austria. That sounds quite impressive. Additionally, the escape game part was built by Time Busters, a very respectable and well-received escape room company in Vienna, which even uses its website to market the game.
So what did we expect?
After reading the marketing and the press about “Escape! by Deborah Sengl”, we hoped to get an immersive and memorable escape room experience that would respectfully use the topic of “having to flee and taking refuge” to show and teach us about the perils of refugees while ultimately also offering a way to help as well or support.
What did we get?
None of the above in a satisfying way. Sure, we do see that a lot of thoughts went into Escape! and people worked passionately on it – sadly (for us) it neither works as a proper escape room experience nor as an educational exhibition. Yes, there is an escape room part, but it is quite basic and very short. Yes, there are very interesting exhibition pieces that teach you in an emotional way about personal refugee stories. But although they are not really part of the escape game, they are placed in the middle of it and since our time was running down, most of our group just ran by them looking for the next puzzle.
If those items would have been placed after the official ending of the escape room part, we would have enjoyed reading them all. But they weren’t.
You could rightly argue that we did approach this mostly as an escape room and that’s not what Escape! wants to be. But it markets itself as one, it charges 25 euros per Person für a one hour experience. So we both think it is fair to expect more than just a small popup escape room with some exhibition items and some art installations tucked on. It just didn’t work for us.
What about the people behind it?
The team on location was very nice and also very interested in our feedback, which we gave honestly and we didn’t receive any negative reaction to it, which was nice. There were also some information folders in the end that educated you on the refugee organisation that they worked with, so you could get in contact: https://www.fremdewerdenfreunde.at/
One other big negative factor for us is the way Escape! is being marketed regarding name recognition and the information about possible donations that result from this game. While we do respect Deborah Sengl a lot for wanting to raise awareness and help, we do find it troublesome that the marketing is so heavily focused on her name and face. Instead of promoting “Fremde werden Freunde”, which is the organisation that helps refugees, the game mostly promotes Deborah Sengl, who to best of our knowledge grew up in Vienna and is not a refugee. Yes, she is an artist, but was it really not possible to call this came “Escape! by Fremde werden Freunde and Deborah Sengl”? Secondly, we couldn’t find any official information about how much of the ticket price actually gets donated to “Fremde werden Freunde”. When we reached out on Facebook, Deborah Sengl answered that it is 1 Euro per ticket – but again, we couldn’t find any information about that on the official website.
Let’s wrap it up
If you are still reading at this point, you can imagine that we did not enjoy this experience it all and we think your money is probably better spent if you donate the amount you wanted to spend on this “game” directly to the organisation that this game supports: https://www.fremdewerdenfreunde.at/
Out of respect for the topic, we will not give this game a rating. Our review might be pretty harsh, but we have to be honest and voice our concern. We really think the idea and motivation are admirable and this could have been something very memorable and special – sadly it was not.
Where can I find them?
Have you ever played this escape game or one of their other rooms? Or can you recommend any other location for us to try? Please let us know in the comment section.