World’s smallest escape room induces claustrophobia and dread

METRO newspaper reported this week on Goldsmiths Computing student George Larkwright’s coffin-like escape room, which exhibited at the MA Playable Experiences degree show. We reproduce it here…

Why spend your weekend watching TV or drinking in a pub when you could be locked in a small box, trying desperately to escape?

We live in a time when ‘fun’ includes pretending to be in prison, smashing TVs, and choosing to go into horribly stressful situations, and so it makes total sense that someone has created the world’s smallest escape room, measuring 120cm by 70cm by 50cm.

Just like any other escape room, the idea behind The Subject (that’s the official name of the room) is to work hard and figure out clues in order to break free. Unlike your average escape room, there are no padlocked doors and dark corridors. Instead, there’s just a box.

The Subject is the creation of Goldsmiths student George Larkwright, 24, who wanted to create a truly disturbing escape room experience to induce claustrophobia, desperation and dread. Sounds delightful.


One player is shut inside and needs to figure out the clues on the box’s walls

Fed up of seeing escape rooms used for corporate team bonding and smug selfies, George designed a challenge to make players leave ‘haggered and almost aged by the experience’.

The room, which is basically just a big coffin, is designed for two players. Player one is locked inside the box, while player two has to help them escape.

Inside the box is a pencil, paper and a torch. The trapped player has to decode a load of cryptic messages and clues written across the box’s interiors. The player outside the box has to look through a load of documents and figure out a code in order to piece information together, solve the puzzle, and unlock the box, freeing their pal.

The theme has some pretty dark sources of inspiration. George first thought of the idea after watching Kill Bill 2, which includes a scene in which a bride is trapped in a coffin. He then drew inspiration from the horrifying histories of wartime human experimentation and the American security services mind control programmes during the Cold War.

George has a load of experience writing for theatre, so was able to pull together these ideas into a tricky narrative that sounds more than a little bit stressful.

The contestant in the box is a prisoner of war locked up in a laboratory, while player two is a secret services operative tasked with freeing them, all under a 30 minute time limit.

As we said, this is supposed to be fun.

George said: ‘I want participants to emerge haggard, almost aged by the experience, but also triumphant, proud of navigating a game that is both physically and mentally taxing.’

The Subject was part of the Experiments in Play exhibition, for students at Goldsmiths at the weekend. The quickest escape thus far took 17 minutes. George now plans to take the box on tour, so keep an eye out for dates if you fancy giving the challenge a go.