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Deep dive into Rice Escape’s ‘Sub-merged Sea-crets’

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Students work on puzzles in Rice Escape’s “Submerged Sea-crets” escape room. Faith Zhang / Thresher

By Hongtao Hu     1/23/24 9:47pm

Deep in the bowels of Sid Richardson College lies a chamber brimming with the stench of brine and brackish water. Of the 83 students who have ventured in, only half have managed to return within the hour. Rice Escape’s newest escape room, “Sub-merged Sea-crets,” which is running in the Sid Richardson Makerspace from Jan. 12 to Jan. 28, doesn’t take itself too seriously — the room does have a “handsome Squidward” drawing on the wall — but the story of the room is still airtight.

In “Sub-merged Sea-crets,” teams of up to five participants take on the role of researchers at a pharmaceutical company called Jackson & Jackson who have been sent to an “early retirement” after raising ethical concerns about a drug called Methampheta-marine. 

The experience has been met with positive reviews. Claire Hooper, who participated in the escape room, said that Rice Escape succeeded in creating an undersea atmosphere.



“They put a ton of thought into it,” Hooper, a Duncan College freshman, said. “I really enjoyed the overall story and the decoration in the room was really nice.”

Isabella Avilez, Rice Escape’s co-president, said the club was founded in 2019 by former students Samuel Cheng and Myra Ramdenbourg to create immersive worlds for students to explore.

“I’ve done escape rooms across the globe. I’ve been doing them in Europe, in North America, South America too,” Avilez, a Sid Richardson College senior, said. “My favorite kinds of rooms are the ones that have cool puzzles, but it’s more of the themes that get me engaged.”

For Rice Escape member Nat Pujet, joining the club was a way to see what goes on behind the scenes of an escape room.

“I’ve always loved escape rooms and puzzles and anything in the genre, but I’ve never had the opportunity to create one,” Pujet, a Duncan College freshman, said. “It was really valuable to be able to learn how these [escape rooms] are made, and to be able to come up with some really fun puzzles and see players do them [is] really gratifying.” 

Building an escape room is a semester-long process, beginning with a brainstorming session where the club formulates an overarching theme, along with supporting puzzles. Each member of Rice Escape is then assigned to create two puzzles, which can be anything from a coded-from-scratch “password game” to a fully rotating periscope or a steering panel made of electrical circuits. 

Head game host Victoria Santos stays in character when delivering the opening monologue or offers witty hints when groups are stuck on puzzles. Santos said that for her, Rice Escape offered the opportunity to both create a story and perform it.

“One of the reasons why I’m part of Rice Escape is because there’s some aspect to it that’s very theatrical,” Santos, a Will Rice College junior, said. “Even with game hosting, you have to act it out, so [the players] are really invested in the story.” 

Most of all, Rice Escape members say their club is a place for community, both now and in the future.

“I’m excited to see the next generation of people who step up to take on the challenge of being the leadership team to an escape room club,” Avilez said. 

“When I first joined [Rice Escape], there was a very strong community culture before COVID,” Santos added. “I’m looking forward to re-establishing that culture, the people in it being closer together.”



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