There are plenty of mysteries where answers are either unattainable or arcane, such as: What’s in your DNA? What’s at the bottom of the ocean? Is there anything to do in Santa Clarita?
Well, now there’s a local business that might not be your best source for the first two questions, but it does offer a creative venture centered around problem-solving, that’s offering a solution to that third question that has long-plagued SCV residents.
Arcane Escape Rooms in Newhall opened in 2016, offering the public an interactive team experience where participants solve puzzles to exit a space (sometimes in multiple rooms) within a designated time period.
Though the craze may have emerged from a social media-centered culture, it’s now embraced by people of all styles and elicits real, unplugged communication among team members. Company executives sometimes send employees to facilities such as these for skill-building purposes, because the individuals are forced to work together and overcome obstacles. Arcane is popular with board gamers, video gamers, groups of friends, families — anyone who wants to try a new form of entertainment.
What’s the idea?
Escape rooms begin with a premise that’s explained to participants by a staff member or a video, at which time the the group springs into action — seeking out clues and developing a course of action as quickly as possible to beat the clock.
This writer was part of a team who tackled the “Ghost of Mentryville” escape room, which is Arcane’s newest attraction. It’s a departure from the other two — “The Hideout” and “The Agency” — in several ways. Designed to please those who have a penchant for the macabre, participants gather around a coffin and solve puzzles related to a bloody murder. A small team (four or fewer) uses logic to unlock mind puzzles that literally unlock doors, advancing the storyline each time.
A newly built room with an original narrative, “Ghost of Mentryville” is another first for Arcane: It involves a live actor.
The main inspiration came from the staff, said Matt Tye, Arcane’s creator, who grew up in Santa Clarita and currently lives in the San Fernando Valley. “I was about halfway finished designing ‘The Ghost of Mentryville.’ We actually started doing a weekly ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ game at our location with the staff… I saw how incredibly fun it can be to interact with someone who is playing a character and thought it would be a fun aspect to add into the game that I was building. I started designing some puzzles and ideas around these interactions and leaned into that aspect of the game.”
Scott and Karen Goodspeed, of Canyon Country, also were on the team tackling “Mentryville” a week ago.
“This escape room was not like any other that we’ve seen,” Karen Goodspeed said. “It was elaborately detailed and having an actor in the room made the game creepy, yet exciting.”
Puzzled and inspired
Tye said he doesn’t know when he’ll change the storyline of the rooms, as they’re still going strong, even “The Agency” — which has been in operation for two and a half years.
”We haven’t yet reached the point where a room stops getting booked,” he said. “Once a room starts getting slower, we’ll be creating a new one in its place.”
A 2006 graduate of Canyon High, Tye decided to launch the business after playing some escape rooms in 2015.
“I immediately became infatuated with them,” said Tye, who has now participated in nearly 100 escape room experiences. “I played my first one and loved it. Right after we finished it, I said to my wife, ‘This is the thing. This is what I’m supposed to be doing!’ It was the first time I’d ever felt 100 percent sure about what I wanted to do with my career.”
He previously worked in the research and development department at Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale.
“When I worked there, I picked up a lot of the skills that I use to build the props and puzzles at Arcane,” Tye said. “I’ve also been recording and creating music and video for a long time, so we’ve created custom music, audio and video for every game. I’ve been a video gamer for my whole life, game design has always been an interest.”
Based on feedback about the escape room experience, Tye said that participants like being part of a story and working together with family or friends. Arcane does not have specific age rules but recommends that players are 10 or older. An adult needs to be present, and parents of minors sign a waiver, which is available on the website.
Arcane is located at 23504 Lyons Ave., No. 405B. It is open Mondays and Thursdays 6-10:30 p.m.; Fridays 1:30 p.m. to midnight; Saturdays noon-midnight; and Sundays 1:30-9 p.m. The full schedule can be found on the website, www.arcaneescaperooms.com, where customers can book a visit through the online system. Prices vary according to the time you play and the number in your party. You can obtain a coupon for 13 percent off by using the discount code “SPOOKY” at checkout. 661-452-6953