The Great (Yale-NUS) Escape

Yale-NUS College, 2020

Photograph of a vacant room with green lights. Two tables with a locked pouch on them. A TV showing a timer, 28 minutes 26 seconds. There are many posters on the walls.

It’s a lazy kind of Sunday morning for you and your friends, which means it’s laundry day. When your timer rings, you head to the laundry room to change from washer to dryer, but something’s wrong — all the washer doors are already open. All your laundry has gone missing. In each of the washing machines, you find calling cards, each printed with the same message:

“Come to the Elm Anteroom if your want your laundry back.”

Photograph of a note, some codes on strips of paper, and a directional padlock lying on a wooden table.
Photograph of a potted cactus and a tablet computer with alien symbols displayed lying on a wooden table.

In January 2020, I designed, produced, and facilitated The Great (Yale-NUS) Escape, together with cocreators Olivia Dure and Sheena Diong. With another semester ahead (and the pandemic not so far away), we wanted to create something fun for the college community — a memorable way for friends, colleagues, and suitemates to bond face-to-face.

Inside the room, players discover that IKEA cacti — a dorm room decor favorite — were secretly body-snatching aliens from space. Can players escape the aliens’ lair in time to foil their dastardly plans?

For a homebrewed escape room on a minimal budget, I’m very proud of the production value we were able to achieve. We fabricated custom puzzle pieces from wood and acrylic, programmed a Telegram bot so players could “speak with the aliens,” and teamed up with the school’s satirical newspaper to hide some easter eggs on the open web.

In the week it was up, we ran over thirty games in five days for over 170 players. Every game was booked out.

Praise for The Great (Yale-NUS) Escape

  • Amazingly designed, and we really had fun! – Horatio H.
  • It was extremely fun, and the puzzles were also a good level of difficulty! – Min Li K.
  • Absolutely amazing, best escape room we have seen!!!!! Especially love the window words part, that was bomb AF. – Katherine S.
  • So good! We had a lot of fun, and the group size was perfect too. It’s also great how there didn’t seem to be any red herrings or parts that didn’t make sense! – Jia Min H.
Photograph of four smiling students holding props. From left to right, a small potted plant. Paper spectacles. A printed alien mask. Cartoon drawing of a cactus.
Photograph of six smiling students holding props. Two hold boards with POW and ZAP written on them. Two others hold masks. And the other two hold small potted cactuses.
Photograph of six smiling staff members holding props. From left to right, a printed alien mask. Boards with ZAP and POW written on them. A cartoon drawing of a cactus. Two potted cactuses.