With an expert blend of the escape room format with the stylings of immersive entertainment, The Reality X offers three varied experiences in which participants can win cash prizes: Welcome Home which invites guests to survive a horrific home invasion this September; BBX, a Big Brother-inspired reality show; and Suspicion, a murder-mystery akin to Clue. Haunting sat down with Cameron Cooper of The Reality X to find out more about their innovative immersive-escape experiences.
The Reality X’s core values are centered on immersion, originality and affordability. As fans of immersive theater, reality television and escape rooms (they have done over 250!), they aim to innovate beyond the traditional room by formatting theirs as a social experiment. “If you see someone struggling, will human nature kick in or will you ignore them [to move] closer to the prize?” Cooper asks. While he says there’s no incorrect answer, it will be interesting to watch people’s responses, especially with a monetary prize for the champion.
Cooper himself was a finalist to be a contestant on the show Survivor. He filled out the paperwork, his family signed the appropriate forms, and he even took off work to be fully available for the sequester. But this opportunity never materialized. “There was not a peep from anyone. I was ghosted,” Cooper explains. After considering the number of other fans that the casting agency had abandoned, Cooper decided he could make something better – and The Reality X was born.
Welcome Home, The Reality X’s horror-movie experience, is inspired by “the creator’s worst fear: for people to break-in while he is home,” Cooper says. This experience is promised to be similar to movies like You’re Next and The Strangers.
Participants are invited to a 10-acre mansion, where friends and family alike can enjoy a peaceful dinner, until the night takes a dramatic turn and the house invaded. “Welcome Home is very much an individual experience. You do, however, have the option to partner up.” Continuing the social experiment angle, Cooper explains further: “If team members are split up, are you going to save them, costing valuable time, or continue on alone? Two heads are sometimes worse than one.”
To escape, guests will have to solve a set of puzzles. While the puzzles may be linear, the 10-acre property is unfamiliar, which leaves opportunities for participants to get lost or captured. And if you’re captured, this will delay your time to reach the end. Upon arrival, “guests will receive a map of the property, but some locations are missing and require exploration,” Cooper hints. On their paths, “a lucky few may find something to help them along the way against the intruders.”
While audiences may be captured, bagged or caged, Cooper emphasizes that this is not an extreme haunt. “Besides being lightly touched by the arm, you will only be bagged and placed in a trap.” Guests should not expect nudity or aggression. But what constitutes a trap, then? Cooper answers, “A trap can consist of a restraint chair, cage or chains, but nothing too harsh.” Cooper laughs, “Our invaders have manners now. We always have a safe word, if you choose to say the safe word, you may continue, but aren’t eligible for the grand prize. If you do not choose to continue, you can take an exclusive sneak peek behind the scenes before you depart.”
Cooper says that the various paths in Welcome Home “differ in theme and intensity. All have a wow factor with over-the-top puzzles, including but not limiting to all senses…all senses.” He promises that the complexity of the puzzles are the same throughout, but with different paths, guests can return and try another route. This will increase replayability for escape room aficionados.
What about the invaders themselves? “Oh, they all have different looks and personalities.” Cooper looks at us seriously, “Just wait for your visit by our lady invader… You’ll see.”
BBX is based on the “creator’s obsession with Big Brother.” A 14- or 26-hour event, BBX has guests competing in challenges designed to explore power and safety. Much like the television show, participants will be forced to vote other members out of the house, with the challenges designed to elicit tension.
Cooper says, “there are no actors [in BBX]! Once that first person gains power and has to nominate people for eviction, the claws come out.” He explains that in prior testing of this experience, secrets, betrayals and broken alliances are all that is needed to produce drama – no actors necessary.
For guests that are “booted early, that does not mean you are out of the game, there are comeback opportunities. Meanwhile, use our amenities to the fullest! Every evicted player at the final round is given the opportunity to vote for the winner!” Cooper says guests can “sit back, relax and watch it all pan out.”
Suspicion is inspired by the creator’s “fascination with true crime. The motives, the twists and how personal some of the cases are. Could the person you are married to, or know very well, be hiding a dangerous secret? What is holding them back from slaughtering you and your entire family? Free will, eh?” Cooper teases.
As for logistics, this game requires audiences to find a murderer and the murder weapon. “It will be very clear once you find the murderer and weapon,” Cooper explains. He also tells us everyone will have multiple chances to accuse others. “Think of it as a real-life Clue game.”
While Cooper is keeping Suspicion details close to the vest, he tells us that “no guest is murdered… With that being said, everyone is brought there for a reason.”
The Future of The Reality X
Cooper has big plans for future The Reality X experiences. He teased an overnight home invasion as well as various charity events. He also hinted that he’s been researching technology for an experience in which only one person survives, and involves tributes and a Mockingjay and death.” Did he just tease a Hunger Games– inspired escape room?
With a laugh, Cooper explains that he wants guests to leave either open-minded or pissed. We probe further, and he explains that for those open-minded, they may find fears that they didn’t know existed, or they may find themselves in a movie with no on-site check-ins or waivers. This starts when you drive in and your cell phone service drops to zero bars.
And the pissed: Well, for those who don’t win, he expects that they may want to return after being so close to obtaining a prize that they can almost taste it. He hopes they’ll come back to have their second shot.