Imagine yourself locked in a room with nothing but a few cryptic clues to help you find your way out.  Would you panic?  Who would you choose to help you?  Who would you avoid?  Those are the questions that visitors to Fargo Escape Room must wrestle with.  Only a few are successful at emerging from the locked room within the allotted time frame.  Would you escape?Real Escape Game was developed in Japan by Takao Kato in 2007.  He based the concept on room escape genre video games such as Myst and The 7th Guest.  Kato’s friend Kazuya Iwata brought the concept to San Francisco in 2012, and it blew up in popularity.  There are currently over 2,500 escape rooms in the United States, with more opening almost daily.

Eric “Fish” Ista, co-owner of Fargo Escape Room, first heard about the activity from a friend.  “Before he was even done describing it, I wanted to open my own,” he said.  “My business partner Sarah Deutsch and I went to an escape room in Denver, and the rest is history.”

Fargo Escape Room opened in September of 2015, and the response has been amazing. “Having the first escape room to open in all of North Dakota was very exciting,” said Ista.  “Many people had heard about them from friends in other parts of the country, but hadn’t had the opportunity to try one.”  Fargo Escape Room was booked two weeks out before they even opened, so it’s safe to say that area residents were waiting for the chance to test their mettle.

Ista believes that escape rooms have become so popular because they give adults an excuse to act like kids again.  “It’s a socially acceptable way to play make believe.  It’s interactive and exciting,” he explained.  “We always say that the ‘escape’ part of an escape room isn’t just getting out, it’s escaping from reality for an hour.”  Who among us doesn’t like to get away even for an hour or two, to forget work and the mortgage and simply focus on a fantastic task at hand?

Winning Team

Fargo Escape Room has four separate challenges that visitors can try their hand at.  Ista believes that the success of a good escape room lies within its story.  “A good story really helps the players get into the game,” he said.  “What we’ve found is that once you’ve tried one, you’re hooked.  As soon as people get out, they are ready to book their next adventure.”

Fargo Escape Room tries to keep their success rates at about 35%, give or take 5%.  According to Ista, however, that only tells part of the story.  “We want those who do escape to do so with five minutes or fewer on the clock.  If you don’t escape, we want you to feel as though if you had another five minutes, you could have done so,” he explained.  “That way, if you don’t get out, you don’t feel like a failure, since you are still in the majority.”

For those of us who avoid tight, cramped places at all costs, we can find relief knowing that each escape room has a panic box, although they have never been used.  “People who feel like they might become too anxious to stay in the room seem to completely forget their fears once the game starts and they begin to focus on finding clues,” Ista said.  Safety is a top priority for Ista and his partners.  “Our rooms have ten foot ceilings and are monitored the entire time,” he said. “We have a number of mechanisms in place to ensure the safety of all of our guests.”

Even though Fargo Escape Room has enjoyed success, they have no intention of resting on their laurels.  “Watch for some fun new Fargo Escape Room adventures coming soon,” Ista promised.  More information about Fargo Escape Room, including a full description of their individual rooms, can be found at


By Jamee Larson