Motas ( Mystery of Time and Space) is a highly addictive online "escape the room" game that involves the solving of puzzles, which opens locks, allowing the player to move on to the next level. I replay it every now and then - partly to see if levels have been added.
Since it was launched, by Jan Albartus in 2001, Motas has inspired many developers to create similar games online and, later, as smartphone apps. Now - in a case of real life imitating art that was itself an imitation of real life - enthusiasts are being locked in rooms of brick and mortar, from which they must escape by solving clues planted within.
People are being voluntarily locked up in ever-increasing numbers across China, Japan and the United States, and Hong Kong's first "brain gym" opened earlier this month, in Mong Kok. Freeing HK was started by four friends and provides "an alternative to the usual entertainments such as shopping, karaoke or watching movies, which Hong Kong people are so tired of," says Raymond Sze Wai-hang, a student and Freeing HK co-founder. "So, when participants escape from a room [there are three to choose from], it also symbolises escape from boring Hong Kong. We'll change the theme of our rooms each season so people can revisit."
Players are given a scenario: some involve being handcuffed or blindfolded; or you may be left in the dark and have to feel your way to a light source. Often, clues can be deduced from photographs and other objects, which in turn help reveal the combinations that unlock the door. The challenge is to escape the room within 45 minutes.
Each session costs HK$98 (originally HK$128) during a promotional period. Those who escape within 30 minutes will receive a surprise gift. Freeing HK is located at 4/F, Pakpolee Commercial Centre, 1A Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Mong Kok. For inquiries, call 2332 0334 or visit www.freeinghk.com (in Chinese only).