Published on February 7th, 2018 | by Katherine Howells


Unlock Parliament

Late 2017, Agent November ran a pop up game at the Palace of Westminster. We sent one of our team to check it out.

One thing I’ve learnt from Agent November is how well pop-up escape games can work in unusual locations with very little equipment. Unlock Parliament was an immersive experience which took place in the Palace of Westminster over Christmas and New Year.

The exceptional thing about this game was its location. It took place in a room just off Westminster Hall, the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate where some of the most famous events in British history took place. It certainly got me in the right mood for the game and I had the opportunity to add a tour of Parliament to my ticket.

The Unlock Parliament game effectively combined educational elements with traditional escape room features. The premise was that players guide a bill through parliament in forty minutes and in the process players learn about the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the different stages a bill goes through to become law. I felt I was relatively well-acquainted with the workings of parliament already, but I still found this a great refresher.

This was the first time I’ve ever played a game with a mixed team, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. Separate groups of people bought their own tickets and then we were combined together to form one large team. Our team consisted of about 15 people which at first I thought would be too many, but the puzzles had been designed so that there was plenty for everyone to do and people were spread out around the room. The team included families, couples and people of all ages including children as young as ten, who, to be honest, were quicker than the adults on many occasions!

There was a little role playing involved. We were each allocated a role as a specific MP or Lord and then these roles became relevant in some of the puzzles. This definitely made the game more immersive.

I must also mention the beautifully designed wooden puzzle, which was the focus of the whole game and allowed you to physically move the bill through parliament. A lot of thought had clearly gone into its design, and this really showed. It helped the game to advance smoothly and logically, ensuring that all players could easily keep up with the progress of the game, something that could have been problematic with so many players.

I hope Agent November and others develop more pop-up games like this adapted for public buildings and heritage sites. When done well, an escape game can be far a more effective and enjoyable educational experience than any guided tour.

About the Author

Katherine is a PhD student in history and digital humanities at King’s College London. She blogs at lovelyoldtree.com

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