Google Built an Escape Room, and Is Making People Use a Bunch of Its Apps to Get Out

Virtual keys to a physical prison

Google France has built an escape room to seamlessly unite online and offline worlds.

Created by We Are Social, Première Pièce will open at an undisclosed location in the heart of Paris. The campaign builds on the escape room trend, in which you and a bunch of friends pay to get locked in a room for an hour or two, left to solve puzzles and work in collaboration to find a way out. Last month, the Toronto Film Festival built an escape room that lives on Instagram. (Google's is a physical room, but uses virtual tools as a central conceit.) 

More importantly, it's a clever pretext to get users to whip out a bunch of Google apps they already use, as well as ones they don't. In 40 minutes, you must solve puzzles with help from apps like Search, Maps, Translate, Photos, Arts & Culture and Cardboard, all of which are integrated into the gameplay.

A few examples from Google: 

• Google Translate: On the wall of the room, there are posters with mysterious messages written in foreign languages (Norwegian, Danish, Chinese, Japanese, etc.). Those messages are clues players have to translate thanks to the Google Translate app installed on their smartphone. 

• Google Cardboard: At the end of the game, players have to find three symbols to unlock a laptop. Those symbols are hidden in a 360° landscape players have to explore thanks to Google Cardboard.

• Google Search: Players have to unlock a four-figure padlock to find an item hidden in a safe. They will have to find the release date of two movies (Star Wars and Back to the Future) using a hero feature of Google Search, then add them to discover the right number that open the safe (1977 + 1985 = 3962). 

• Google Cultural Institute: Google CI is the philanthropic part of Google dedicated to promoting art and culture via technology. Its main feature is called Gigapixel and allows people to dive into ultra HD artworks. In the room, players have to find a clue hidden on the hat of a woman in the background by literally diving into the painting thanks to a Kinect system connected to a TV screen.

• Google Hangout: Clues are given to player by Julie (the fictional owner of the place) via Google Hangout messages.

The stunt also unites all the themes that Google France valorizes—digital art, music and using mobile technology to do more stuff in their own locales. 

"This campaign shows off these applications and products to their full potential, while tapping into one of the biggest trends right now," says We Are Social managing director Sandrine Plasseraud. "Première Pièce brings people together both online and offline; it mirrors Google France's creative vision and is the perfect campaign to kick off a long-term strategy of experimentation and innovation over the next year." 

In Première Pièce, visitors must help save a crew of digital artists locked in a workshop, so they can present their painstaking work at an art centre in Paris. By working together, participants must unlock an object that completes their masterpiece.

Reservations to take part in the escape room are already full. But on Wednesday, five YouTube stars will be livestreamed inside the experience. The interactive event will enable people to issue their own challenges via Twitter, and even change aspects of the room (like turning the lights off, or sending the players pizza) … kind of like Hunger Games, but hopefully with less blood.