Promotional image for "Riddle Mia This"; 2018 3M Art and Technology Award; Designed by Samantha Porter and Colin McFadden; Presented by 3M with generous support provided by Accenture.

Introducing “Riddle Mia This,” the museum’s new escape-room app

When I went to my first escape room, I was a little unclear about what exactly I was supposed to do. As two experienced puzzlers began to scour the room for clues, on bookshelves and in drawers, I looked around wondering when someone was going to tell me how to help. Had I been on my own, I might still be there.

Escape rooms have become an entertainment phenomenon, a modern take on murder mystery dinners with the added pressure of being locked in—you need to solve the puzzle to escape. Lucky for me, I quickly learned that diving in is part of the fun and certainly part of what induces the adrenaline and satisfaction of cracking each code.

On September 14, Mia will introduce an escape-room app for smartphones, called Riddle Mia This. The app will be a free download in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, and devices with the app will also be available to check out at the museum. The app won’t lock you in the museum, but will help you unlock a totally new experience of the art inside.

You’ll find yourself at the center of a drama involving dueling secret societies and the clues they left behind. To find them, you’ll need to scour the art, the labels, and some galleries you may not have spent much time in.

Riddle Mia Thiswas conceived by University of Minnesota technologists Samantha Porter and Colin McFadden. Their concept won this year’s 3M Art and Technology Award to support technological innovation in the museum, positing that Mia is already filled with puzzles and symbols, by way of iconography and artistic expression—what if we turned it into an escape room?

Most escape rooms confine players to relatively small quarters, adding a claustrophobic edge to the blood-pumping, head-scratching experience. But Porter and McFadden worked with GLITCH, a community driven arts and education center for emerging game makers, to scale up the challenge with augmented reality and other technology.

For the best experience, download the free app before you arrive at Mia and check in at the Third Avenue entrance. That’s all you need to get started. Remember, Mia is always free!

Gretchen Halvorson is Mia’s Digital Program Coordinator.