The first real room that I failed to escape was a room called Shanghai’ed, an Escape Room from a place called Escapology. My friend and I were on an Escape Room binge that holiday weekend, working through three to four Escape Rooms in a day. I was so hooked on Escape Rooms and the thrill of solving my way to get out. Some people go to Vegas for the gambling, others go for the shows, I go for the real escape.
At that moment, my competitive spirit jumped forward, as my mind began to think about what prevented me from escaping. I ran through all the scenarios that prevented me from escaping that room, all the reasons that affected me, from the temperature inside the room to the company that I kept that day, to the confusing puzzles, and in the end, I realized that I was exhausted, and that escape rooms aren’t meant for just one person. Although I was on an escaping spree, I realized that I had lost sight of some of the most simple things, making everything in the room a possibility, while at the same time, ignoring the fact that I wasn’t in the room alone. As the time passed, the more pressure I placed on myself, being too ignorant to ask for help, but seemingly stuck fixating on the same things that were preventing my escape instead of thinking of the puzzles for my escape.
Fast forward several hundreds of escape rooms later, it seems that there isn’t a formula that will work for all escape rooms, which is what makes them fun. However, having said that, the successes I’ve been able to tally have come from best practices that I’ve picked up over time. Here are some things to consider, based on my personal experience, when any group attempts to escape.
First and foremost, work together as a team. Teamwork makes the dream work, it does. Lots of time can be saved by sharing the pleasure and pains of the puzzles in the room, while the most important thing being able to let go of what you can’t solve in the first three minutes. Fixation can be your worst enemy, learn to walk away, do something else, and let go for the time being. If within three minutes you’re still not able to figure it out, agree to use a hint if your hints are limited, it may not be you but instead the puzzle, however, in my case, it was probably me.
Second, make sure you have your bases covered. One thing my group does is take a sweep around the room, yelling out what types of locks we’re going to have to figure out and yelling out what we’ve been able to find. Search the whole room, figure out all the items you have to work with, then divide and conquer. Communication is key, as well as dividing up puzzles by strength of the group. For example, my group has a designated searcher, a person that just knows to look everywhere and anywhere, while also having the morse code queen, the locksmith for all locks, the person designated to all the reading puzzles, and the one that fills in the gap. My role is to stand back and watch… and then take a mental recording of the experience to laugh and talk about it afterward. At some point, I should probably rethink my role in the group, but hey don’t fix something that doesn’t need fixing.
Third, keeping the peace and having fun. This is probably the hardest component of the three, but definitely worth the time investing in. Knowing when too much time is spent on a puzzle, rotating puzzles between the members of the group, and knowing when to agree on receiving a hint is key.
I’d like to say that after careful considerations of the elements that bring success to an escape room, everyone’s journey will be different as well as their needs. I’m happy to say that my fastest escape was also recorded from a room in Vegas at about 15 minutes. In retrospect, I should have slowed the pace to enjoy the room that cost $40 a person, but hey, I’ll take that victory since victories like those are far and few in between.
Gather your party, and enjoy your venture forward. Are you prepared?