With the escape room industry growing as fast as e.coli in pre-packaged salads, more and more adventurous novices are giving it the old college try.
While such adventurism gives us hope that humanity has not lost its daring and curiosity about the unknown - heck, people are paying money to have their brains fried and social skills challenged - there are potential newbies who are too easily discouraged by the concept of failing in their first try at a game.
Here we will provide some tips on how to fall for this inherently fun challenge, master it and enjoy every seized game play moment.
These tips and tricks have been gleaned from some grizzled escape room veterans we interviewed and will be useful to escape room goers hunting for ways to improve their skills of escape.
Come with me
But before we take a deep dive into nuances, let go over the basics.
What is great about escape rooms?
If you have long been looking for an opportunity to save the world, or to prove yourself, you came to the right place.
Now, make yourself comfortable, you are gonna love it!
Here the players are like movie actors yet without a script. They are creating their story line while the adventure progresses.
Entering a room is like jumping through a portal into a new reality. Yes, reality because everything is - you guessed it - real!
There are tangible objects and the ever-present sense of immersiveness that lets you temporarily leave your ordinary life and its ups and downs problems and sets your imagination free.
You will step into a new world with intriguing moments, engaging interactions, brilliant puzzles and creative solutions which will ignite your mind with insight “A-ha” moments and inject adrenaline and so-called happiness hormone into the blood with that inner rush of excitement !
This is what the escape games are about, at least the thoughtfully and cleverly-designed ones.
So, if you feel your inner movie star ego seeking to break out but none of the film studios recognized your talent, we have a game plan!
You belong in the world of escape room enthusiasts and you will be a welcome member of the community!
So, why are there still people who have not yet become fans of this wonderful concept?
There could be bazillions of reasons, but we will cover the most common ones.
Suppose you bump into a local escape room promo teaser video that not only leaves you all intrigued but also dares you to breakout within 60 minutes from a room with a low success rate.
Whoa whoa, they stepped on thin ice! It’s not that you seek to make every aspect of your existence a competition, but yes, trying to be on the leaderboard is alluring… it’s definitely missing your name.
The next thing you know, you will enthusiastically enter the venue with your buddy or two if not to go down in history, but surely escape on time.
There are several scenarios that could take place during that hour (which we will cover next time).
You may do your best but the timer seems to go off too soon and the game is over before you complete your “missions”.
You may hang your head like a wilting flower. No matter how hard the game master tries to cheer you up, the bitterness of defeat will stay like a bad taste on your tongue.
Well, knock off that attitude along with the “escaping” mentality! This is somewhat of a misconception of escape rooms, the beginning for which was laid on the nature of time-sensitive reservation systems.
Indeed, the games are designed to be solved within a certain time frame with an average number of players but it is not the single goal that every team breaks the record!
The whole purpose is to enjoy the activity! The trophy is not necessarily some imagined gold cup, but it is an adventure that you and your friends experience all along the way.
Players will be delighted with a clever solution they come up with, or the contribution you lend to the team’s effort. It's joy, laughter, amusement, and fun that escape room fans are paying for and they get their money's worth!
Moreover, many places will give you extra time to finish your game. We are at Cyber Raccoon Escape Room have a policy of giving players as much extra time as possible.
If we do not have another reservation right after yours, you could stay and continue your game regardless of timer. Fortunately, we see more and more venues doing this.
Playing the escape game is like going to the movies, you will not come back to play the same game again unless you have a very bad memory like I do or think you haven't been able to be quite the greatest star in your first performance.
Therefore, here is our tip number one:
If you find yourself eager and champing at the bit (that's the right word, not chomping) take on an escape game and if it’s your first time, come in on a slow day of the week and ask if your team could get some extra time if you feel that an hour simply doesn’t sound like it's enough time.
Have you gotten the impression that escape games are simply places to get into a costume and set your inner goofball self free as some folks do at a Halloween party? If yes, it’s a Mistaken approach. It's not quite right.
Ok, that might sound as if we’re trying to make rocket science out of arithmetic, but bear with us for a second. We exaggerate for a reason.
The most effective teams are the ones that take the challenge seriously.
Now, we aren’t saying that you need to be walking around and mulling everything over for a dreaded school exam.
But it’s good if you prepare your thinking for roles and anticipate the story line hidden behind the sets you are to encounter.
It’s often helpful to think ahead a few moves as in chess when the end mission becomes clear your goals change as the scenario logic emerges and develops.
Sometimes we wince when we see players forgetting this is not a game for kids. Horseplay and fooling around can distract others and can ruin the experience for everyone. You pay to participate. Get your money's worth!
An important observation: Once you pay more careful attention, you will find correlations between puzzles, props and scenery which will unfold in front of you in a new narrative fantasy world that begins to make sense. You will soon see that it's a blend of the serious with fun and entertainment.
So, let's take all that and put it together:
Follow the story line logic by asking the following fundamental questions:
What are we looking for? What did we find? What was in a previous clue?
Use what you assemble to dive into the depths of the plot and engage with it.
Friends are people who know you really well and like you anyway.
Although joining another team, which did not book a private game, is always an option, the latest tendency is to gather your own group of teammates in advance. And there is a reason for that.
You see, the root of the word “stranger” is "strange", so your chances of being placed in an awkward situation for one hour are quite high. It’s not that your mate will be a legit weirdo (although this is not excluded), but not everybody has skills connecting to a complete stranger. On top of that, non-linear game flow require decent communication skills. Without sharing the accumulated information, you will miss what was going on in the other side of the room and overlook puzzle connections. And as you know, room escape games require teamwork. You will need to read the clues out loud and brainstorm.
We haven’t mentioned that you might join a family with children which will make you feel the full power of the word “distraction”. It would be hard to see an elephant in the room when the game is accompanied by constantly smashed piano keys or restless screaming. So, a further tip:
Leave the odds for match.com and grab some friends, coworkers or family members for your escape game.
Now, as far as the rest of the stuff; logic, puzzles; props; special effects they all comprise the core of a good thoroughly thought out game. We’ll talk more about that in future blog posts. There are some really great escape rooms out there, but even they sometimes suffer lower ratings from some players. Often bad reviews may simply be due to frustration from not being able to solve a puzzle. Certainly, escape room puzzles do not require any special knowledge to solve, neither good education entitles you to succeed. But experience does matter.
Because we are, as creators and escape room designers, are looking for original solutions to ordinary things. That is what makes the puzzle brilliant. And in order to be good at seeing those solutions, you have to step aside from conventional way of thinking. And thinking non-standard takes practice. This is the reason why geeks and brainiacs are SO good at escape games, they already come prepared. Newbies might not have that background and thus it’s a bit harder for them to have a sudden epiphany even after asking for a hint. After an awkward glance towards the cameras, they realize that the hint helped them with nothing. And this is where the demons of frustration are born.
If our brain is not trained to solve complicated tasks, ones it trips, it tries to cheat. As a result, we bet on guessing, and cutting corners. Don’t do it! When you crack a puzzle, you skip a phase of the game and cool brainstorming that you or your teammates could have enjoyed solving (and actually paid for). Do not fall for a momentary sense of superiority. It will backfire in a lack of gaming experience and insufficient gameplay. And if this is part of the mission, then you spoil the result for the whole team. Our brain deceives ourselves, its is lazy and is always sniffing around for an easy path. The solution here is to overcome the pain and thus get stronger. Anyway, we approach our last recommendation:
Be a detective. Collect evidence, read the clues, make connections, and draw conclusions.
If an action fails, don't expect different results if you repeat it. We all have a little tunnel vision but your peripheral vision and may pick up something. You may have noticed that when you are in the woods, the motion or out-of-place thing you spot is likely not directly in front of you. Try to approach it from a different angle or perhaps pass the task to your teammate.
In order not to wrap your head around all this boring as hell jungle of neurophysiology and the world of unpronounceable terms, let me put this to you simply.
All you have to do is just take it on a good faith that I, in turn, got it right.
Our moods and emotions can define our efficiency. According to studies, you can significantly increase your chances of escaping on time by taking a positive approach towards the gaming process.
Moreover, a positive attitude may make us think more creatively. Isn’t it what is required in an escape room?
On the other hand, anger, fear, and sadness make us want to turn to safety and reduce socialization. Isn’t that opposite to teamwork?
Good mood is 50% of success. Because emotions affect the overall perception, whether you like the game or not, to some extent, will depend on you. No matter how amazing the experience can be, it can’t make an irritated and grumpy person happy.
Right attitude will help you to evaluate your current situation and respond appropriately.
The only people who participate in an experience for which they don’t care are the ones who were forced to join. That could be someone at a team bonding event and a friend or family member who didn’t voluntarily sign up but was included into a group (common for birthday parties).
Typically, such players delude themselves that they need experience in order to participate. And as a result, make a mistake by adopting a tactic of stepping aside, sitting back and watching.
It’s the worst when these people share the misconceptions of escape rooms being made for kids or just being silly.
This brings us to the next tip:
If you recognize yourself in the described above situations, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.
Let's face it, if you didn't have a chance to avoid this event, you only have two choices:
You can whine and complain to justify yourself. Or admit that you can’t change the circumstances, adapt to the environment and take the most from it.
First of all, players absolutely don’t need any prior experience in order to fully participate in a game or even lead it. 40% of visitors are first timers. Whatever the reason, don’t pass the responsibility for the process to others. Especially to your coworkers. You think they can do this job better than you? Funny. Why don’t they do it at work then?
Secondly, carelessly wandering around players end up missing the most important part of any game - the logic. And without it everything would look random and won’t make much sense.
Do you know which activity you like the most at any event?
The one you take part in!
Have you ever noticed that from the standpoint of an observer, when you don't participate but watch, an action may seem not as exciting, to say the least.
But when you fully participate in it, it’s kinda fun.
Apparently, we tend to like activities in which we get engaged. For this very reason, stand up comedians try to engage the audience in a show.
Nevertheless, I hope you now have a better idea about escape games and can implement an advice or two.
If you are ready to give it a try, see our area.