5 Common Escape Room Mistakes
We ask our Game Masters all the time what business we’re in. The response is always the same: a puzzled look and the response, “escape rooms!”. Technically, that’s true, but we like to think that we’re in the FUN business. Few people play escape rooms for the sake of it, they play because they’re looking for a unique, fun experience to do with their friends, family, or co-workers. And while our primary focus is to ensure all of our guests have a fun time, it’s hard to argue that the experience is all the more enjoyable for those who successfully escape.
We’ve written many blogs on what to do in order to make your escape room experience a successful and enjoyable one. This week, we’re focusing on what not to do, by sharing some common mistakes we see.
1. Hoarding Information
Nothing is more detrimental to successfully escaping than not communicating (it’s so important, in fact, that we’ve written about it twice before in our Tips for Escape Rooms and Tips for Escape Rooms 2 blogs). If you see a number or a pattern, make sure you tell your group! That could be an important clue to escaping and keeping it to yourself wastes precious time.
Likewise, it also doesn’t help when someone gets in front of a lock or mechanism and insists they can figure it out. The more eyes and brains you have working on a given puzzle, the better your chances are of solving faster—so put that first lesson you learned in school into practice and be sure to share everything you see and hear!
It happens, you’re under pressure to solve all the puzzles and escape in time. Maybe you’re stuck on a particularly frustrating puzzle. Patience starts to wear thin, and people can lose their temper. But insisting that you’re right isn’t the way to escape faster. Between the immersive environment and your acute awareness of the game’s clock ticking down, you’re likely already on edge, and your adrenaline will probably be high when you set out to escape. That’s all the more reason to keep a cool head when you interact with your group. Remember, you’re all in it together and there to help one another—like your high school coach always said, ‘there’s no “I” in team!’
3. Your team is too small
We’re not saying you’re not smart (you may be brilliant, we don’t know), but as the old adage goes—there’s power in numbers. Regardless of how smart you are, there are often simply too many puzzles for a smaller group to solve in just one hour (that’s why we so often hear players say, ‘if we only had five more minutes!’). Most escape rooms will allow for a broad range of team sizes (ours are from 2 to 10 players). That necessarily means that the puzzle designers must strike a balance between making it too hard for 2 players and too easy for 10. We think you should aim to have about 6 players in your team. Why is six is the magic number? Because it lets you comfortably split up or work together as the game demands. It also guarantees that there aren’t too many people, so you aren’t stepping on each other’s toes, but you also have enough brains and bodies to solve all the puzzles in the limited time you have.
4. Not paying attention to the information given
We get it; you came here with one purpose, and one purpose only—to prove your team has what it takes to escape. And you’re eager to show your chops! But believe it or not, the information we’re giving you at the outset of your game is important. All escape games have a theme, and most have some sort of storyline to help you become immersed in the world you’re about to enter, and to give you a goal you must achieve in order to escape. When you’re excited about your experience, it can be easy to get distracted either by others in your group who are joking and horsing-around, or by looking for clues to escape. Even experienced players (sometimes especially experienced players) can be so eager to start solving clues that they forget that the introduction can contain information that’s critical to their success. At the very least, the intro will tell you about your ultimate goal, which will help you immerse yourself in the story, and get in the right mindset for escaping.
Whether your goal is to elude the mad scientist or solve a mysterious occurrence, the intro will outline the major tasks you need to complete in order to put all the pieces together and escape the room. It may feel like your Game Master is droning on and on, but in reality they’re telling you exactly what to do (and what NOT to do). Listening to your safety briefing and the storyline for that particular theme can help you understand what to look for, what to ignore, and how to maximize your time during the game. So next time you’re headed into an escape room, pay attention. Those few minutes of rules could save you valuable puzzle-solving time!
5. Trying to solve puzzles without all the information
We see this all the time; people spending a ton of valuable time trying to solve puzzles without having all the necessary information to solve them properly! A favourite is hacking locks. A standard 4-digit padlock has 10,000 possibilities. Even at one attempt per second, it would take nearly 3 hours to hack that lock. Sound like a good time? Surely you didn’t spend your hard-earned money to waste an hour on that! Maybe you’ve got 3 of the 4 digits. Now your odds are looking a lot better at 1 in 10, but again, you spent your hard-earned money for the enjoyment of hanging out with your teammates, and the satisfaction of solving some tricky puzzles, not to cheat the game. If you see a lock that has numbers, but there isn’t a clear way to find the combination, you may need to come back to it. If you’re stuck, considering asking your Game Master for a hint.
The number one trick to solving an escape room is figuring out what you need and working backwards. But all too often people get caught up on the first piece of information they see, and even though they may not have the complete puzzle, they fixate on it. Don’t focus on a piece of information just because it’s the first thing you happen to see. Most escape rooms have a logical order, so look around and solve puzzles that you have all the information for. If you’ve got a clue or piece of information that you don’t know how to use, don’t try to stick the proverbial circular peg in the square hole. Instead, set that clue aside until it becomes apparent where you need to use it (just be sure you don’t lose track or forget about it!).
Now that you know what NOT to do, here’s what you SHOULD do: Book now!