Our great escape room #fail, and tips for not bombing your first attempt
Escape rooms are all the rage these days... Puzzle lovers, mystery nuts, riddle enthusiasts and curious souls are flocking to get locked in a (usually windowless) room with a pack of pals and a bunch of problems to solve. With hundreds of these popping up around the country—and world—we just had to give it a try.
Having recently attempted our first-ever group escape room experience, team “Zozini” is still riding the retrospect wave—and we’re ready to share our war stories. Compiled for your reading pleasure, we present some hindsight hints on how not to bomb a “locked-in-a-room” game scenario. We came. We puzzled. We escaped...ish?
Ready to dive right in? Visit our Escape Room collection.
1. Hit that magic teammate number
Escape room companies frequently suggest an “ideal” number of players per team. There’s a reason for this. Pay attention to it.
2. Dress in comfortable, breathable layers
Eleven people + room the size of a master bedroom + no windows = you do the math.
Not to say our room was poorly ventilated or overly claustrophobic. But with a dozen bodies bumping around a 16-by-30-foot space, polyester is not your friend. (Coworkers' rejoinder: What are you trying to say, Blair???)
3. In order to escape...you need to get locked inside first
Keep in mind: There’s a team coming in after you, and your hosts have a schedule to keep. Look up the location ahead of time, get your carpool/transportation situation in order, and give yourselves some wiggle room by leaving early. In our case, the escape room entrance was tucked away behind a nondescript wood door, on the back side of a massive performing arts building/convention center in the heart of a popular urban park. Some of us may or may not have gotten lost and wandered aimlessly in circles until one of our teammates called us and told us where to go.
4. Bring paper. BRING. PAPER.
Unless you’re Sheldon Cooper, God, or have the photographic memory of Nikola Tesla, we highly recommend bringing a few extra notepads and pens. Trust us on this one.
5. Read the directions
Then read them again. And again. Consider these your North Star: If the directions tell you to follow a certain order or sequence, stick to it. If the directions tell you to do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around, JUST DO IT. Going rogue will not serve you well.
6. Delegate tasks like you’re Ronald Freaking Reagan
If you designate anything in your life besides (1) a driver, (2) wingman, or (3) life insurance beneficiary, make it a "designated delegator" for your escape room experience. Once everyone is turned loose, the impulse to turn the place inside out like a pack of rowdy raccoons is hard to...hey...what’s that doohickey over there? And why isn’t this switch thing working? And—wait—is that a coffin? Does it open? OPEN IT!
Ahem. Like we were saying: Resist. Rather than scattering like bunch of kids on an Easter egg hunt, let the designated delegator give everyone a task first. It’s for the best.
7. Know what to watch for
Keep an eye out for patterns or themes—they might start to repeat themselves across other puzzles or riddles. Better yet: If you’re dealing with multiple types of puzzles, ask for clarification on how they work together. Your host might provide some helpful insight.
8. If it’s not you...it might be them
If you’re 100 percent certain a puzzle has successfully been cracked, but the answer isn’t being revealed, check with your host before succumbing to puzzle rage and breaking things. A mechanical error—not your wits—might be to blame.
9. Reflect with teammates. Drink beer with teammates. Repeat for several hours.
This was a team building experience, after all. Whether you guys Houdini-ed that room like it was nobody’s business or completely choked on a Helen Keller-themed puzzle when the finish line was so close you could almost see the EXIT sign, the shared memory will keep your team chatting, chuckling and
racking your brains over what you did wrong reminiscing fondly on the experience long after it’s over.
10. Remember what you’re reading right now
Once the clock starts ticking and the pressure mounts, anything you read ahead of time could fly out the imaginary window (take it from the folks who actually published an entire article on tips for cracking your first escape room...then forgot to take their own advice). Don't let the hard-earned knowledge of your escape room forbearers be for nought: Go forth and make us proud.
While team Zozini didn’t beat the clock, it wasn’t a full-on #epicfail. We walked away with some respectable numbers, missing the 80-minute goal by 4.86 minutes and earning a slot in the 71st percentile. Overall takeaways? Doing something challenging (and little whacky) with your co-workers outside the office is great. And having a shared experience to gab about over a pint is even better.