How to play an escape room

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You're going to play an escape room and you're in need of some tips? Then look no further, because all you need to know is written down below. After three years behind the camera's, we've got a pretty good idea what works and what doesn't!

Search the entire room

Escape rooms are made up of puzzles for which you need to think, do something and/or find things. The latter is by far the easiest and has to be done anyway, so search that room like you lost your wallet! Having to ask help because you didn't look under the flower pot is a real shame.

Don't all work on the same puzzle

Ever watched a pupil football match? Where the kids ran after the ball like a Roman tortoise formation? Ten to one you thought that things could've been handled a bit better tactically. This is a common mistake in escape rooms as well. Two people are puzzling and three just stand there watching silently or chatting, while a plethora of unsolved puzzles is collecting dust around them. Look for things to do if you're basically doing nothing!

Don't cooperate too much

You and your colleagues are forced to do teambuilding and have to play an escape room. The horror! Your manager urges that while it's ok to have fun, the real goal of the exercise is that you walk out of the door a well-oiled machine. So the game is attacked with... right, the same tedious meeting strategies that killed off every last bit of creativity at the office. More communication than "I don't get it, anyone has a better plan?" "Yeah, we could try this or that" "Great, try it and tell us if it worked" is not required in an escape room. And the office alike!

Ask yourself that question

Most hints we give, are questions everyone immediately knows the answer to. Say that you come across some scales with a French flag glued to it. For ten minutes it's reconfirmed that indeed it is a French flag. Then the hint comes: "What in the room is typically French?" and four people simultaneously chant "The statue of the Eiffel tower!". The simple question "Does something have a link with whatever?" goes a long way!

If you think you have the solution, try it

If we got ten cents for every time we heard "See, I told you!" when explaining a puzzle after a failed game, we would be multi... well, at least we could load up a decent pile of fast food. It's like the watchers always know better than the doers. Someone thinks up something, shares it, no one responds and then starts crying, because "I" proposed it, but no one acted. Always try it yourself, else you're just as responsible for not escaping as the rest!

The loudest one is not the smartest

In each group, one person always takes charge. And that's fine, as long as the rest doesn't lose out. Is your wife (boss, friend, etc...) yelling that you're not to look in that book, because she already searched it and there's definitely nothing in it? And it's even remotely logical that there is? Then it's probably time to question her authority and rebel!

Join in

Do you think it'll be more fun to observe your team than to play? They're going to need your help, so better join. You don't like Sudoku and therefore can't be bothered with escape rooms? If you join, at least you won't be bored for an hour. Are you a teenager and rather sulk to annoy your parents? If you solve a puzzle, at least you've got proof that your smarter than they are. So join in!

Don't think you don't get it anyway

Someone asked if I had one tip for playing an escape room a while back, and without hesitation I said: "Don't ever think or say about yourself that you don't get it, can't do it or that you're stupid, because that's the exact moment you become utterly incapable. She answered "That's nothing less than a life's philosophy" and she was right.

Ask yourself: what are the odds you'll solve the puzzle, if you say "Oh, that's with numbers, I don't get numbers" and put it away immediately? We see it happen every day and it makes us sad. Especially because the puzzles are easy enough to be solved by almost anyone.

Don't keep a puzzle to yourself if you can't solve it

Like a magpie that spots something shiny, you throw yourself on a puzzle and you just know you can solve it. No one else has your abilities and no one else has to even know it exists. But suddenly 20 minutes have passed and your entire team is loafing around, because all else has been solved. What went wrong?

The solution to nearly every puzzle can be discovered in no time, you only have to see it. After trying for five minutes, it should be clear that you're not going to solve it and you need to throw a fresh set of brains at it!

Don't resign yourself to fate

Sometimes you're doing really well and we're already cheering, because we thing the record is going to be shattered, and there's a puzzle you can't solve. You need a hint and you're probably wondering how you didn't get that. Then don't start moping because you think you're now proven to be stupid. Surely you get that not every group is able to solve ten puzzles in the first ten minutes, don't you?

Don't pick locks

Chances are rather enormous you'll find some combination locks in an escape room. These can be opened in three ways: you solve the puzzle to get the code, you try every possible combination, or you pick it as if you were a criminal. (If you can't, then learn online how to open every combination lock in under 30 seconds. Or don't and take pride in being a law-abiding citizen.) Solving the puzzle is the method of choice, after all, you pay us for it. Trying all combinations is mind-numbingly boring and takes forever, so that can't be the way. Besides, it has the same disadvantages as the third method: you skip one or more puzzles, you're disqualified, the game spontaneously turns into a giant chaos and everyone hates you for various reasons.