If you talk about escape rooms with someone who has never heard of them, their first guess about what it might be is usually wrong. (Try it!) An escape/puzzle room is a role play adventure played out in a full sized room where participants solve puzzles and search for clues to find ways to work through the room to a hidden goal. The very first one was opened in Silicon Valley in 2006. They slowly spread throughout Japan, Europe and the United States. As of 2015 there were approximately 2800 rooms worldwide. The most common puzzle type yields a combination for a lock or the location of a key. Some puzzles are multi-stage, requiring a variety of talents from the puzzle solving group. It is an excellent way to build a team or allow friends to have a challenging, fun, and entertaining experience.
Depending on the level of complexity of the puzzles, everyone from children to senior citizens can have a good time in an escape room. Some are geared toward younger students, while others are designed for those with adult minds and experiences. Still others are trivia oriented, and might have great appeal for senior citizens, who call back various events in their lives. Most people are curious and love a good challenge. They seem to know that such activity is good for their brains!
The puzzles are as diverse and creative as the puzzle masters who design them. Some borrow concepts from technology or history. Others are word puzzles. Still others are detective style conundrums. Puzzle solvers may expect to call on all of their senses, from touch to smell to taste. Successful teams often have a wide variety of personality types on them. One person might be a mathematics lover while another might be the kind who notices small details. There is certainly a place for a team member who supports and encourages the others.
Communication is vital for a positive puzzle experience. In order to have a satisfying experience, the team must function as an interconnected unit. It is good to know in advance what kinds of locks are being used, and how they are operated. Most escape rooms have a clue-giving component. The team can usually ask the puzzle master for a hint if they are bogged down or running out of time. This leads to the next important strategy; pay attention to time. Sometimes there might be a fascinating puzzle that absorbs group members. Since the goal is to be entertained and delighted, this is fine. The team does not necessarily need to attain the final goal if they are having a good time with the challenges. One final note on communication; there are some helpful roles for team members. A recorder is one who keeps track on paper of what everyone has discovered. This person is also an ideal person to make sure that everyone is made aware of every discovery. Since there are many multi-stage puzzles, it is helpful for all to know what has been discovered. The results of one puzzle just might be critical to the solution of another one. Above all, there needs to be a sense of team spirit and shared goals and experiences. A team will probably want to debrief after the escape room experience and then develop strategies for being even more powerful in the next puzzle/escape room.
This 16 minute video gives a good introduction to escape rooms.
An Escape Room Adventure
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