Are Escape Rooms really that big a deal?

‘Solving puzzles and performing tasks’ sounds a bit nerdy and not very exciting. Are Escape Rooms much ado about nothing?

Have you never heard of Escape Rooms? No? Are you sure?

Well, alright, maybe you’ve never actually done an escape.

But, have you

  • Never heard of the game show called Crystal Maze?
  • Never seen the 2007 film Fermat’s Room?
  • Never heard of the Cube and/or the Saw franchises?
  • Not heard of the 2019 movie called Escape Room?

And all of that’s just for a start.

I could even cite the 1938 Alfred Hitchcock classic The Lady Vanishes as a good example of an escape room setting, with the heroine Iris’ mission being to find out what happened to Miss Froy, all aboard a train.

Likewise would be the Agatha Christie story, Murder on the Orient Express.

OK, maybe I’m getting too excited about all these movies that I have seen.

But the point is, the concept of being stuck inside a dramatic situation, with your way out being to solve a mystery and perform some tasks, has been the basis of a lot of forms of entertainment – game show, films and books.

And they’re all pretty popular too.

Which is why it should come as no surprise that Escape Rooms really are quite a big deal.

(The deal becomes even bigger when the Escape Room in question has won the Golden Key award and been voted #1 Escape Room in all the UK, but I’ll not indulge in too much self-acclamation.)

You know the best part?

All that suspense, all that drama, all that popularity…that’s only one part of why Escape Rooms are a big deal.

OK, what’s the other part?

Solving mysteries, performing tasks and all that might sound a little childish.

Rather than throw technical jargon at you, let me go through the motions of a typical escape scenario so you can glean for yourself what the merits of escape games are.

So, your group (typically people don’t go for escapes on their own) enters the room.

You’re ‘locked in’, and the clock is ticking.

What do you do?

Think about it. There is more than one of you and there is a time limit within which you need to finish the mission.

Obviously, you need to get multiple people on multiple tasks. You need to avoid duplicating effort.

And, you need the best man for the job.

If Ben* is good with numbers and Susan* is good with shapes, Ben needs to tackle math-based puzzles while Susan needs to go for shapes.

If Ben can’t handle it by himself, he needs a partner to help him. Would that partner be Michael* or Janey*?

As you can see, two kinds of skills are being tested here.

Leadership

You need someone leading the team, assigning roles and settling disputes

Someone needs to coordinate the whole effort, deciding who does what, assigning partners if necessary, settling disputes and generally keeping the team on track.

This someone may not have any skills like math skills but he’d know everyone’s strengths and weakness and be able to make people listen to him.

Let’s call this person Nick* (since we know he’s a professional layabout but can usually make people do what he wants; if you don’t know who I’m talking about, read on till the end).

An Escape Room represents a good situation for a leader to be selected, accepted and battle-tested.

Team Dynamics

The team needs to collectively own decisions and work cohesively

There cannot be room for working at cross purposes or not working in unison.

Nick only proposes Ben for numbers; unless the rest of the team can’t accept what he says, the team dynamic will break down and they won’t be able to make progress.

And unless the team owns the decision, they can’t work in unison towards the common goal.

Team spirit

The team needs to encourage everyone and avoid resentment

So, we’ve identified 2 key characteristics that an Escape Room promotes. Are there any more?

Let’s stick to the analogy.

Ben is good with numbers, and presumably he’s doing his best, if nothing to show off his skills to Susan.

However, a little bit of encouragement never hurt anyone.

Furthermore, if Ben doesn’t quite manage to live up to his announced skill with numbers, the team must maintain its composure and not go off the rails.

An Escape Room can inspire creative thinking

There’s a difference between analytical thinking and creative thinking. It’s the latter which doesn’t turn up that often in our daily lives but which comes up all the time in an Escape Room.

Say you’re a trader at an investment bank. Your work requires  lot of analytical thinking.

However most of that would be along rigid, preset lines.

Out of the box thinking would not be needed often, but may lead to great results if used.

An escape room offers a lot of opportunities to sharpen your creative thinking skills.

This may even be in ways the game designers themselves did not think of, like using the bare floor area to make a task easier, although the floor may have been left bare without that explicit objective in mind.

To sum up, an Escape Room

  • Identifies the leaders
  • Builds team dynamics
  • Boosts team spirit
  • Inspires creative thinking

Not convinced?

Why don’t you book a room and see for yourself?

* Ben, Susan, Michael, Janey and Nick are all characters of the sitcom My Family. Brownie points if you knew that.

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