The BEST tips on how to bust out of Escape Rooms!

After running countless sessions as a Game master for an escape room, there always seem to be common mistakes made by puzzle room first-timers. If you continue to read I will share some of the best tips I give to people who have never played before:

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Escape rooms are one of the biggest trends in entertainment and have blown up in popularity in the last few years alone. These are games that have a series of puzzles and riddles that you solve with your team using clues that you find in the room to complete an objective, which is typically trying to escape the room! The real catch and challenge that come from these games is that you only have one hour to do it!

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So this is where I come in as your game master. My goal is to make sure you have as much fun as possible when inside our rooms. If you need help I can give you hints, clues, or nudges in the right direction. Game masters are there to help you and always want you to have the most fun possible, so be sure to trust us! Don’t worry if you need my help when inside the room since everyone eventually needs help. It’s because everyone needs help in the rooms that I wanted to write this to give beginners some advice I wish I had before I played my first escape room. I swore a Game Master’s oath to do no harm to my players, so I promise you I won’t lead you astray if you keep reading.

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Game Masters go through pretty intense training for each room at our location. In fact, our first day of training is just playing the rooms (which is a super cool job perk). When my escape room launches a new game we get to treat it as if we are players, so time is still against us! The first entering a room is almost magical, as you don’t really know what to expect. Based on personal experience, a good rule of thumb is to hit the ground running and try to gather as much info on the room as possible. How many locks can we see, and are they number locks? Word locks? How many digits for each?


New players tend to start the rooms slow, which makes sense because many people don’t know where to start or what they need to look for. It’s like picking up a video game controller for the first time, being told that the buttons do things, and being told good luck! The cool thing about escape rooms is that they are a team-based activity, so use your team! Call-out what you see and what you think the answer is to cover so much more ground than just attempting the room solo.

Every mystery room is a little different, so I can’t recommend exactly what codes or clues are important for your specific escape, but I can give general advice on what to expect and search for. You should always keep top of mind that escape games are mental exercises, which means you should not have to do anything physically demanding unless your Game Master says otherwise. You should never have to lift a filing cabinet or flip a couch to see if a clue is underneath it. What you should do is thoroughly search your room. New players are typically good about this, but it should be brought up because you NEVER know where your next clue will be. Personally, I recommend double-checking every square inch of the room just in case someone missed that one important code that you are missing.

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Don’t overthink. If you think you have the right code but it doesn’t work on any of the locks, you either will need to use the code later, or you are overthinking it. Puzzles and riddles should be mostly intuitive and logical, so you should refrain from making obscure connections (looking at you people that count ceiling tiles and think they are somehow relevant). Some things in the room the game makers have no control over, like overhead lighting, outlets, and windows. If you are using something to solve a puzzle that looks like it doesn’t fit in with the theme, you might be overthinking things. These can be a wide range of things, like serial codes under keyboards and chairs, stickers that say made in china and the like. Those are all rabbit holes you do not want to go down when you have limited time in the room. If you are attributing items that are out of the game designer’s control to your solutions, you should carefully reevaluate your answers!

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Here is a little secret that needs to stay between us… if you ever find papers in the room with you be very careful because they may have important information that you need! I know my first time playing I brushed pass all of the text I found in the room and only focussed on finding numbers and keys. We made good progress until about five minutes later when we hit a dead-end. There seemed to be a LOT to read in the room, but normally if something is important it will be emphasized. For example, if there is a dictionary in the room, you won’t need to read every word in there. There will be somewhere in the room telling you what word or page number you are looking for. Otherwise, you should read everything! Even if the text doesn’t give you immediate answers, they can often develop the story which makes for a more immersive escape room. For example, where I work we have a developing immersive story that helps guide players to their next clue. In our haunted cabin escape room, you start off by searching for a missing paranormal investigator, and then it turns into trying to escape from whatever is inside with you! A bit of reading never hurts, just don’t read entire books that might just be props. If it looks like it was made by the escape room game designers, it will probably be important. Skimming to find anything highlighted or emphasized is essential to progress forward.

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Everything in this blog is the top-level advice I wish an escape room enthusiast told me before my first escape game: 

  1. Search high and low for codes and keys based on the locks you know you need to open.
  2. Have everyone double check areas to keep on progressing through the game and to avoid dead-ends.
  3. Communication is key and should be done constantly.
  4. If your solution does not open anything, be sure to pivot and not get hung up on it, time is critical and you can’t waste what limited time you have on something that you think should work in a certain way. 
  5. READ THE TEXT!

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After running countless sessions as a Game Master, there seems to always be common misconceptions and mistakes that happen in the game, so never be afraid to ask your Game Master for help, because we want you to have fun, and winning is always a plus!


Zak Villassana,

Game Master at Next-Gen Escape

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