Want to learn some of the BEST tips on how to bust out of escape rooms? After my countless sessions I have done as a Game master for Next-Gen Escape, there always seem to be common misconceptions; mistakes made by those who are very new to the concept of an escape room. If you haven’t played one of the biggest trends in the last few years: Escape rooms 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! (Hence the name!) Now here is the catch, you only have one hour to do it!
So this is where I come in, your game master. My goal is to make sure you have as much fun as possible! If you need help in the room; I can give you hints, clues, or nudges in the right direction if you ever get stuck. Most everybody will need a clue from their Game Master, so don’t worry about it if you need help! It’s because so many first-timers need 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.
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 we play new rooms they are brand new to us, and we treat it as if we are players, so time is still against us! 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 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 have a slow start, 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 game for the first time, being told the rules and objective, but not what is important. 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 business is a little different, so I can’t recommend exactly what codes or clues are important for your specific escape, but I can give some 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 important code that you need.
The next biggest thing I notice from groups of every skill level is a lack of communication. Every minute counts, and you can cover way more ground if you work together by talking through your problems or even just blurt out what you are thinking. You never know if your slight hunch is actually the right thing to do all along! SO many times I have seen someone that has the right solution but stays quiet. This is probably because people are scared of being wrong. If you ever think you have the exact code you need but it doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up. Just move on and try something else. Some of my favorite moments in escape games is watching people rapid-fire solutions to find the right one. There are only two types of solutions- a possible solution and a correct solution. It takes time to find the right one!
When you try an answer and it doesn’t work you might have hit a dead-end. Here you have two options; double-check your work and input your code into all the possible locks, or ask for a clue from your Game Master. Our goal is to make sure you have as much fun as possible, and it is not fun if you are stuck on something for 10 minutes! While the location I work at has no limits on clues, many do. It is typically 3 max per game, so you need to be careful when you use them. Some facilities have special rules like the first 3 are free, but every clue after that takes 2 minutes off your time to incentive you to refrain from using them. Before you enter the room always make sure you know of the clue policy because you never know what you might need in the room. Either way, always communicate with your team when you are at dead-ends on what they want to do, because time is ticking!
Next-tip is to not overthink things. 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 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!
Here is a little secret that needs to stay between us… if you ever find notes in the room 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 focused 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. 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, the escape rooms at Next-Gen Escape (where I work) each 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 destroy a book of the dead! 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.
Everything I said above is the top-level advice I wish an escape room enthusiast told me before my first escape game. Search high and low for codes and keys based on the locks you know you need to open. Have everyone double check areas to keep on progressing through the game and to avoid dead-ends. Communication is key and should be done constantly. 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. Lastly, READ THE TEXT!
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!
Thanks for reading, I have some more posts about being a Game Master in an escape room coming soon so check back often!
Game Master, Next-Gen Escape