Would you call yourself "smart"?
Why wouldn't you? You've made it this far... The good news is that escape rooms are built for everyone to enjoy, not just smart people or people who think they are smart. (There's a difference.)
When I tell people what I do for a living, there are a set of conventional responses I typically get:
"I would never make it out."
"I'd still be in there the next day!"
"My family would just yell the entire time."
"I'm not really a 'Smarty Pants' like that."
And my personal favorites:
"I have claustrophobia!"
"My husband and I would surely get divorced in the room."
If you've considered any of the above phrases, then you have officially become my target market. Allow me help you explain to Gramma and Grampa what an escape room actually is:
An escape room is an immersive, themed space built to allow its team of visitors to explore and unlock a specific set of puzzles and riddles in order, when achieved will allow you to reach your final goal, whether that be "finding the hidden object", "robbing the safe", or "escaping the room" - hence, the term "Escape Room".
While some of the themes can be scary, the setting's description can usually be found on the escape room business's website, along with any trigger warnings or important information. Common themes include zombie apocalypse, witches/wizardry, art museum or bank heists, pirate ships, and space ships. As is the truth with Escape Room Virginia, many escape rooms do not have jump-scares or violent themes, nor do they actually lock you in the room. As I like to reassure people, "Fire Marshall Bill would be very upset with me if we actually locked you in here. The bathroom is down the hall."
The goal for an escape room business is for the guests to have fun and feel smart, by the end of the game. After all, you have 60 full minutes to complete the job, and you won't be alone. A 'Gamemaster' is always there to guide you if you feel stuck or seem to be on the wrong track. Assembling your fellow players is a must, as teamwork will be crucial to succeed. The magic number is often 4-5 players total.
Maybe you've been there, and done that.
I often hear mixed reviews of other escape rooms in the area or other parts of the country. This leads to a general attitude of the industry as a whole.
"We tried it. We didn't make it. But it was fun!"
"I played a room in Tennessee. We escaped but with loads of hints. We needed all the help we could get."
"My office booked a room last year. It was... different."
The best way to feel a sense of advancement is of course, to play another game after your first. Not only will you be familiar with commonly used locks, you'll have a better understanding of puzzle types, and how game flow works in general. A well-designed room will be challenging, but possible. The key is communication.
We like to design our rooms with 12-14 puzzles or as I like to call them, "success points". Success points are achievable checkpoints that allow for celebration and rejoice with your team. Think of it like scoring 12 goals in 60 minutes. And your Gamemaster will always be there to give you the assist, if your team needs it.
In your second game, the margin of time it takes the group between struggling and stopping to reassess is much thinner. Patterns will unfold and your intuition will expand. You'll know better how to track your steps, and organize what has been used vs. what hasn't. You'll even start to contemplate the room's possible challenges and objectives, way ahead of time.
These are all applicable methods of critical thinking that will help you in many other areas of work and homelife. Flexing these muscles in the low-stakes, high-reward environment of an escape room is often the perfect practice for maneuvering other challenges, such as meeting a deadline or maintaining a relationship. In a world of email chains, tweets, and virtual meetings, your brain will thank you for integrating logistics and quality communication into the physical realm.
We disguise problem-solving as fun and that's the only trickery we'll ever admit to. Everything else is just magic, or ghosts.
Escape games are good! Escape games are great! Escape games make the world a better place! Find one in your area and assemble your team of friends, family members, or co-workers to unlock the fun, "Smarty Pants"...