Competition. A condition as old and deep-rooted as civilization itself. Inherent in all of us, whether we care to acknowledge it or not. Competition is big business, bragging rights. Best of the best. In most areas of life, it manifests in a singular, precise way: you strive to gain supremacy over another, and to hell with sharing the spoils.
It’s the essence of the contest that makes Australian escape rooms so popular. And so fun. There’s something genuinely infectious about getting a bunch of friends or colleagues together to complete a challenge, especially when the only thing you stand to lose is a piece of your ego. If you’ve recently lost a piece and don’t fancy losing another, here are some tips and tricks for conquering your next escape room adventure.
Name a full-strength team.
If you’re the type of person who lives for the weekend, not so you can relax but so you can live vicariously through your favourite team, then you know the importance of fielding the strongest squad possible at any occasion. And given that most escape rooms only last an hour, there’s nothing to gain from saving someone you think is perfect for another time.
Skills are what you’re looking for. Any choice made should be done so with this in mind. If you’re doing the escape room with people from work, this might be a simple process, as someone’s vocation will often hint at their strengths. With friends, though, it can prove a little trickier, as you may never have scrutinised them in this way. The trick is to strike a balance between what someone brings to the table and whether you can stand to have them at the table. Yes, you should choose friends whose company you genuinely enjoy. But, it’s only an hour, and if there’s a friend whose company you don’t mind but whose talent for lateral thinking is well documented in your friendship circle, well then, you know what to do.
Be punctual. And prepared.
Arriving late to a job interview won’t land you the job, just as arriving late to your escape room won’t help you conquer it. So make sure you give yourself plenty of time to arrive on time. Of course, life has an innate gift for tossing banana peels in your path when you’re trying to be punctual, but even if you aim to arrive 15 mins before you enter, you give yourself a better chance at success.
Unless you’ve already settled on matters, this window of time is when you assign everyone in your team a role. Being organised is one of the keys to conquering an escape room; if everyone is clear on what they need to do, more power to you. This is also the time when you get familiar with the theme of the escape room, the time limit, and the game master.
There’s no clever or fancy way to dress this up: you must communicate with each other. This is not the office, where the IT and HR departments barely register each other’s existence. Without good communication, you stand little chance of success. From letting everyone know when you’ve found a clue or solved a puzzle to giving loud, clear time updates, the more you talk with each other the better.
That said, remember to let everyone in your team have an equal say on matters. Yes, you’ve elected yourself the leader, but this is largely a symbolic election, and there’s little to gain if you boss your team around or won’t let them speak.
Leave your pride in the cloakroom.
Well, most of it. In any competition, you need to engage with your pride on some level. Just don’t let it cloud your better judgement or stall your progress, especially when it comes to dealing with the game master. Remember, there’s no mystery behind their title; they literally are the master of the escape room.
Which means, when they speak, you listen. They will outline the details of the escape room before you begin, and while this is standard for every escape room, these are details you need to understand. If you choose to ignore them you might find yourself breaking the rules without realising.
Also, don’t let your pride stop you from asking for help. Part of the game master’s role is to offer hints when needed. Rather than be stubborn and let your pride anchor you to a particular task, free yourself—and your team—by seeking help from the one who knows everything.
And, don’t forget to have fun.
Which brings us to that age-old debate over whether it’s all about the journey or the destination? The truth is, it’s usually about both. But unlike competitive sport where you can endure hardship, disappointment, and injury, all in the hope of coming out on top, with an escape room you must remember to enjoy the whole fruit. No one wants to be that friend, the one blinded by their competitiveness, who spoils the occasion for everyone else. If you have a tendency to be more Hyde than Jeckyll when it comes to competition, take a step back for a moment and consider the bigger picture. It is just a game.
Which, really, is the most important thing of all to remember and embrace. Escape rooms, when done in the right spirit with the right people, strike that wonderful balance between adventure—the pure kind you had as a kid—and intrigue. And, if you can strike it true, you’re in for an action-packed hour like no other. Good luck!