I notice many bizarre sports competitions and amazing tournaments held around the world while surfing the internet. Most peculiar competitions I've heard about are the World Sleep Championships or The World Worm Charming Championships. No, you don't need glasses - I wrote worm charming. So it should not be surprising that the World Escape Room Championships are also organized.
What is ER Champ, how to prepare for it and what do the winners of the previous edition have to say about the competition?
What exactly is ER Champ?
ER Champ is an international escape room competition in which teams from around the world compete for the best result in solving escape rooms. Every year, there are thousands of participants in these competitions, and this number is growing cyclically. Since 2020, ER Champ is held online. More about this year’s edition you can read here.
How to prepare for ER Champ? What world’s best teams and champions say.
We asked how and how long the best players have been getting ready for this competition. We were interested if they trained or one day just said ‘Let’s do it’.
CKCOS - 2021 ER Champ Champions
The winners of last year's edition are from Taiwan. The team consists of 4 members. Meet the team!
Foxtrot - played around 150 rooms in Taiwan and 15-20 puzzle-solving events in Japan (including conventional escape rooms and other "real escape game" type events) since 2016, and countless online escape rooms. A favorite online escape room is "ELEMENTS" by Neutral, but is currently unplayable due to the end of support for Adobe Flash.
Ting - played around 80 rooms in Taiwan since 2014.
Yui - played around 40 rooms in Taiwan since 2014.
Esrever - only 3 real escape rooms played, but experienced in online escape rooms (goes back to over a decade ago).
Anna: What is the secret of being the best of the best in the world?
CKCOS: Our team didn't form until one week before the stress test. Before the eliminations, we met up (online) several times and went through all the elimination stages of previous championships to see what types of riddles/puzzles you would put in your rooms. This proved to be really helpful since we also needed some time to familiarize ourselves with ERChamp's unique system.
After we qualified for the final stage, we moved on to the online finales of previous championships. We also timed ourselves to see where we would stand if we had participated in each year's championships.
There's really no secret strategy for escape rooms, and often what you need is a flash of brilliance and some luck. We did come up with two rules that guided and helped us a lot during the championship:
make sure everyone has their own specific role (e.g., searching for items, tackling riddles, gathering information), and
always share with others what you find, notice, or think. By sticking to these rules, we were able to function as one team instead of four completely individual players.
SHUNGYO - 2nd place ER Champ 2021
Second world's best escape room team is from Japan. How did they prepare for the competition, how many rooms did they play and what is their advantage?
Anna: Guys, what is your story?
Shungyo: We started playing in a real escape room when we were in first grade in high school. At almost the same time, we started to create puzzles, riddles, and problems, and now we are a member of a group creating escape rooms at university. Each of us has played real escape rooms more than 50 times in Japan.
Anna: How to prepare for the escape room championships?
Shungyo: We only played the 2020 ER Champ game just before the competition. The reason why we were good at this competition is that we've been close friends for a long time. We know our strengths and weaknesses, so we each know who should solve which problem and divide the problems immediately.
Smart! Friendship is a real superpower.
HYDRA - ex aequo 3rd place ER Champ 2021
The HYDRA team took 3rd place in last year’s ER Champ edition. The team has 4 members - Yano, Katakana, Fumi and Pu-chin. Yano has been playing web-based escape games since he was in elementary school. Katakana, Fumi, and Pu-chin have been playing these games since they were in junior high school.
Anna: How many escape rooms have you played so far?
HYDRA: We played more than 200 Real Escape Games in Japan.
Anna: So what to do to be successful? Just training?
HYDRA: We created an account 2 years ago right in the middle of the ER CHAMP 2020 eliminations, and participated in the eliminations about 2 hours late. We were eliminated by a narrow margin, but our playing was good. So we decided to participate from the beginning next time. This year, we trained by playing games held in the past while competing with rival teams who usually play escape games together, and we were able to achieve the results we did this time.
Far East Solvers - ex aequo 3rd place ER Champ 2021
Who are they? Meet the Far East Solvers team, which took 3rd place ex aequo with the HYDRA.
Tokohal - “Escape room director”. Organizer and origin of the longest-running Japan’s Riddle Championship “KING OF SOLVERS”. Rank 5th/50000 on Escape Room Championship TV SHOW in Japan (2022). Voted as the best creator for “ESCAPE ROOM CREATOR of the YEAR” (2020 and 2021).
Musakushi - ”Escape room director”. Organizer and director of ”KING OF SOLVERS(2020)” and Champion of Escape Room Championship TV SHOW in Japan (2022). Champion of Riddle Creator Championship organized by Escape room company SCRAP (2014, 2018).
Sakaidani Hikari - “Escape room director” ”Puzzle designer”. Champion of ”KING OF SOLVERS(2016)”. Creator of Japanese Celebrity Escape Room TV PROGRAM with Tokohal and Musakushi.
Hanaoka Shuichiro - “Escape room director”. Ranked 1st/10000 in a Large Scale Escape game by SCRAP(2021). Ranked 7th in the Japan Puzzle Championship. Ranked 9th on a broadcasted High School Quiz Championship.
Anna: What is your secret, guys?
FES: Far East Solver aims to be the world champion since we flew to fight the Poland championship in 2019. Our secret to success comes from our love to escape rooms. To enjoy a great escape we are willing to fly anywhere!
Wow! That's the spirit!
Best 2021 teams have advice for players of this year’s edition
I also asked CKCOS, SHUNGYO, HYDRA, and Far East Solvers if they have some advice or tips for next edition’s players. Here are their answers!
Try spreading out in different rooms instead of all focusing on one single riddle/puzzle, if possible.
Familiarize yourself with riddles/puzzles from previous championships.
Item searching is a difficult but crucial part in ERChamp rooms, so it wouldn't hurt to have two or even more people to focus on this when you're stuck.
Come up with your own style of communication within your team (and think: Which platform for communication suits us best? Who should be doing what? What should we do if we get stuck?) - communication is key!
Don't be stressed or panic when you see your team falling behind since it only makes things worse.
Have fun and enjoy the escape rooms!
We suppose understanding each other's strengths beforehand is important, but the most significant thing is to have fun! - SHUNGYO
In Japan, a well-known piece of advice for escape games is "information sharing and division of roles". This was no exception at this competition, and the game was able to proceed smoothly by always being aware of ‘what information was not being used’, ‘who should do" and "what should we do’. In addition to this, we had the perspective of ‘If we were to create this game…’. Because of this, we could see what kind of solution would be natural among the many possibilities and break through relatively quickly even if I get stuck. - HYDRA
In complex situations, our team has a consensus to trust the ER Champ creators. ER Champ designs games fair and competitive, there is always a chance to think further in hard stagnation. - Far East Solvers
Thank you guys for it! I hope that some of the Championship participants will consider your advice.
ER Champ history
ER Champ (previously Poland Escape), has been held since 2017. That is when the first competition took place, attracting 1767 participants. The competition consisted of 3 stages. Internet eliminations, regional stage, and the grand finale in Wrocław. Apart from the first edition, the initial eliminations have always been a cooperative point-and-click game that all participants solve at the same time. The fastest top 60 teams advance to the next stage. The regional stage is a game in real escape rooms, built especially for this occasion. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this intermediate stage has been canceled both this year and the previous year.
From the very beginning, the aim of the championships was to promote the idea of escape rooms among escape room and puzzle game enthusiasts, as well as people who have not had contact with this type of entertainment so far. Organizers want to interest as many people as possible with a passion for escape rooms. The games - although they are not the simplest - can attract even people who are the most resistant to puzzle games.
Journalist and indologist by profession. Writer, marketer, tarantulas keeper and urbex explorer by heart.
In the meantime I’m playing escape rooms and board games, and I wonder how I find time to sleep (still dunno). I was born to write - my favorite forms of expression are extensive articles preceded by a long research, and horror stories (for some it’s the same).
Greetings from Traverse City, MI! Now that we have had a week to recuperate, we’re ready to give you a recap of our twelve state, thirty-five escape room marathon that we completed in just sixteen days!