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Escape room experts. Is there anything else that might surprise them?

Escape room experts. Is there anything else that might surprise them?

Bartosz Idzikowski |

A visit to an escape room usually means excitement, discovering new worlds and interesting puzzles to solve. But what happens when a person who has already visited hundreds or thousands of escape rooms comes to them? Is it still possible to have a lot of fun with so much experience?

There is a reason why one of the information we usually find in descriptions of escape rooms is their difficulty level. It helps especially beginners to choose the right room for them. Complex and difficult escape room may be overwhelming with its complexity, the number of puzzles and grandeur. Experience gained during the game allows players to take advantage of increasingly difficult and complex games. But what happens during the game of a person who "has seen everything"? Is there anything else to surprise them?

The wow effect

We often expect the so-called "wow effect" from an escape room experience. For everyone, it means something completely different. As a rule, however, we encounter it when something surprises us when we see the mechanics or technology used for the first time. I asked one of the more known escape room players about it - Errol Elumir (https://thecodex.ca).

Bartosz: Is there still anything that can surprise you? What is the "wow effect" for you after so many rooms? And finally what was the biggest surprise for you until now in the escape room?

Errol Elumir: Oh, wow! Great question. This reminds me of a story of a couple of owners who desperately wanted to know if they created something I had never seen yet. Unfortunately, my response was always “no”, much to their chagrin.
For myself, there are a few areas :

  • Puzzles - a clever and unique Aha
  • Actors - a memorable interaction
  • Team - something we have to do together that’s not annoying
  • Narrative - a story I actually cared to pay attention to
  • Set - physical interaction or something I wasn’t expecting
  • Fun - something I can cheer about

Basically, I am wowed by things I haven’t seen before or elements that are presented in a unique and creative way that is unexpected. This rarely happens. From the above list, I can only think of one or two examples from hundreds of rooms. However, I also know I am not the target audience for an escape room, so I don’t go in expecting to be surprised. Having said all that, I was recently surprised in an escape room, and my surprise came when our whole team cheered about completing a game. The fact that we cheered was a surprise because we haven’t done that in years. However, we had so much fun in the room, we couldn’t help ourselves.

Errol Elumir with family in escape room

Repetitiveness, routine and pride

It can be said that the number of types of puzzles possible to set in an escape room is finite. However, designing escape rooms it's not about inventing new types of puzzles, but about skillfully embedding them in a novel way into the storyline of the room. Experience in escape rooms helps a lot in recognizing a given type of puzzle, but does it help in solving them? I asked about it one of the most experienced escape room players in Poland - Wojtek Brzeziński.

Bartosz: Does knowing the types of puzzles and schemes from an experienced player's perspective help or hinder room solving?

Wojtek Brzeziński: In my opinion, any experienced player, that is, one who has visited more than a few dozen Escape Rooms, may come across, and probably already has come across, a situation when he sees the same puzzle once again in another room and experiences the impression of "hmm I've seen this somewhere before...". One can consider how the player's experience and familiarity with the schemes and puzzles affect the perception of the room or the entertainment itself. Regardless of the imagination and creativity of the room creators, the pool of puzzles and their solution mechanisms is not a bottomless bag, and there is a high probability that we will come across repetitions or similar solutions the more we visit the rooms. For example, if we have been to five rooms about Alice in Wonderland then we can expect a similar card puzzle with a similar solution mode. Regardless of the theme, many ERs may repeat universal puzzles with UV flashlights, for example. The farther along in the statistics of the rooms visited, the more often the player begins to encounter repetitive situations and can automatically proceed to their solutions. 

Without a doubt, I would like the rooms to always surprise me, there is something new, and inspiring, something that does not cause me to follow familiar solution paths. On the other hand, I think that for me, as an experienced player, repetitiveness or familiarity with the types of puzzles is not a drawback of entertainment. Sometimes it allows you to catch a great flow and pace of play in a room, allows you to move smoothly through a scenario and really have fun. Often, simplicity seems far better than over-engineered, gimmicked and forcefully difficult puzzles. With a lot of experience, you have to be careful at times when it seems that you already know the puzzle for sure and know how to solve it because you've seen it before. It may turn out that, yes, the puzzle is similar, but its solution is completely different, which can stop us from going through the room for a long time. I've heard opinions from Game Masters that experienced players often get stuck on the simplest things because they definitely overcomplicate, or assume they know the exact scheme of the puzzle. By repeating the scheme with different puzzle parts than usual along the way, the experience can go down the drain, matter less and often cause more excitement. It is important that developers are able to create scenarios full of interesting, uncluttered puzzles, that deviate from the basic solutions, but at the same time, it seems to me that the number of solutions, however, is limited and finite. It would be great if it would be possible to surprise the player with something new in a big way in all this. If it succeeds, then the room remains in the player's memory for a long time and will cause that after such impressions, on the next occasion players may not get attached to the established ways out. In my opinion, for all players regardless of experience, it seems that having fun in puzzle rooms may be more important than the repetitiveness of the specific patterns we encounter.

However, one should remember that great experiences in escape rooms can also be a curse. So often you can hear from game masters that experienced players cannot cope with the simplest activities. Such people tend to complicate their chosen tasks with the idea that "It can't be that simple". This stops their game and often requires them to use hints. Experienced players usually communicate clearly before the game that they want to receive hints only at their own request.

This approach works great until this decision is made by a person focused on gaining records and considering himself/herself infallible. However, this type of player can be found among both experienced and novice escape room players.

Addiction to emotions

The most experienced players in the world have 600, 900 or even 1000 visited escape rooms in their accounts. Such a number indicates a very high devotion to this form of a game. It is not rare to travel to another country or even another continent to have so many visited rooms... Either on the occasion of business trips or specially organized escape room tours. How many rooms is a real escape room lover able to visit per month and how much is he able to spend on this hobby? To find out I asked Josep and Eulàlia from Die Helden Room Escapers - one of the most experienced escape room players in the world...

Josep and Eulàlia and 1000 rooms cake

Bartosz: Guys, how many rooms can you do in one month?

Josep and Eulàlia: Nowadays we are lucky if we can play 1 room per month… We have played everything in Catalunya (the Spanish region where we live) so we have nothing to play in less than 2.30h driving… We try to go at least once a month to someplace in Spain to play (depending on the load of work we have during the week, that since the covid it’s being a lot), and we can play around 10 games in one weekend
During our first years playing we were playing 4-5 escape rooms per week… when we finished working during the week we used to go playing just to relax from the workday
And then during the summer holidays from our first escape room years, we used to play ca. 100 rooms in our 2 weeks break (last summer we just played 31 escape rooms… we had no more to play…)

B: Where do you need to go to visit new rooms nowadays?

J&E: As said before, nowadays we have a few rooms to play around Spain, although they are really spread around the country… maybe 2h driving from one room to another… if we want to play 5-6 rooms in a day now we need to go abroad to other countries (in October we were 1 weekend to Amsterdam playing 6 rooms). We’re really willing to go on a big trip… Greece, USA… let’s hope it will be soon :)

B: Let’s talk about the money… How much does it cost to be such a big escape room fan?

J&E: It costs a lot… I don’t want to calculate/think about the money… you not only pay for the escape rooms but fuel for the car, hotels, lunch/dinner… you can more or less do a quick calculation if you want hahaha
Then obviously it’s also time-cost, but we love escape rooms, it’s our hobby so no worries about the time we spent..

B: So, how many rooms have you already played in?

J&E: We have played 1260 live escape rooms, and moreover we have also played around 50 online escape rooms and about 120 board escape rooms (obviously including the 3 Escape Tales that are in Spanish)… so more or less 1500 different adventures :)

B: With such a big amount of rooms played, how do you track your escape rooms list?

J&E: For tracking, we just have an Excel sheet where we write down the day and the escape room played, together with some comments, and marks (as we are part of the Spanish national escape room awards jury and we need then to vote)

Become an escape room freak

Everyone can become an escape room freak. If you have already visited a few rooms and you still haven't had enough you have a great predisposition for it. How to start and where to look for information: what rooms are the best to visit? Start by checking out the biggest escape room groups on Facebook. Here you will find what to visit next.

Share in the comments how many rooms you have already visited and which room was your favourite so far!

Bartosz Idzikowski

Bartosz Idzikowski

Lockme co-funder

Escape room enthusiast with over 550 visited rooms. Co-founder of escape room marketplace lock.me, escape room board games series Escape Tales and Escape Room World Championship Er Champ. In his spare time guitar player and lover of psychedelic progressive rock.

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