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Let’s take the hint, but you ask. Timeless texts in escape rooms

Let’s take the hint, but you ask. Timeless texts in escape rooms

Hanna Kwaśniewska |

There are things that each of us once did and there are sentences that each of us once said. Just as we used to build a hidden base out of blankets and pillows when we were kids, during our school days we used to go with a friend to the teachers' room and say "I knock, you ask." This is a common denominator that can also be seen among such a narrow social group as escape room enthusiasts.

Only one asks for a hint, while the other holds the walkie-talkie.

While each of us may just be at a completely different stage of familiarity with escape rooms, there are some texts that every player - whether they have 5 or 350 rooms - has uttered at least once in their lives. Some of us may not even have any idea how much we have in common with other players, even those on the other side of the world. It works the other way around as well - there probably isn't a day that goes by when the owner or the game master handling the group doesn't hear at least one of these immortal classics.

The texts may not be literal, but they are always about the same thing. Users of escape rooms are bound by a certain set of common behaviors that are so universal that, despite differences in language and syntax, we often say exactly the same thing as a player on the other side of the world. In a way, it's amazing - it's just like when each of us built the aforementioned base out of blankets when we were kids, even though we mostly didn't have the Internet back then and didn't communicate with others, which made us unaware that others were doing exactly the same thing.

The article should be taken with a pinch of salt. It is not intended to offend anyone, just to show that certain texts that are said in escape rooms are very repetitive and thus can be referred to as classics. Let's have a little laugh: articles about escape rooms are not only scientific texts and elaborate analyses, but most of all they are good fun.

"Are there puzzles in the toilet too?", or what we say before the game

Before the game begins, each group goes through a specific ritual. The team has to arrive at the venue, leave personal belongings in the designated area, listen to the technical implementation and read/hear/see the introduction to the room. It sounds trivial. However, it turns out that the person handling the group has a chance to hear some famous sentences from the mouths of its members even before the game itself begins - even if it's a really short time slot.

"The first puzzle was to find you!" - It's no secret that many companies have their headquarters in non-obvious locations, such as office buildings, townhouses or buildings where the way leads through winding paths and yards. Sometimes it's really hard to find a specific door that leads straight to your next adventure. Understandably, therefore, this text falls from the mouths of game participants extremely often.

"Are there puzzles in the toilet, too?" - Among other things, it's a good idea to visit the restroom before the game, which is why being punctual is so important. And the question about puzzles in the restroom before going to the restroom falls so often that if the game master got a dollar each time, his salary would at least double.

"If we escape, do we have to pay?", or just as often the other way - “If we don’t escape, do we still have to pay?” - The versatility of this text is primarily related to the fact that it can be used both in case you manage to escape and in case you do not get out in the allotted time. According to the research, this is not a text that is too liked by owners, because it can suggest that the group is trying to avoid paying for the service. More often than not, however, it is just an insert and part of small talk, so it is not worth taking too much to heart.

"We are an experienced group, we already have 3 rooms done" - Game master asking about the group's experience is an integral part of any escape room visit. This is because it facilitates many organizational aspects: the employee then knows how to conduct log training (and determine whether it is needed at all) and thus knows what to expect more or less from the game. Many players being at the beginning of their escaping career are absorbed in this pastime completely, planning the next room as soon as they leave the previous one. However, they are unaware of the existence of escape room tourism and the fact that some people live the escape room life to the point that they do more than one room during one outing. Therefore, it seems to them that having 5 rooms to their credit is already a large number and a lot of experience. Nothing but envy - there are still so many great rooms ahead of them!

"We don't take hints, we go for the record" - Some teams during the introduction don't even want to know what hint system is in place in the room. All because they feel confident enough to think about breaking the record. Although escape rooms are all about having fun and thinking, there are teams for whom it is already a kind of sport. There are also groups who, engrossed in the early days of discovering this field of entertainment, want to push further boundaries. There is nothing left to do but remind people not to forget about pleasure in all this.

"And if we don't escape, will we stay here forever?" - This text is the domain of very beginner groups. This question is usually asked by people who hear the phrase "escape room" for the first time and don't yet know quite what the fun is all about. There's nothing wrong with that: it's worth making such a person aware that no one will lock anyone in there forever (although there are some rooms that teams really don't want to leave).

(After being blindfolded before entering) "Bands? Uuuuuh, like in 50 Shades of Grey!" - While the connotations are, on the whole, correct and unambiguous, it is an amazing phenomenon that these words are spoken by so many unrelated people. Of course, this only applies to companies that bring groups into their rooms after blindfolding them in advance. We can be pretty sure that each of us has said (or thought) something like this at least once in our lives.

"Eh, that means we have to leave the hammer..." - Or a screwdriver. Or a wrench. Or any other tool whose name falls after the game master's request not to use force. According to randomly interviewed owners, this text falls more often than any of the above.

"Quiet, something has opened!", that is, the texts falling during the game

Well. After a spirited introduction, the group is now in the room and can begin their adventure with the new scenario. In front of them is an hour or so full of puzzles, twists and emotions - the very things that influence the frequency with which certain texts are uttered. Although most of the classics from before the start of the game fall from the mouths of less experienced players, with the texts used in the middle of the room the differences in experience are clearly blurred.

"Let's take a hint, but you ask" - Taking hints among teams is often (quite wrongly and unnecessarily!) a taboo subject, especially among those experienced teams. Of course, it's absolutely nothing wrong to back up with a suggestion when something doesn't work out for us or we haven't been able to handle a puzzle for a long time, and the minutes are flying by - it's downright salvation. Shifting the responsibility for asking for help between players, however, was, is and will be a phenomenon that generates this text. And it falls in the rooms very often indeed. Just like in school, when you have to knock on the door of the teachers' room and ask something.

"The padlock does not work" - Very often it happens that the group is so convinced of the correctness of their code that they first consider breaking the padlock rather than recalculating their actions again.

"I said it five minutes ago, but no one listened to me!" - Communication in a team is very important and should be constantly worked on, and this text is the best proof of that. If the team does not have a developed system for exchanging observations between the members, this text will remain on the agenda.

"Hey, something opened up?" - This phrase falls practically every time a hiding place opens or a door swings open after doing a puzzle, and we rely solely on listening. During Lockme's Facebook poll, which selected the most frequently used text in an escape room in 2021, this one outclassed all other suggestions.

"You go first" - Horror room attendants hear this text with their groups far more often than with other rooms. Yet also when visiting rooms from other categories such a text can fall. And it does fall. Especially when the door to the exit or to the next room opens.

"Try typing backwards" - Who among us has never said this, let him cast the first stone. After all, it's an indispensable rule for solving puzzles - if not one way, try the other. Even when no logic indicates it. In the end, you have to check, search and combine.

"Click out the last digit" - Or otherwise brute force the last digit. Especially in groups that care about the record, this practice (and thus the text) is a very common phenomenon to observe.

"This is so illogical" - Even if the game puzzle is very logical, it does not prevent this phrase to appear. In a flurry of emotion, the often uttered text will, over time, turn into a discussion of the logical construction, with the game master (after the game) or another player (while the game is still in progress) explaining exactly what the task was.

"Oh, the last puzzle!" - If in a given room, exiting means finding the last key, it is very likely that this very phrase will be said at the time of placing the key in the lock.

"When do you open the new room?", that is, when it is over

There's no denying that most of the traditional texts associated with playing in a puzzle room have already been mentioned. Nevertheless, there are still some that fall rather at the end of the adventure, which is the time between leaving the room and exiting the building, that is, during the conversation with the game master.

"What is the record in this room?" - Yes, this text can sometimes also fall before the game starts, but by far more often it falls right afterwards. Players often ask out of sheer curiosity, but sometimes they ask about the record in the context of their own gameplay in order to compare or form an opinion about the level of difficulty.

"When do you open a new room?" - This text is particularly common in companies that have just opened a new room. It is related to the rather positive emotions of the group - they have just completed a room that drew them into a whirlwind of puzzles and they still can't get enough. Keep in mind that the peculiarity of the escape room customer is that it is a "one-off", so the wait for a new room can take a really long time.

Player texts as a common denominator for all escape room enthusiasts

There are certainly still many texts that can be considered classics in different parts of the world. And this is great - players' "catchphrases" can depend not only on the experience of the group but also on the specifics of the rooms from a particular region or the groups themselves. For example - if we have a group on tap that goes in a regular lineup of rooms, and one of the people is of the fearful ones, a visit to a horror room will certainly consist of several "you go first" texts.

It is worth recalling that some of these are the domain of beginner groups, and some come from players with a large track record of visited escape rooms. There are also some that fall in everyone, regardless of experience. Game masters and owners certainly hear a few of these every day. What's interesting in all of this is the owner's or other room attendant's take - we realize that a given text may be less funny to them than to us as the party using the phrase. However, there is nothing wrong with that - they just hear it too often. Or is it just the other way around and the game masters keep statistics on how often a given text falls during their shift? Who knows. This is in no way a stigma - it's a curiosity that should be treated in terms of fun because escape rooms are all about fun.

Perhaps until now, many players were unaware that we have so much in common when it comes to cult texts. Enthusiasts of this form of entertainment can feel united even more, and this makes the industry even more amazing.

Hanna Kwaśniewska

Hanna Kwaśniewska


Lock.me team member. Germanist and scholar of German literature - German language is also her superpower. Besides escape rooms and board games, she loves Dragon Ball, Star Wars and cynology. After work she likes learning foreign languages, writing texts and planning her next trip to escape room, probably with rap music in the background. Totally extrovert.

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