Escape Rooms

The Seven Stages of an Escape Room

There are 7 stages that all participants go through in an escape room. Whether or not you escape is based solely on your ability to make it past the first 4 stages. But what are these stages?

Stage 1: The Fear.

Everyone is afraid when first entering a new escape room, regardless of whether you’ve played before. The fear of making yourself look like an idiot in front of your work colleagues, friends and family or complete strangers is incredibly obvious the moment you step through the door. Even with a bit of liquid courage, your loud bravado isn’t fooling anyone.

Stage 2: The Confusion.

When groups first enter the room, a game master must watch as teams wander around in hopes that answers will jump out at them. Usually, they’ll be led astray by the fake confidence of Uncle Darren or Manager Nick who know this is absolutely what everyone in the team should be working on. It’s almost certainly a complete waste of time. This period of confusion, where people warm up their brains and finally start opening padlocks, is either the best or the worst part of a game master’s job, depending, of course, on who has the walkie talkie.

Stage 3: The Stubbornness.

Usually at this point, a game master might chime in and offer a bit of assistance. This is also usually the moment that a small debate breaks out within the team as to whether to ask for help. The answer is a no, obviously, because ‘We have plenty of time!’

Stage 4: The Depression.

This is the stage where teams start to doubt themselves. Some symptoms of this stage: sulking, randomly kicking the floor, and pessimism. There are two ways in which this stage can go. The first is that the team give up; Uncle Darren sits in the corner. The second is that with nothing left to give, they finally remember that asking for help doesn’t mean you’re a bad player. It’s a main part of teamwork and we’re part of your team. A hint, a nudge, or the ever useful ‘Yes or No’ questions come into play here. These are part of standard game play. Usually teams just need a small nudge in the right direction and they’re off again.

Stage 5: The Excitement.

With a small nudge, whilst this debate is going on and the depression ensues, one of the unassuming members of the team has been quietly working. The excitement comes when the other team members notice that a padlock or panel has opened. This is the best part. Finally, teams feel as though they’re getting somewhere. This stage can happen at any point between 15 minutes or 40 minutes into the game.

Stage 6: The Breakthrough.

And we’re finally on a roll. Is that another padlock open? I do believe it is. Your game master is most definitely cheering you on at this point, you just can’t hear them.

Stage 7: The Panic.

The panic usually happens within the last five minutes of the game; usually someone gets hurt. The most common symptom of the panic stage is the overuse of the walkie talkie. You’d like a hint on something you already know how to do? We’re only going to be able to tell you what you already know. Calm down. Breath, you’ve got this.

At this point, either you escape, or you don’t. Though, as I’ve mentioned previously, if you can’t make it past the first 4 stages; The Fear, The Confusion, The Stubbornness and The Depression, you won’t escape. Don’t be Uncle Darren. Push through and you’ll escape with plenty of time remaining. We believe in you. It’s time for you to believe in yourself… or ask for help.

Want to see if you can pinpoint the stages yourself? Try one of our games and let us know whether your team shares this experience!

By Charlotte Potter

Delightful Customers

To business that we love we rise betime and go to it with delight —Shakespeare Working in the escape game industry can be repetitive. Games Masters watch the same puzzles get solved over and over and over. This can fool us into believing that people are just as predictable. But every now and then, a customer with some unexpected talent, saying, or eccentricity restores one’s faith in people’s ability to shock, delight, and move.

The boy who loved Egypt

A family had just emerged from our Pharaoh’s Chamber when the son, whose 14 th birthday it was, said, ‘I appreciated the realism of your canopic jars.’ I must have looked confused, for he went on, ‘you know, canopic jars, where they put the organs—livers and kidneys and stuff.’ I had not known, but clearly I should have. There I was, in my third year running the Chamber (as we call it), and never once had I inquired into the nature of those little golden jars. The boy showed me pictures from his family holiday in Egypt. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘our hotel balcony looked over the Giza Pyramids.’ And there he was, sure enough, grinning on the balcony with one arm round his sister and the other pointing behind him, where the great wonder of the world rose up in the haze. He showed me pictures from inside Tutankhamen’s tomb. ‘How did he die, again?’ I asked. ‘Modern scholarship diverges on this point,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘so I myself suspend judgment, but it is most fascinating, isn’t it?’ If only all 14-year-olds were so bright (and polite).

Gun-nut Grandpa

Not long ago, a family showed up to play ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, one of our more physically demanding games. It was for the grandfather’s birthday. He must have been about 90, by the looks of him, and seemed frail during the introduction. Once inside the game, however, he moved like lion in pursuit of an antelope. It soon became clear that he was drawing from past experience when he said, ‘Let’s biff a few Germans, shall we?’ For that is the theme of ‘The Dark Side…’ Players must travel to the Moon and systematically destroy those national socialists who didn’t opt for Brazil or the Vatican. It was really a thing of beauty: grandpa, laser guns akimbo, ‘biffing’-to use the Waughian term-as many gerries as possible, escaping an hour later with an irrepressible grin on his wrinkled face.

Crazy Carpet Lady

She was disturbingly eccentric from the moment she walked in. She seemed to sort of…sniff the air, like a dog. Her hair was dreadlocked and matted, and covered in yellow beads. Like Professor Trelawny from Harry Potter, she squinted out through think, circular glasses. Before its grand revamping, Room 33 had, at that time, a carpet: purple, slightly worn, but a carpet nonetheless. Once this lady was deposited safely inside, she proceeded to crawl around on all- fours examining every square inch of the carpet. Her friends were obviously used to this kind of behavior, because they just ignored and stepped over her, and she fumbled, squinted, and sniffed around the floor. Once their game was up (they did not escape), she approach me and said: ‘I’ve been examining your carpet.’ ‘Oh?’ I replied. ‘Yes…it’s a bloody awful carpet. It’s not even one carpet, just lots of squares of carpet pushed together.’ ‘I hadn’t noticed.’ She withdrew from her pocket a business card and leaned in close. She whispered: ‘Look…I sell carpets. Good carpets. All sorts of carpets. And your carpet is really bloody awful. Hit me up. Call me. I’m usually awake. I await your inquiry.’ I never did call her, and we have floorboards in Room 33 now, but I do sometimes wonder what amazing rug she might have provided.
By Oscar Yuill

Team Building and Escape Rooms are the Perfect Mix

Sometimes finding the best outing for a staff party is hard, we all know that. You need something that will inspire all your work colleagues into enjoying their time together whilst also trying to improve their teamwork and communication skills. Now, whilst we’re not saying going out and getting drunk together won’t do this, we, at Escape Rooms, believe that playing one or more of our games will be a much better substitute for awkward small talk and a great way of avoiding a nasty hangover for work the next day.

If that hasn’t convinced you already, here are 5 reasons as to why you should choose to play an escape game for your work outing:

1) Team building is hard.

However, when you force people to work together in a high stress situation for a short amount of time, usually a team dynamic forms. Our rooms at Angel are particularly good for team building as they’re linear games. This means that teams must work together to solve one puzzle, riddle, or obstacle at a time. Furthermore, escape rooms mean that you can’t escape the room until they’re done. This means that a team member can’t sneak off and not participate. For more information about team building, see: www.escaperooms.co.uk/corporate. See what I’m doing here? Team work. Go check out my colleague’s blog post.

2) You can get a better picture of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses.

If you’re looking for the next person to promote, Escape Rooms are not only a great way to see how people work under pressure but also to see who naturally leads the team through puzzles. There is a very clear definition between the types of leaders as well. You’ll be able to see who the tyrannical leader – those who do not listen to the suggestions of others, and who is the diplomatic leader – those who are more open to the opinions of their teammates. You may also find ‘The Cassandra’, the team player who has all the answers and gets overruled by The Tyrant. ‘The Queen Bee’ is also a character you’ll find. Every had a suspicion that one of your workers, perhaps one of your leaders, are claiming the credit for other people’s hard work? This is a good way to catch them in the act. For more character evaluation of your employees, see What Team Member are you? at https://www.escaperooms.co.uk/team_types.

3) Team building usually has a bad reputation, but Escape Rooms are fun.

I’m sure that whenever you mention the phrase ‘team building’ to your employees, there’s at least one person that complains. Usually, teams complain up until the point that they enter one of our venues. Sometimes they even complain up to the point where they enter the room. After this point, they forget that they’re meant to be here for work – instead they start to have fun. They focus on the task at hand and nine times out of ten, we have teams leaving the room wanting to play another game. Unknowingly, team building becomes fun when you throw in some laser guns and a few puzzles to crack. Now previously, I’ve spoken about the Seven Stages of an Escape Room, which, as the name suggests, looks at the stages that teams go through whilst within one of our games. If you want more of an idea of what your employees will be up against, emotionally, mentally and perhaps physically, I’d suggest you take a look at the full post: http://www.escaperooms.co.uk/seven_stages

4) A bit of friendly competition never fails to get the blood pumping.

A great aspect of Escape Rooms is the fact that each of our venues has two rooms – meaning that you can bid teams against each other. Not only does this increase motivation but is generally causes a few jokes to be thrown around in the name of competition, leaving teams laughing and bonding together. If you believe that two of your employees don’t usually get along, putting them within the same team may inspire some team spirit within them when put in competition with their co-workers. We also have the Walls of Fame, which are infinitely difficult to get onto. Click here to find out more: http://www.escaperooms.co.uk/walls_of_fame_and_infamy

5) Failure leads to bonding.

If none of your employees escape, then they fail together. They can learn from the mistakes they made during the process of the room, meaning that their knowledge of teamwork skills improves. If one team member was bad at communicating, they know for the future that they need to be more vocal about getting help or ideas that they have. If a team member struggles with listen to other ideas, they may be more open to taking input from other people on upcoming projects. Truly, it’s a win-win situation. Now if you want to avoid failure or looking like you’re the one who causes it, I’d suggest looking over this blog post: http://www.escaperooms.co.uk/dictionary

So regardless of whether your employees escape the rooms or not, there is something to learn about teamwork within Escape Rooms. We hope to hear from you soon with news of your team bonding plans to join us at one or both of our venues.

By Charlotte Potter

Red Bull Mind Gamers Escape Rooms World Championship

What is it?

Red Bull Mind Gamers Escape Rooms World Championship is a global tournament designed to find the best escape room team. Having just finished its second year of competitions, teams must compete both online and offline in order to qualify. The best team from each country will be picked to represent their home in the final. The final in 2019 was based in London, right around the corner from us! This year’s room was designed by Dr. Scott Nicholson and his students. Dr. Scott Nicholson is an American Professor of Game Design & Development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, Ontario, so he knows his way around creating both virtual and physical games. In an interview with Red Bull when asked what makes these games different to traditional escape rooms, Nicholson states ‘We recognized that we were creating a spectator sport with this escape room, so wanted to focus on challenges that would be more active and visual, and that would keep the team working together during most challenges,’ basically meaning that elements of escape rooms like padlocks were virtually none existent. On their website, Red Bull Mind-Gamers describe this year’s room as ‘designed to challenge 6 problem-solving skills: creativity, logic, visual thinking, musicality, memory and strategy.’ The game is an adventure from start to finish, allowing the teams to be fully immersed into their reality.

How do you get involved?

Well sadly, you’ve missed out on the 2019 competition but there’s always next year to get involved with. To participate, you and your team must first qualify online. www.redbullmindgamers.com/escape. After playing the Qualification Mode from the Single player Game you can directly create your own team by coming up with a team name and inviting additionally 3 team members via email. After all your team members accepted your invite you can claim a spot at your local qualifiers. You will all need to compete under the same country in order to qualify for the global competition. As I’ve already mentioned, one team per country is picked to compete. That is phase one. Phase two is offline games, held in 23 different counties; from Australia to Germany, India, Estonia, over the USA to Brazil. The teams that average below 5 minutes in the online games will compete in this next stage against others within their location. The winner of these games will proceed through to the final, a complicated escape room. The rest is up in the air still considering the 2019 final was just this past weekend. As long as you’re over 16, you can enter to get involved with these games. We’ve met some incredible teams over the years who I believe would excel at the Red Bull Mind-Gamers Escape Rooms World Championship. The 2019 winners were Brainteaselava, from Slovakia, who puzzled their way through to escape the 2-day tournament first place. Congratulations!!! Will you enter? What have you got to lose?
By Charlotte Potter

Going Green

With a venue at Angel and another at London Bridge, we at Escape Rooms enjoy all the conveniences and privileges of central London life. Our game masters need only to pop to the corner to get lunch; the nearest tube station is only 10 minutes’ walk, and everything – that means everything – is available 7 days a week at the shops within reach. I’d be lying if I said we never took these conveniences for granted. But, recently, it became very clear that the fruits of the 21st century come with a hefty price attached. The eye-openingly-named Extinction Rebellion protestors closed down some of the arterial streets and bridges of London to bring attention to the direct existential threat humankind is currently facing and call for urgent action. How do we -as a small company in the heart of London- fit in this picture at all? We’ve been trying to change our ways at Escape Rooms for a while now, becoming greener in our decisions. But I must admit it’s been baby steps. In the last year, we’ve stopped offering plastic cups to customers and moved onto paper cups. Whilst we know that this isn’t ideal, of course, we’re aware that paper is better than plastic. As for us? We have been using our own branded fancy ceramic mugs (want one? click here!). We’ve made steps to become greener through creating less waste as well. We reuse Blu Tack, for instance, when sticking customer ‘team cards’ onto the Wall of Fame at London Bridge. In fact, we’re a bit stir crazy with reusing Blu Tack. There’s an unspoken competition in play at our London Bridge venue, with game masters competing for who can make the best Blu Tack figures. They’re everywhere within our office space. We now use biodegradable sweet wrappers for our complimentary sweets – thanks to our supplier for offering this option! We replaced our wooden tea-stirrers with a permanent set of company cutlery because we believe that the future is reusable not recyclable. We stopped using long lasting milk sachets and, instead, we’re making regular trips to our local grocery shops to pick up some bottled fresh milk (sadly they still come in plastic) along with some basics rather than ordering them online. Furthermore, we don’t print tickets for our games and all our correspondence is via email, even our invoices come in an electronic form. Always. Our next steps will be to ensure a thorough recycling system is in play at both of our venues. This takes a little more preparation but we’re working on it. Additionally, we’re looking into ways that we can replace the paper that we give to customers to use within their games. We’re hoping to invest into smart boards or perhaps even white boards. Love escaping? How can you be Earth-friendly when you’re coming to play an escape game? First: don’t print your confirmation email. There’s no need! Just your name on arrival is enough for us to confirm your booking. Second: Walk to our venue or use public transport. Parking is difficult around our venue anyway and the city has just welcomed 24 hour ‘Ultra Low Emissions Zone’ areas which we fall into. Therefore, try not to use your car when coming to our venues. Find more environmentally friendly transport. Third: Bring your own reusable water bottle and you can fill it up at any of our venues with filtered tap water!  Don’t litter! Fourth: Please be gentle to our props and equipment. This means that things last for longer within both of our venues and we don’t need to replace props as often. This doesn’t mean we want you to stop having fun. It’s just us asking you to be more self-aware of the affect you’re having on our planet. We all could do a bit more, but slowly, we’re making changes to help. Is this enough? Probably not. But it’s a good start.
By Escape Rooms Team Picture by Vladimir Morozov via Extinction Rebellion  

4 Years at Escape Rooms

I have worked in a café, garden centre, car factory, flour mill, pub, and escape game. Quite a variety, and each with their instructions in human nature. It was the last, however— ‘Escape Rooms’—that has, after four years, left the deepest imprint.

Just so we’re on the same page, an escape game involves being locked in a themed room full of puzzles, in which teams must work together to escape within an hour. Think Crystal Maze without the crystals, or Takeshi’s Castle without the brutality. The concept arose from phone apps before turning tangible. Our own company was, I think, the third such game in London. There are now dozens, attesting to their explosion in popularity. We are a small company of two venues, preferring quality to quantity, but there are now escape game companies from Dubai to Norway, Romania to New Zealand.

My interview involved playing one of the games. I was terrible, so they must have seen something else in me. I was soon officially a ‘Game Master’: introducing teams, telling back-stories about the game, and watching them on-screen, with a walkie-talkie to provide the occasional ‘hint’ (no more than three to make it on the coveted wall of fame). Two years later, we opened another venue, in Angel, with another two games. Trained on all four, I continued in this role before briefly becoming one of the managers.

I mentioned ‘instruction in human nature’. This was unavoidable—and equal parts funny and depressing. Observing families, colleagues, and friends stuck in a room together reveals among other things, for instance, dire levels of literacy. Bankers who strut it wearing Rolex watches frequently ask me to define ‘simultaneous’ without any evident embarrassment. Teachers—teachers!—have asked me to explain the difference between rows and columns. Given the hint to search for digits, teams often reply, ‘We haven’t found any letters.’ And the query, ‘Can I ask you a yes or no question?’ is self-evidently annoying. But teams may also edify. We have a Rubik’s Cube in the lobby, and it’s always children who manage to solve it. One team playing the Pharaoh’s Chamber claimed to be distant relations of Howard Carter, the man who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun.

I’ll miss this place. I’ll miss the unexpected variety and delightfulness of customers, from Waughian reactionary to Sheikh to builder to professional Rubik’s cube solvers (seriously). I’ll miss Martin Freeman and Woody Harrelson, both of whom popped in (not together) without notice or fanfare. I’ll miss the email we received, from out of the blue, from the actor who played Mike Teevee in the original Willy Wonka movie. I’ll miss my colleagues, who hailed from as far as Pakistan, the Philippines, Bermuda, and the north. I’ll miss the bald chap who walked into a door. I’ll miss the visitor who mistook us for a sauna. I’ll miss my old manager’s French bulldog, Malcolm, who baptised customers with his tireless tongue. I’ll miss our mascot Colin, literally a skeleton in the closet. And I’ll miss feeling at home here, belonging, being known.

This job has sustained me through my first years in London, providing structure, friendships, and of course rent money. But I shall never see it in purely instrumental terms. As I move on to the next job, I will not forget my time here. Je ne regrette rien.

By Oscar Yuill

Its Our Birthday!

Whilst it’s customary on your birthday to receive gifts, we, at Escape Rooms, decided that this year we’d give back. As a company, we recently turned 5 years old and it’s not something we could have done without our customers and our incredible team. Since we opened 5 years ago at our London Bridge location, so much has changed. Our rooms have been redecorated, and we’ve a whole new set of staff (though some of our oldest are still with us). For 3 years, our games at London Bridge steadily grew more popular, which lead to us, 2 years ago, opening up a new set of games which we’re also very proud of. But what exactly did we do for our birthday, I hear you ask?

Well, we started off by offering discount at both of our venues for any booking made in within a two-week time frame. What was great about this is that you could book for any date in the future available on our website with the discount, not just for the two weeks that the campaign was running for. We continued this at our Angel venue, the more expensive of the two, for a week onwards from this. We also ran a competition over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for customers to win vouchers to both of our venues, London Bridge and Angel. So, in the end, we had 5 weeks of surprises with a fun, exciting offers and events happening each week for our customers.

Alongside this, during the second week of August, we started putting aside a percentage of every booking made at our London Bridge venue to be donated to charity. The charity we decided to support was Mind, as the incredible work they do has an effect on many people around us and was voted for by our Game Masters. Mind state that ‘[They] provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. [They] campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. [They] won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect.’ The total amount that we donated was £450. If you’d like to know more about Mind as a charity and how you can help, follow this link: https://www.mind.org.uk

We also celebrated from within the company as well. We held a party for our staff, which included pizza, homemade cake made by Eszter, one of our managers, and dancing. We also held a race to see who could solve our Project DIVA game fastest which we entitled ‘The Project DIVA Olympics.’ This was a speed run of the game, as obviously we all know the answers here, and the quickest time came in at 6 minutes and 27 seconds, by me! We were all very out of breath by the end of this and the dancing slowed considerably. After filling ourselves up on food and catching our breath, we made our way over to a different escape room where we played, and completed, some fun games.

So here we are, 5 years after opening with an intelligent and fun team of workers and a wonderful unending number of customers – from first timers to polished escape artists. We’re extremely proud of all that we’ve achieved over the last 5 years and hopefully, in 5 years’ time, someone else will be writing about all we’ve achieved after another 5 years. So Happy Birthday to us, and thank you for your dedication. We were one of the first escape rooms to open up in the UK and with a bit of luck, we’ll continue on to new exploits. Perhaps a new room and new games! Feel free to submit your ideas to us about this via our Twitter page – we’d love to hear your thoughts on what we should do next!

Onwards and upwards – thank you for a wonderful 5 years.

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By Charlotte Potter

The state of flow in an Escape Room

I would like to talk about the flow in an escape room. By this term I don’t mean the game flow but the psychological state of mind also known as being in the zone. When I played my first escape game 6 years ago – when this concept was quite new (see the blurry pic below) – it left me in awe. I couldn’t stop talking about it for weeks, I felt the urge to tell everyone about it. It made me wonder, what exactly has left such a deep impact on me and why? The game was ok, the room was pretty basic and our team was a bit random. So what then? After doing some research on good old Google, I came across the term ‘flow zone’ – an expression I was familiar with but not in relation to escape games.

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In the psychological terminology flow is a state of mind where the person is fully involved with whatever activity or task is being carried out, in our case playing an escape game. They enjoy it and are physically and mentally completely engaged; focused. They’re motivated by the activity itself and that becomes the reward, rather than the result. The person is absorbed in the activity so deeply that basic needs such as hunger or need to sleep disappear and time seems to be flying by. The concept has existed before e.g. in certain Eastern religions but was first given a name by MihályCsíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian-American psychologist and is explained in this chart:

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The vertical axis shows how difficult a puzzle/task is, the horizontal axis shows the level of our own personal skills. For example, if the customer is very skilled but the puzzle is too easy, they will get bored. If the puzzle is way too hard and they don’t have the right set of skills to solve it, eventually they will get anxious and frustrated.

To simplify this chart especially focusing on escape games, here is another chart showing the flow channel located:

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So in the flow zone, the difficulty of the challenge is proportionate to the skill levels.

If it’s really such a great thing being in the zone, why don’t we do it all the time? Because one doesn’t just land in the zone or creates it; in order to be engaged in a state of flow, several conditions must be met. In the case of the escape games, these conditions come from 2 directions: both from the game (as in the actual puzzles and the room) and from the player.

Let’s quickly go through these conditions in reflection of escape games:

1) Complete focus and involvement

Ideally, the player is concentrating on solving the puzzles and only the puzzles rather than checking their phone, catch up with their teammates or trying to figure out whether the wall is real or fake brick wallpaper.

2) Clarity and immediate feedback

A bit of a tricky one here when it comes to escape games because if a puzzle is clear (how to be solved) it’s not a puzzle, it’s just a task. What clarity means here is that the player knows the main goal (escaping) and the immediate feedback would be coming from solving each puzzle one by one, taking them closer to the end of the game.

3) The perception of time or timelessness

Time is one of the main elements in escape games as its very limited and time flies when you’re having fun. When the player is in the zone, time feels like it’s flying by (or it could be slowing down) and this is always the case in an Escape Room. We all know the feeling of when you enter, check the time – 50 mins left – and when you check again, 15 minutes remaining and you don’t know how that happened.

4) Intrinsic motivation

The idea here is that when the team is in the flow zone, they are working towards a prize or a reward but doing the activity for its own sake. In an escape game, if our sole goal was only to escape, we could just get all the hints and quickly solve the puzzles. But in the flow zone solving the puzzle is so enjoyable it becomes the reward. A very typical question from teams coming for the first time: What’s the prize when you escape? (Oh but nothing!)

5) Effortlessness

When a puzzle proves to be too hard to be solved, the flow easily turns into stress. There is a very thin layer between a puzzle being too difficult or just hard enough to be challenging and not too easy to be solved. If I look around in a room and immediately know how to solve puzzles, I will fall out of the ‘flow zone.’ So in this case effortlessness means not too much effort but some.

6) Balance of challenge and skills

Whatever escape room and puzzles, there will always be teams who would find the room impossible to escape and there will always be teams who fly through the game in record time as if they’ve done the type of puzzles before. It’s pretty hard to set the level of difficulty when designing games without knowing the level of skills of the players but game designers can try by creating a wide and colourful variety of different puzzles and obstacles.

7) Action and awareness are merged

…meaning that the outside world is not only physically locked out but also mentally. The players are focusing so much on the puzzles that all the worry of the everyday world disappears. The only reality they’re aware of is right here and right now. Nothing else exists. As previously mentioned, in order to keep flow, teams must be completely invested but the immersion of the game is also relevant.

Experiencing this is great and it’s a rare phenomenon. Though it does make me wonder whether we’re trying to escape from the room or escape into the room?

8) Control

Let’s not get fooled by the word ’control’ here, all that means is that while being in the flow zone, we know that the task is doable therefore there is no fear of failing. Or, that is the idea behind it. I would bend this a bit by saying that the fear of failing could become a motivational element when it comes to problem solving or puzzle solving.

While the flow zone is mainly entered individually, there is such a thing as a team flow zone and I think it mainly occurs in a come-and-go pattern during a game. I hope you found this as interesting as we did at Escape Rooms. Do you get into the flow zone? Perhaps you have something you’d like to extend on! Do leave a comment below, we’d be interested in finding out more!

By Eszter Kovacs
Picture by Guy Wah

Why choose Angel?

Didn’t that chap who used to be in a band called Take That once sing about loving angels instead? Now being an employee of Escape Rooms, I wholeheartedly endorse this message. Love Angel instead. Our Angel venue, that is. It’s about an 8 minute walk from Angel, Old Street and Barbican. But, more important than its accessibility, the two games we have there are something truly different.

Our London Bridge venue was one of the first escape rooms to open in this country and our team has played more escape games than your average sane person. Some of us have even remained sane. We know the usual model, we know how it works, we know what to expect. There’s an almost-infinite variety of themes and settings, a huge range of truly innovative, imaginative puzzles out there – it’s truly remarkable what can be achieved with a few boxes and padlocks, but we disparage neither our London Bridge venue nor our competitors when we say that, just perhaps, there can, must, should be more to it than that.

Yes, there are games out there already which experiment with VR. But anyone who’s ever been involved in tech knows that VR has been The Next Big Thing for at least twenty years. The possibilities with VR are almost endless. But they are still possibilities, and the technology does not yet exist which enables us to transcend the physical and visual aspects of what visual effects artists call ‘the uncanny valley’ – the theory in applied aesthetics which holds that the closer the virtual approximates the real, the greater the discord generated by increasingly subtle differences.

Many people, most especially film-makers, treat the ease and the variety afforded by the green screen as an excuse to go for super-reality, forgetting that so much of how we relate to the world relies on plausibility as conveyed by the real and physical, and our unconscious reactions to same. The Battle of Hoth in Empire Strikes Back was filmed in sub-zero temperatures in Norway. Sure, you could green-screen the same setting, but the actors, by virtue of their presence in a comfortable studio with central heating, would not move with the same stiffness true cold creates. Ditto some of the mountain scenes in The Lord of the Rings and their CGI-mirrors in the later adaptation of The Hobbit.

Their visible breath would look like but not as really visible breath. And the genuine frost that coats ‘80s facial hair in sub-zero temperatures can only be approximated by CGI frost on CGI ‘80s facial hair in a fake-freezing setting.

The difference, however subtle, between the fake and the real will be accentuated by the same subtlety: so much of what we know about the world is based on our imagination rooted in real experience, so we can spot a fake without really seeing it. We know, almost intuitively, when a thing is real; we know, almost intuitively, when it is pretend.

The games at our Angel venue take the former approach. They are sci-fi, but they are a physical, malleable, tangible sci-fi. They are more akin to original Star Wars, not prequel Star Wars. And can there be higher praise? You’re transported into a high-tech, science-fiction world – and transported physically, not virtually. You’re really there. You’re not holding a virtual laser gun; you’re holding a real one. You’re not holding virtual power cores; you’re holding real ones. You’re not plugging in virtual moon base power generators; you’re plugging in real ones. (Though not actually on a moon base – imagination still has its place, and our budget isn’t quite that big.)

We’ve dispensed with padlocks (excepting the one there is in the Dark Side of the Moon) in favour of other, more imaginative, physical variants: digital dial pads, sure, but also button-panels; and, one of Project DIVA’s special features, a light-up pressure-pad floor grid. Cables, laser beams and robots bring to life the immersive nature of the games. You’re not playing a glorified video-game, you’re in the game.

So, if you’re a seasoned escape game veterans in search of something different, or if you’re total new-comers unsure of the genre and hoping for something unique, you really have only one first port of call. I’d recommend them even over our games at London Bridge, tried and tested and approved though they are. If you want something different, something immersive, something which can marry your physical skills and your virtual wits, something that has been more than once compared with The Crystal Maze, come to Escape Rooms: Angel.

By Benjamin Mercer

Building an Escape Room

If you want to join the market but have no idea where to start, or if you want to make an escape room at home for your children or friends, there are a few things you need to think about when attempting to create a successful escape game.

First, decide on your topic. What is your game going to be about? What theme are you making it? By deciding your topic, you’ll be able to make design and puzzle decisions. The story behind the game can come later, but the thematic setting needs to come first. You don’t want to waste money buying props and set without knowing how to link everything together. Let’s assume that we’ve decided the theme is going to be a medieval castle and build on that.

Next, you’ll need to start creating your setting. Things like lights, sound, and furniture are all incredibly important. Our medieval castle game setting would need things like stone walls. You wouldn’t want a standing lamp, but instead, something that adds to the immersion like fake candles or large fake windows with backing lights. The colour paint that you use is also important. If you can’t afford to re-stone the wall, wallpaper can offer the same effect. You obviously wouldn’t want to paint the walls bright pink. Your setting, including dressing for the set, must connect with your theme.

Then decide your story. This needs to include and introduction to the game and what problem it is that the team is attempting to solve. Following our example for a medieval castle themed game, an introduction for this might be:

‘Welcome, team. We must keep this meeting brief because if we are caught, we will be tried for treason. King Uther has taken a step too far with his laws against magic and currently has 12 innocent people locked below Camelot in the castle dungeons. You must rescue them before they are put to death tomorrow morning. Emrys is currently distracting the guards but he can only give you an hour, to get in, free all 12 innocent prisoners, and escape again. I know a secret entrance into the castle that you can use to sneak in, but you’ll have to be careful. We don’t know what tricks Uther has up his sleeve and we also don’t know how well he guards his dungeons.

That’s Merlin’s signal. You have an hour. Good luck…’

Let’s dissect this.

First, we’ve set the stakes. Placing the players in a role play situation, we’ve given them an idea about who they are. Next, we’re placed the setting and potential time period, the castle, medieval, possibly magical. Then they’re given their mission and motivation to complete their mission and escape. They are then given their time limit and a reason for why they have an hour within the game. So far, the team knows they need to rescue 12 prisons from a castle dungeon, with help from Merlin who can distract the guards for an hour. The stakes are raised high but adding in the air of mystery around the tasks, telling them ‘We don’t know what tricks Uther has up his sleeve.’ Finally, they’re given a reason for the time to start and the mission to begin, Merlin’s signal.

Though short, this is a fairly clear get in and get out again mission which fits in with both the theme and the setting of the game.

After deciding the mission of the game, next comes the building of puzzles. Now given our example, these puzzles can’t outwardly look too high-tech. We’re not going to have a computer in a medieval castle. Instead, it should be things like finding pieces of a map to navigate the tunnels, choosing the right 12 prisoners to release when given descriptions, and uncovering secret passageways by pulling on the right unlit flaming torch. The puzzles inside the game must reflect the theme, setting, and mission. Teams also usually need an indication as to how well they’re doing, a way to know how far away they are from finishing the game. A timer might not work so well within our example but perhaps a chiming clock every 10-15 minutes, or an ‘orb’ enchanted by Merlin to give information.

Finally, you’ve got to think about your game masters and the part they will play within the story. Will they dress up to ensure immersion from the minute the team step through the door? Or will they offer a step away from the game so that returning to the outside world is less of a shock after an hour locked away? Communication with the team is also important – so how will they information become available? Through walkie talkie, a screen or through a voice over? The questions focusing on game masters connect closely with the type of game you’re creating and how immersed you want your teams to be.

These are the steps that we take in building an escape room, but we’d love to hear from you if you have other ideas or a different order in which you do things. Let us know in the comments below if this has helped your process or if you have a suggestion for what theme we should use next. We look forward to hearing from you.

By Charlotte Potter

Our New Year’s resolutions

Well, we’re ended a decade and moved forward into another. Many wonderful things have happened for us within the last 10 years. The biggest, of course, being that we opened up two different venues, 4 games in total. Being one of the first escape rooms opening in the UK, we believe we’ve been part of a major movement in the beginnings of the escape room industry. But we’ve also done some other amazing things. We’ve attended the Escape Rooms conference; we’ve seen over 50,000 teams and we’ve game mastered for some incredible people.

But as we’re coming to the end of one decade and entering another, we’re starting to think about what we can do differently over the next 10 years. So, what are we planning on changing?

We’re hoping to open up another venue within the next couple years with new, unique games. Perhaps somewhere close to what we’ve already got open to make team building for larger teams easier. We’re looking into different types of games as well. We want to lead the path on making Escape Rooms more immersive, based thoroughly in story-telling, and incorporating new techniques for communication that can be tailored for the team’s experience and skill level. We’re looking to also revamp and update our current rooms to ensure we’re giving the best experience we can for every team.

We want to introduce more people to Escape Rooms through outreach projects, connecting with schools, communities, and universities. Escape Rooms are a niche market, so why not widen it to engage with a wider audience. After all, escape rooms are for everyone.

We want to see our current game masters through university, and other projects that they might be working on. We love our staff, and we will help as much as we can to push them in the right direction. By offering a supportive and well organised workplace, we can ensure our staff have the best possible care they need.

We also want to start an escape rooms community, connecting with other businesses around us. This isn’t just going to help us as a business grow, but it will also help others. Offering advice, feedback and promotion opportunities means that the industry stays united.

But what about you? What are your decade resolutions? Will you be joining us in reaching out? And do you have any fun suggestions on what else we should aim to achieve over the next few years? Let us know via our social media, or by leaving a comment below.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

By Charlotte Potter

The 4D Experience

Recently, Let’s Go Out took the time to curate a list of the top 5 escape games in London, and we’re happy to say we’re on it. Per their website: ‘Escape Rooms have taken the genre to another level, with 4D sensory experiences that will test all your senses and fully immerse you into the game. At their London Bridge location, you can choose from Pharaoh’s Chamber and Room 33 (set in 17th century China). Book now and see why they earned a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. At this time of year, they have festive offers including early bird discounts!’

For the uninitiated, ‘4D sensory experiences’ means you’re in a physical room with physical objects, not some VR hellscape created by a misused computer sciences graduate. It’s sort of like being in your own home as opposed to a virtual recreation of your own home, which is prone to lag, or glitch in such a manner that the mug of coffee on the table sometimes teleports up through the ceiling. Instead, you must physically move the coffee cup yourself to make it move, but 4D reality is a little more exciting than that. This basically just means that you’re literally locked in a room with a mission to complete where you can definitely touch and interact with things rather than a 3D experience which might put you in a room with a mission, but you aren’t allowed to actually things.

Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with virtual escape games. Or that I’ve been told I have to balance out the preceding with something ‘nicer’. Escape games began as a virtual experience – Japanese mobile app games, as mentioned in a previous blog. You can do wonderful, imaginative things with VR – things you simply can’t do in real life. Like filming Avatar, or a sequel to Avatar, or a sequel to the sequel of Avatar. Imagine trying to build real-life 7-foot-high smurfs. It’d simply be impractical.

It’s simply to say that, in the conflict between the real world and the Matrix we are Neo. We prefer the real experience. Why throw a digital prop at one of your teammates when you can throw an actual prop at them instead?

You can find the Let’s Go Out article here.

By Benjamin Mercer