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
The boy who loved EgyptA 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 GrandpaNot 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 LadyShe 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.
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
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created unequal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable stupidities, such as annoying questions, illiteracy, and the pursuit of ignorance. – That to secure these rights, ‘Teams’ are instituted among man and woman, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Team becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Games Master to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Rule, laying its foundation on the principle of explaining certain basic terms which the people really ought to know by now.
attention (see also Listen)
The act of listening to what the Games Master is telling you; commonly confused with inattention-a rudeness punishable by a death-stare.
You will need one of these to play. You cannot and will not play without one of these. Commonly referred to as reservation (which is precisely the emotion Games Masters express towards the common rabble).
infant humans; tiny drunk people; noise terrorists; grot-bags; cute simpletons; stupefied dwarves
A vertical line: the opposite of a row.
Preferable to lateness. Teams should remember Gandalf’s wisdom: ‘A wizard is never too late, nor too early; a wizard arrives precisely when he means to’ (15 minutes before your designated start time).
physical; breaking; do not. Not to be confused with any of the fundamental forces of physics such as gravity, which Games Masters cannot, alas, suspend.
staff member; evil overlord; custodian; patronizing voice at end of walkie-talkie; John Kramer, AKA Jigsaw; police-state bureaucrat. Games Masters are most fond of polite teams as opposed to smart teams. They know all the answers to all the puzzles. You should take their advice seriously.
unfashionably overdue. Excuses commonly offered include lateness of trains; useless Uber drivers; inclement weather; absent-mindedness; sheer incompetence; and death. Games Masters appreciate the courtesy of a phone call warning that you will be late.
high density photons. Please do not stare into them, for reasons of blindness. Latex optional.
listen (see also attention)
understanding; comprehension. Impossible to achieve while talking.
A horizontal line: the opposite of a column.
At the same time. Precisely the opposite of one after the other, which is what many people unaccountably think it means.
By Oscar Yuill
There will come a time, and that time will probably come quite soon, when all unimportant professions are inhabited exclusively by 3D-printed automatons. In the important professions this has already happened. Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are robots of quite primitive design; Elon Musk is the result of an experiment with personality algorithms, Bill Gates a failed experiment with same.
The machine takeover has been total in professions from (at the top) banking, (in the middle) politics, and as far down as estate agents. Any job in which a human personality is a hindrance, which is to say any position of power and influence, which we might call ‘management’, is ripe for automation.
We at Escape Rooms have thus far escaped this fate. We are so lacking in significance or import that no one has thought it worth the effort to replace us. (Though the boss has bought a 3D printer, and a number of miniature human bodies have been popping up around the office, so we probably won’t survive much longer.)
As such, we retain a fair few hobbies, quirks, skills, talents, and other such dangerous abnormalities.
Oscar, for example, my dearest friend and colleague, is the finest writer and poet I know; and, given his talent for sustained rapid ambulatory action, known to humans as ‘running’, would make a superb shop-lifter. (A skill which may prove useful, since we writers are notorious for our inability to make a decent living. Karl Marx was uncharacteristically on the money when he lamented that Das Kapital would not even pay for the cigars he smoked whilst writing it.)
Dora is already a published author, as well as a fine designer; and, by putting up with my constant suggestions for Nazi-themed sales material (which I still think is a good idea – it worked very well for Goebbels) has proven herself remarkably patient.
Eszter has the most wonderful ability to distil disdain into a look or a single terse sentence. It is equal parts hilarious and terrifying, depending on whether you are the observer or the recipient, and an immensely undervalued skill. As a manager, it is of course her job to keep us in line. And the sure and certain knowledge that you might be dispassionately murdered, and that you’d surely deserve it if you were, adds a degree of excitement to the workday.
We have, it must be said, attracted a disproportionate number of actors to our staff. Indeed, by my reckoning, roughly seven in every ten job applicants aspire to join that most dishonest of professions. In the short time I’ve been working here, we’ve dispatched actors to work in film and theatre. (Of the former: Anna signed an NDA, so we know nothing at all about it save that it’s a big enough project to warrant an NDA.)
Of those who remain, all are exceptionally talented. Take Lily, for example. Anyone who can come in at 10am after a night of several bottles’ length earns my esteem, since I am otherwise the only person with so unholy a constitution. Perhaps it’s that we both hail from Bedford, and must drink to forget it. But to see her snap from death-stare to bright and cheery in an instant (and then back again once the customers have left), is a feat, both of artistic genius, and of such sheer physical resolve as would embarrass Ranulph Fiennes. Or was that Ralph Fiennes?
I am, naturally, far too modest to boast of my own meagre accomplishments. Though I am still invited to write these blogs, which is an achievement of a kind. I also write, for anyone who’ll have me, and have dabbled in poetry (principally Oscar’s fault), and discovered some time ago an ability to speak in complete sentences. That it often leads to complete – and lengthy – paragraphs is something any interlocutor unfortunate enough to engage me will quickly discover. I have a prodigious memory, for poetry and prose and inconvenient facts. And I have never knowingly lost an argument.
But enough about me. I leave you with the video at the top of this piece, featuring a motley collection of Escape Rooms staff who caught the tread of dancing feet. I am not qualified to judge their performances. I can say that one of them won us a hefty bar tab at our last Christmas do.
Some are still with us, some have ridden into the sunset, or loitered off down the moonlit street, and have since been replaced. Usually with more actors.
Perhaps, in the fast-approaching future, they – we – shall all be supplanted by wire-pulled automatons, slim silhouetted skeletons, sliding through the slow quadrille. But, until then, and as this video attests, we shall continue to affirm the dubious merits of our species.
And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl.
By Benjamin Mercer
Christmas is coming. Sounds ominous, no? And it is, really. We have actually devised a time of the year when we tell children the lie that, in the middle of the night of December 25th, a very fat man with a predeliction for children will descend through the chimney, imbibe some alcohol, and proceed into the front room to bestow gifts he could only know about through an intricate spy-ring. He resembles, in this sense, any Catholic priest.
On top of this, the presents Father Christmas (not Santa Claus, for this is England, not America) leaves beneath the tree are so seldom pleasing. iPhones are soon broken; socks never worn. Puppies, as it happens, become dogs. With each passing year, Christmas becomes more and more of a chore.
No more. We at Escape Rooms offer our very own bespoke gift vouchers-the perfect Christmas gift. Without having to leave your armchair, let alone thrusting your way through the nightmare spectacle of a Christmas shopping crowd, you can purchase a gift voucher for any of our available games. Choose from Room 33; the Pharaoh’s Chamber; Project D.I.V.A; and The Dark Side of the Moon.
Each game is sure to satisfy the peculiarities, fetishes and longings of any relative! The Dark Side of the Moon, for instance, is the perfect opportunity for Granddad to revive his hatred for Nazis. Project DIVA will titillate even the most technologically advanced of millennial grandkids. Pharaoh’s Chamber is for the school teacher in your life (remember Howard Carter, boys and girls?), and Room 33 will delight museum-goers, and fans of both Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Whichever room you book, we recommend leaving creepy uncles at home, and bringing spectacles if indeed you need them. Bon Voyage!
Our award-winning games may last only an hour, but the memory of them will outlast even the toughest over-priced, slave-made iPhone!
By Oscar Yuill
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do…
An old line one used occasionally to hear deployed against homophobic men is that they fear being treated as they themselves treat women. Serviceable as an insult, if not particularly insightful, and liable to reflect poorly on those it seeks to defend. All the sorry evidence we have suggests Shakespeare was, as ever, more accurate when, in King Lear, he features an officer of law treating harshly the transgressions of a harlot he has some hot need to transgress with himself.
Both, in their own way, suggest our violence is often projected outward at the very things we fear in ourselves. Call it the narcissism of no difference.
Some similar mechanic doubtless plays a role in our attitudes toward machines and AI. (I say ‘our’ but I mean ‘Western’, since the East, in particular Japan, sees things very differently. The Japanese tend to see giant death robots as the good guys, as in the likes of Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion, recently butchered by Hollywood in Pacific Rim. I suspect this has something to do with the technological ascension they underwent after the British-backed Meiji restoration, but that’s a discussion for another time.) AI, in the West, is widely predicted to put us out of work and probably then kill us in the near future. In fiction it has killed us countless times already. The ghost of Ned Ludd haunts us still.
Think HAL9000, Skynet, VIKI in I, Robot, the replicants in Bladerunner, Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina; even the blandly functional Mother on board USCSS Nostromo in Alien is a harbinger of doom, whilst the android Ash, who would later become Bilbo Baggins, provides the kinetic element of attempted murder. Though quite how he hoped to achieve it by feeding Sigourney Weaver a rolled up magazine I’m not wholly sure. Perhaps it was a copy of the New Statesman.
There are two principle fears at play here, though they interweave so closely that they might better be understood as a single entity.
The first is that the logical conclusion of AI is a kind of rules-based psychopathy, something akin to autism or the European Commission, based usually on the notion that computers are amoral, devoid of empathy, and fundamentally utilitarian. It follows that they may one day calculate that we fleshy automatons are unnecessary, or perhaps even an obstacle to efficiency, or else a threat to the AI itself (usually because we are – see Skynet), or possibly a threat to ourselves, which allows for genocide to uphold the principle of Asimov’s ‘zeroth law’ – ‘A robot may not injure humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.’ Mankind must be saved from itself.
The second is that AI, in becoming self-aware, becomes all too human, and thus susceptible to all the many vices which lead us to war, and to otherwise demonstrate man’s inhumanity to man.
In both cases our own nature is the problem, either because we are incapable of devising decent laws by which AI operates or because, by becoming self-aware, AI becomes like us. Either way, its incompatibility with us is a result of us. Driverless cars provide a handy demonstration: in all the numerous accidents in which they’ve been involved, the fault for the collision has invariably been with the human driver. No computer yet exists which can mitigate women attempting to park or white van men to overtake. I think it was Gwendoline Butler who calls ‘the last law of robotics’ being ‘to tend towards the human’.
In both cases we see again the truth of Shakespeare’s line, since all the eventualities resulting from either thread manifest the very things – propensity to violence and rage, conflict, selfishness, cruelty, malice, spite, destructive self-preservation, or brute and uncaring calculation – we recognise and fear in ourselves. Which can be made to dovetail quite pleasantly with the line with which I opened: we fear AI because we fear it will treat us the way we treat our computers – as recipients of violence, impatience, frustration, aggression, spilt coffee, and debauched pornographic curiosity. Put otherwise, sadistically.
There are in fact at least two versions of the HAL9000 computer in the wonderful 2001: A Space Odyssey, one found in Kubrick’s film and the other in Clarke’s novel. ‘His’ motivations are nebulous in both, most especially in the film, but can be divided along the lines of the two threads already described. In one reading (from the book, naturally), HAL goes all homicidal because he is inhuman, and must deploy cold logic to overcome a contradiction in the directives installed in him by his human creators. One, to provide any and all information to the crew. Two, to conceal from the crew the true purpose of the mission to Jupiter (or, in the book, Saturn). Logic dictated that the only way to resolve this contradiction was to kill the crew, for if there were no crew HAL could not give or withhold information from them.
In the other reading, also from the book but present in the film as well, is that HAL is too human. Alone amongst the crew he knows about the obelisk, and about its role in guiding evolution. If HAL alone reaches the obelisk, HAL alone evolves; if the humans reach it, he does not. So again, psychopathy is the result, either from robotically following contradictory laws or humanly following something akin to emotion, evolved behaviour. (Indeed, one of the criticisms of 2001 is that HAL is the only ‘human’ character. Bowman and Poole are, by contrast, robotic.)
The two threads I’ve mentioned do have some academic basis: those who study these things have drawn innumerable category distinctions, the most sweeping of which divides AI into two classes: Strong and Weak. (The difference, in the Mass Effect series, is between artificial and virtual intelligence.) Strong AI has consciousness, mind, self-awareness, and all the other traits of (at least some of) humanity. It sees the world ‘feelingly’, as the blind man said to the Earl of Gloucester. It’s the HAL concerned with evolution, it’s Sunny in I, Robot, it’s Mike in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or David in Prometheus.
Weak AI, by contrast, lacks most of these things. It is for that reason sometimes known as Artificial General Intelligence, and defined by its ability to ‘merely’ apply (unfeeling) intelligence to any problem. See Skynet, Mother, HAL acting to resolve conflict, the Tet in Oblivion, and, in prototypical form, the computer which runs the Wildfire Facility in Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.
The difference between them can be parsed thusly: A weak AI can do algebra. A strong AI can do algebra whilst despairing that in no ordinary activity of a normal sentient creature’s daily life is such a skill useful. A weak AI can do a thing, a strong AI can ask, ‘what the hell’s the point?’
Our own pet psycho-killer AI, D.I.V.A, probably counts as a weak AI. In truth we do not really know her motives – in my story she’s made a utilitarian calculation that, life itself being so full of the possibility for pain and suffering and misery, it’s vital to humanity that humanity be killed; a perverted application of the zeroth law, if you will. Though it may be possible that she’s a strong AI driven to genocidal rage by the quality of her daily opponents. In any case, she doesn’t seem to me to have much by way of personality, and strikes one as distinctly managerial. Managers, as all employees know, are not sentient, feeling creatures.
In any case, if you wish to save the world from our universal techno-foe, now’s your chance. Come along, pit your wits against the ruthless logic of D.I.V.A. Just don’t ask her to open the pod bay doors.
By Benjamin Mercer
So, you’re getting married? Congratulations! You’ve made it this far. You’ve survived the dates, met the in-laws, popped the question, and soon you’ll be making sacred vows at the altar of a church or registry office. But something stands in your way. The stag or hen do.
You might think your options are limited in these great, liver-busting traditions. Option one: get slaughtered. Option two: stay in with a cup of tea and play scrabble. But let’s face it, neither option does justice to the 21 st century in which you happen to be living.
Option one is certainly the oldest and most venerable; even Jesus, though himself an eternal bachelor, saw fit to turn water into wine at the wedding feast, and he got so drunk he was crucified. No, that won’t do. Neither will option one, since a quiet night in is just as alienating to some of your friends as vodka-induced amnesia.
Option three? Escape Rooms: get locked with your fellow stags and hens inside a themed room full of puzzles. It’s the best of both worlds, in that you can turn up appropriately whiffled, laugh at each other, and emerge genuinely pleased with yourselves if you do actually manage to escape. There are plenty of escape game companies in London, but we, of course, are the best. Our Games Masters-the people charged with introducing you and helping you through the game-have met hundreds of stag and hen dos since 2014, when our snazzy London Bridge venue first came to Tooley Street.
I myself have seen stags wearing anything from tuxedos to rags to, well, almost nothing (which is sometimes delightful and sometimes regrettable); and hen do’s invariably turn up with giant inflatable willies, usually named Percy. All our games-four across two venues-contain a mixture of puzzles, some logical, some spatial, some physical, and some involving timing and communication. No stag or hen need feel left out, for there is something for everyone, and I’ve yet to encounter a group that didn’t have a wonderful time.
As you can imagine, stags and hens produce a unique set of challenges for the unassuming Games Master. As such, please don’t turn up with alcohol, as tempting as that may be, and please don’t turn up too drunk. Some of our games involve laser beams, one of them involves laser guns and a slide, and all of them require brain power.
It’s not in your interest to turn up so drunk that you imagine shooting Dave in the face with a laser gun to be a good idea. Nor do we appreciate having to shout over up to 14 people during the crucial and exciting introductions and stories we provide. Please don’t use any physical force on any of the puzzles and, above all, please do turn up on time.
That being said, stag and hen do’s have been some of our best, funniest customers. I’ve seen grown men weep over difficult puzzles. I’ve heard a bridesmaid’s fart through a solid wall. I’ve seen hens sacrifice their own mothers for the greater good. I’ve seen grown men and women confuse left and right, column and row, and ‘ simultaneously’ for ‘ instantaneously’ . I’d like to put this down to tipsiness, but I end up blaming the state education system. And Essex.
Marriage is a puzzle in itself-why not get some practice in? We have four games. The two at London Bridge are a little more ‘ old school’ , and involve more padlocks. In Pharaoh’s Chamber, you must find the sacred treasure before your souls are cursed; in Room 33, steal an ancient vase from the British Museum before the time portal closes. The games at Angel are set in the distant future. In Project DIVA you must disable an artificial intelligence robot gone rogue; and in The Dark Side of the Moon, old foes from the Second World War now haunt the moon, and must be destroyed.
Come, stags and hens. We need you!
By Oscar Yuill
As the heatwave dwindles to a muggy end, feeble, dazed, heat-stricken Brits are desperately clutching at something new to complain about. But never fear, it’s August which means that the shops will start decking the halls soon in prep for the festive season. ’It gets earlier every bloody year‘, ’it’s the twelve days of Christmas, not the twelve months of bloody Christmas‘, the nation cries. Sometimes you just have to bask in the consumerist tinsel-laden lagoon and stick on Mariah Carey. Although I must admit when we started creating our Christmas brochure two weeks ago, fans at full setting, it was all just a bit weird. Nevertheless, whether we like it or not, it’s time to get in there quick and plan your work xmas do.
Christmas parties are a cultural phenomenon. Tracey is on the table squawking Celine Dion, Liam and Gemma from HR are getting off in the stationery cupboard and Keith is doing crude and unspeakable things with the photocopier. It’s almost admirable in its debauchery, but maybe it’s time for a change; something a bit more cerebral perhaps. Or at least something mildly intellectual to justify the bacchanal planned for later that evening. Look no further than a little jaunt to Escape Rooms to satisfy this brief.
Escape Rooms and Christmas have a lot in common. Creative problem solving for example. No room at the inn? Find a stable. Forgot to make the stuffing? Use the box of Paxo at the back of the larder, no one will know the difference. It’s high stakes pressure, like Debenhams on Christmas eve. It’s a time for successes like that year you decided to just stay at home and it’s a time for failures, like that year you defied Delia and decided to do something a bit different with the parsnips. Also whether the most cynical of us care to admit it or not, it’s a whole lot of fun.
Remember how the holidays felt as a child? It’s not all taxes and backache from here on out; you grown ups aren’t exempt from that magical feeling. As much as Escape Rooms are centred around puzzle solving, they also require playing pretend. In one of our games you might even get to dress up a little bit, should you be so inclined. Whether you’re raiders of a cursed tomb, thieves of the night, warriors on the moon or saving the world from destruction the fantasy is yours for the taking.
December is our busiest period. We have proven increasingly popular as a destination for Christmas parties over the years, whether office outings or family gatherings. Escape Rooms are what you make of them. A true gruelling test of logic, dexterity and nerve or just a bit of (a lot of) a laugh. Either way you and your team will emerge having had a whale of a time. Particularly if you beat the clock. No one can truly attest to the level of satisfaction one gets from this until they have experienced it first hand. It will feel like the biggest victory since Rage Against the Machine beat the X Factor to Christmas number one. There’s no greater gift than getting your photo placed on the wall of fame.
So jingle those bells and rally the troops. Visit the games section of our website to find out more about the adventures on which you and your colleagues could be embarking this festive season. And if you need any further assistance our elves are busy in the workshop waiting to answer your queries. We ho-ho-hope yule* consider Escape Rooms.
*After that I completely understand if you won’t.
By Josh Buckland
Of time, Auden wrote, albeit in a very different context, that it is ‘intolerant of the brave and the innocent.’ (‘And indifferent in a week / to a beautiful physique’… Which we can well attest, but is irrelevant here.)
He was right, of course. The clock carries you forward, inexprorably, toward the end of everything; the hour, the day, the week, month, year; life, the universe — everything. As if that weren’t enough, humanity has a habit of imposing artificial ends upon itself. Tasks have deadlines, which are hard enough to meet even when unique to you. Throw a few more people into the admixture and suddenly things become much more complicated. You might, to borrow from Henley, remain ‘the captain of your soul,’ but you’re no longer the master of your fate.
This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you work and who you’re working with. Trust is paramount. If you don’t trust your colleagues, if you don’t know them or how to work with them, odds are the whole process will seem that much more stressful and unpleasant. Thus has ‘team-building’ become an industry of its own; deadlines do not wait for some random and accidental mixture of elements between which chemistry might or might not begin to function. Reaction must be provoked.
This might appear tangential but I assure you it is not: The ‘Scandinavian model’ of education (if indeed there truly is a single model) is almost unique in being both feted and underrated. All independent analyses suggest it is spectacularly successful, yet it is studiously ignored by those responsible for education outside the Nordic realms.
It embraces a concept called friluftsliv, which has it that the natural world – to say nothing of yourself, and your place in the same – is best understood by experience of it. It has an ancient almost-analogue in Aristotle’s phonesis, or practical wisdom. The lessons of biology are best remembered by practical experience of its teachings; physics and chemistry make more sense when you experiment with them. As I can attest from schoolboy experience, understanding how Cromwell earned his (temporary) victory in the civil war is easiest when you’re given a pike and told to march in formation against a rabble of classmates composed in the main of those you like least. (I had an unorthodox history teacher.)
We do a form of friluftsliv here at Escape Rooms. Kind of. If defined liberally. Except that, rather than encourage you to experience the great outdoors, we lock you in dark rooms full of fiendish puzzles and tell you to escape. Anti-friluftsliv, perhaps.
Time, tasks, deadlines, teammates — a human chemistry set, if you will.
Escape games have become something of a worldwide phenomenon. The simple concept allows for near-infinite permutations. Our four games include raiding an ancient Egyptian tomb, breaking into the British museum, shooting space Nazis on the moon and deprogramming our equivalent of the HAL9000 computer.
But the basics remain the same. And it is because those basics are so potent that they – that we – are so useful for team-building exercises, if that term is understood properly.
We can of course produce the ingredients from scratch. But seldom is it an exercise designed to create a team. Rather, it often serves as a means of testing and improving existing chemistry. Chances are you’ll not look to send a team of totals strangers to us, but instead a group of people who are already professionally acquainted to one degree or another. You’ll want to find out what camaraderie already exists, as well as building upon it.
I find Project D.I.V.A to be particularly useful here. There is a section of the game during which two people are separated from the rest of the group and confined to two locked compartments, where they remain until the rest of the team has solved a rather devilish puzzle with their help.
There is a wealth of research which proves that people act very differently in isolation, and differently again when the nominal group leader is absent. I’d be lying if I said it always brings out the best in people — but that’s not what you’re looking for, is it?
These are occasions to learn about people as well as to fashion them. I once had a team which included one particularly quiet individual, who played absolutely no part in the game until the two group leaders were locked away. The rest of the team foundered until this impeccably quiet man tired of their dithering and took charge, accomplishing his new role somewhat tersley but in a manner otherwise deserving of sicnere admiration.
They would not have escaped without him. And we, who watch every moment of the games we host from the security of our office, were able to observe a palpable and lasting change in the team dynamic. This was a chance for this new-comer to the group to prove himself, and he did so creditably, thus truly introducing himself to his colleagues.
This is an example of success, but it would be dishonesty by ommission if I did not say that we are as good at revealing incompatibility as we are compatibility. (At our London Bridge venue we’ve hosted a couple of proposals, and we’ve also precipitated a couple of relationships reaching their acrimonious end.)
In this pressured setting, suffering the intolerance of time, people reveal their true natures. The bossy can become the tyannical, the meek can become wrecks, the cynical can destroy the morale of everyone else.
If these are the revelations you seek, come on over. We can prove strength in adversity but ultimately what we do is reveal truth by adversity. You’ll learn far more about your employees and your colleagues in our world(s) than you can anywhere else.
By Benjamin Mercer
It could be said (pulling at straws here) that Escape Rooms are a microcosm of wider society. Overcoming obstacles, solving problems, it’s all part of the game of life. In life we encounter a myriad, a rainbow if you like, of varying characters. Some we love, some we love to hate. Naturally (desperately clutching at this crumbling metaphor), Escape Rooms often contain a melting pot of different personalities, each with their own qualities, hindrances and downright oddities. Here are some of our favourites, caricatured up to the nines for your entertainment. We invite you to ask yourselves, which one are you?
If you are not familiar with the tale of Cassandra here’s a very over-simplified break down. Daughter of the King and Queen of Troy, the famed mythological Greek figure was condemned to a life whereby no one would believe her prophecies. Cassandra is a much more tragic and troubled figure than that sentence attests but the essence of her plight is something that can be observed in at least one member of many Escape teams. Often, they’ll have exactly the right idea but get shouted over, shouted down or simply dismissed and ignored as they are seen as the weak link. It is the Cassandra for whom the games masters are rooting. We all love an underdog. Especially an underdog who is right. Listen to Cassandra.
The Apathetic is here because work made them come. They aren’t too thrilled by the thought of being locked in a room and forced to work with others under the pressure of a ticking clock. Sometimes the Apathetic is surprised by how into it they become. Sometimes the Apathetic is just there for the pub afterwards. They’ll find a seat and observe from afar and occasionally open a padlock with a code that someone else had figured out. If the pub portion of the day was before the game, in a state of mild inebriation, they’ll probably just nod off.
The Box Hugger
The Box Hugger is a character than pops up in our non-linear games. They enter the room, lock eyes and are fixated on their conquest. To open THAT box. In their eyes this box holds the key to success and all other boxes, props, clues are simply futile. They cradle the box for the full hour as if a mother hen guarding their egg and it takes all the strength of the other team mates to pry their talons away. If another team member so much as gazes upon the box they hiss or squawk as a warning to stay away. This is all worth it though when the time finally comes for the box to be opened. The Box Hugger, red faced and dishevelled holds the open box to their bosom; it’s all been worth it.
The Queen Bee
In many escape games there is one over-arching puzzle that requires the team to collect various pieces over the course of the hour. These pieces are then constructed or placed accordingly to trigger the opening of the final door. It may be a jigsaw, items being placed on a map, something that needs to be built. Often this is very simple but acquiring the pieces themselves requires meticulous puzzle solving prowess. The Queen Bee is responsible for putting these pieces in place but the nitty gritty and hard graft is reserved for the worker bees. Every time a piece is collected the worker bees flitter over to The Queen Bee. “A vital component, your Highness”. “Excellent” exclaims Queen Bee who places the piece in it’s rightful position. Once all parts have been placed, the door springs open and as such the Queen grins regally, reaping the credit for his/herself.
The Clever Clogs
The MVP. They may have substantial prior experience in escape rooms. Often they’ll be wearing a novelty T-Shirt adorned with some witty visual joke to do with Breaking Bad. They spend their lunch break doing the Guardian Crossword but now is the time for the extensive brain training to pay off in front of an audience. They make quick links effortlessly leaving their team mates in a state of both awe and shame. In spite of this Clever Clogs remains admirably humble at face value, but internally they are fist pumping, safe in the knowledge that they were the driving force behind the operation. On occasion a whole team will be comprised of Clever Clogs and, like a lunar eclipse, this is truly a rare spectacle to behold.
Often found in corporate groups and family outings. The tyrant has self-appointed themselves the team leader. The role of the team leader is to delegate and ensure everyone’s ideas are heard. Whilst some do this exceptionally, many spill over into tyrannical territory. They are often extremely competitive and stomp around the room micro-managing. They can often be found not listening to Cassandra. As history attests, those who rebel against the regime of the tyrant, are the true heroes of the day.
The Drag Race Superfan
My personal favourite. These bright young things come in packs of 4 and are out to have a good time. They exclaim ‘Yaaaaas. Shante you stay’ when anything is solved correctly. They shout ‘Miss Vanjie’ instead of ‘cheese’’ when they have their team photo taken. To those familiar with Drag Race these teams are EVERYTHING. To those who are not, these teams are a potent combination of infectious and stratospherically baffling.
The arch-nemesis to any hangover. Often found in teenage birthday parties. The Shrieker, as their name suggests, has one unwavering reaction to almost everything. Be it a light switch being turned on, a box opening, the unveiling of a secret compartment their screams can be heard far and wide beyond the confines of the room. Neighbours consider calling the police. Finally, they emerge from the room wailing with joy at their success. A paper bag is on hand and in the worst-case scenario, a vial of tranquiliser. They leave saying that it was the best thing ever.
Have you identified your Escape Rooms persona? Are you happy? Are you in a period of deep self- reflection? If you’re the Apathetic you probably don’t care. If you’re the Tyrant you probably care too much. Perhaps none of them sound like you. Don’t worry, you do exist, there are many we’ve not covered. If you’re not sure there’s only one way to find out…
By Josh Buckland