How to Escape with your LIfe

I have been tasked with providing you, dear creature, with a list of ‘top tips’. This is a surprisingly difficult job, as one must walk the line between saying too much and too little. Our games require secrecy, so I cannot tell you how they work. Then again, were I to adopt HR speak and tell you of the vague importance of ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘teamwork’, you would rightly be forgiven for thinking this whole exercise a waste of time. With that in mind, I present to you this list: not quite 12 rules for life, but 12 tips for escape game success (and successful courtship thereafter).

1) Of codes and padlocks.

Most padlocks require combinations of varying lengths. Let us suppose your padlock requires a 4-digit code. Let us further suppose that you have worked out 3 of the numbers but are struggling with the last. Do you A) continue working at the puzzle until you have the final number, or B) scroll through the padlock’s final dial until it unlocks? If you picked A) you’d do what most people do, and most people do not escape.

2) Listen to your Game Master.

Whilst we take seriously that part of our job which requires us to lend grace, charm and beauty to the establishment, our role is not merely ornamental. We have interesting and, yes, helpful things to say. And most of us say these things rather well. So be sure to listen. Right to the end. It’s polite.

3) Ask questions.

Pride is all very well, and of course it is entirely up to you, but we do hand out walkie-talkies for a reason and the best teams make use of them. A well-placed question can be the difference between success and failure, life and death. Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. (Stupid people, on the other hand…)

4) Communicate, how to.

In the first place, listen to your Game Master (See 2) Listen to your Game Master) when he/she explains how the walkie-talkies work. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who don’t do this, and who instead find new and innovative ways of doing things badly. In the second, if you are playing a game, for example Project D.I.V.A, in which multiple walkie-talkies are involved, you will need to remember that they only work one-at-a-time. Failure to observe this rule causes your Game Master a good deal of pain and annoyance.

5) Be Charitable. (For corporate and team-building groups.)

Remember that you are at a disadvantage. Families and groups of friends, all of whom are (presumably) playing because they want to, know how to fall out – indeed, in the case of families, how to hate each other – whilst remaining productive, they being familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses, flaws and foibles. You may not be so familiar with those of your teammates. So be charitable. Remember that what may seem to you an unspeakably dumb question might have taken a good deal of mental effort on the part of Sharon from accounting. (See 3) Ask Questions.)

6) Organise yourselves.

Once again you’d be surprised how many people fail to do this, they being (one supposes) overwhelmed by the complexity of the game, or else by its sheer sensory brilliance. Organisation is particularly important in non-linear games, such as Room 33 and Pharaoh’s Chamber, where there are many items to be used and no strict order in which to use them. So, a word of advice to those taking on our games at London Bridge: keep track of what you’ve used, and make sure the whole team is kept informed. There is no sense letting Ethel waste valuable time fiddling with a key that’s already been used.

7) Don’t Complain.

It’s not that it hurts our feelings, as our feelings are and ought to be irrelevant. Rather, I warn you against complaints because they have a deleterious effect on team morale, and thus diminish your chances of escaping. If you can’t figure out a puzzle, don’t moan that it doesn’t make sense. Do not whine that the puzzle in Project D.I.V.A, which involves binary code, ‘isn’t logical’, as a team did last week. (It’s perfectly logical. It’s binary, for goodness’ sake.)
Rather, admire the complexity of the puzzle that’s baffling you. Perhaps ask questions of your Game Master. Beseech your teammates for help. All of our puzzles make perfect sense, even if you can’t see it. Honestly.

8) Be sober.

Unless (like me) you must always be drunk for medical reasons, or unless (also like me) being drunk makes you a genius, we do most sincerely recommend – and indeed beg and implore – that you turn up sober. Hilarious though your drunken antics may me to you (and, yes, sometimes to us), the chances are consumption will be a hindrance.

9) Listen to your children. (If you have any. If they’re smart.)

Sometimes children demonstrate such instinctive skill that, when you look at their parents, you cannot help but wonder if the child has been adopted. Some of my favourite teams have contained children as young as 12, and it is often the young ones who have the best ideas. There is nothing more frustrating than a parent obstinately doing the wrong thing when the child has worked it out correctly. So, parents, listen to your kids.

10) Don’t drop the cube.

This will make sense once you’ve played Pharaoh’s Chamber. Suffice it to say that dropping the cube is the equivalent of setting off a small nuclear bomb. You are highly unlikely to survive the experience.

11)Don’t over-complicate things.

First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? It is quite possible to be too intelligent. I once had a team with a genius, but he was of no use at all. He did in fact cost his team valuable time. He had found a riddle, and found the answer to that riddle, but became convinced that the answer was itself an anagram and a cypher which, once decoded, would give him a 4-digit code. No such puzzle exists. Sometimes things are simpler than they may appear, which makes Occam’s old razor an invaluable tool for any escape artist.

12)Remember, you’re on camera.

Granted, this probably doesn’t count as a tip. Not one that will be of much use to you in the game, anyway. But it is still important. We occasionally have teams who forget we can see their every move, and people do behave quite differently when they have – or think they have – privacy. We’ve seen things. Things you people wouldn’t believe. Things the likes of which I cannot repeat in polite company. So please, for the sake of decency and our good consciences, remember: You’re being watched. Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clements…

By Benjamin Mercer