Escape Rooms

High Tech Rooms at Angel

Ever felt like you were destined for greatness?
Thought you were the team to take on the bad guys and win?
Have you ever wanted to save the world?
Be it by fighting Nazis on the Moon or trying to take back control of a rogue satellite set on destroying Earth, you could help save the fate of humanity by booking one of our brand new rooms in Angel!

The Dark Side of the Moon

Believe that 1969 was the first time humans made it to the surface of the moon? Think again. Word has reached Earth that a secret Nazi base on the dark side of the moon has become active and, worse still, unusual radiation signatures have been detected on its surface. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to break into the base and begin to secretly take it down from the inside. Don’t worry though, you’ll have some laser guns on hand incase things do go astray.

When first encountering the Dark Side of the Moon room you’re going to need to start the generator for power. Without power your mission will be futile. Surely a simple enough task, but you’d be surprised at how many have failed at the first hurdle…

From that point on you’ll encounter a number of obstacles such as a slide, power-generating gloves and a mysterious swastika disc. But don’t worry, it’s only the fate of the entire humankind on your shoulders.

Project D.I.V.A

A.I. systems, what would we do without them? They can make our lives so much easier, but what happens when they want to take over them? In 2038 we’re about to find out. With Earth becoming overpopulated, we’ve been looking into other planets in which to inhabit and Mars is first on our radar. A satellite is sent into orbit, controlled by the A.I. system fondly known as DIVA, in order to check out the planet and make sure it remains safe from meteorites. But DIVA has other plans…

Turns out DIVA has gone rogue and is set on everyone and everything. Your mission is to board the satellite and, hack into DIVA’s security defence system and reset it’s main motherboard. You’ll encounter codes, discs and might even have to split up from the rest of your team in order to take back control of the sataille.

It isn’t going to be easy, especially when you find yourself facing a room of laser beams, but we believe in you. Good luck.

By Kay Dekker

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

Walls of Fame and Infamy

Walls do not presently enjoy a good reputation. As the physical manifestation of borders, they are despised, deplored and disparaged by that class of person for whom such things are symbols of backwardness, prejudice and intolerance…

And it is undoubtedly true that, historically, walls have a record that is far from unblemished.

They stood well at Troy, though to little gain. The walls of Jericho were renowned for their strength, yet fell to the sound of trumpets. Hadrian’s Wall was intended to stop the Scots ravaging England, and at that task it has patently failed. The English built Newcastle in a bid to trick the Scots into thinking there was nothing worth having down south. Yet still they came, the Stuarts and their ilk, marching through history a path of devastation which culminated in the premiership of Gordon Brown.

Where else? The Great Wall of China is impressive and much-loved, yet it didn’t save the Ming Dynasty from the Manchu invasion. The Berlin Wall was quite something, too, yet it crumbled (understandably) from the ignominy of having Ronald Reagan stand atop it. Jerusalem’s Western Wall has probably caused more war than it’s worth; the Athenian Long Walls certainly annoyed the Spartans, who dismantled them after they defeated the Athenian navy; the walls of Constantinople… etc.

Yet we at Escape Rooms remain fond of walls, not least because it is hard to lock people in rooms without them. (Unless they are mimes, as my colleague helpfully points out.)

That much is obvious. But we have another reason, too. At our London Bridge venue the walls are covered with the pictures and decorations of teams past; four-years’ worth of success staring down at us, and upon whatever plucky challenger makes a bid to join their exalted legions.

Success, however, is not easily won. Only 45% of teams who take on our games at London Bridge escape to tell the tale. Of that number, a smaller percentage still make it onto the walls of fame. Those who do have escaped, not only within an hour (which is difficult enough), but having used no more than 3 hints.

A hint, at our London Bridge venue, is something you have explicitly to ask for. We take a consensual approach to hints. And it constitutes your Game Master giving you between 60 and 70% of the solution to a particular puzzle. They are immensely useful to teams who are badly stuck or otherwise pressed for time.

To earn a place on the walls of fame, you can use no more than 3 hints. Should you escape having satisfied these criteria you will have earned your place. You will be given a black card, on which your picture shall be placed, and which you may decorate as you see fit, limited by the bounds of decency, of course.

Anyway, we like our walls. We are surrounded by happy faces. Indeed, we at Escape Rooms commend the idea to the President of the United States. Mr Trump, if you insist on building your wall, we feel it could use a human touch. We would be happy to franchise our idea and allow you to make use of it. For a modest fee.

Then your border wall could be festooned with the smiling faces of all the Mexicans who successfully scale it.

We eagerly await your response.

By Benjamin Mercer

Escape Rooms on Mental Wellbeing

Escape games have taken off in galactic proportions over the past few years and here at Escape Rooms we are always looking for ways we can introduce the craze to new audiences. As part of this endeavor, recently my colleague and I were sent on the excursion of a lifetime; to an office block in West Croydon.

Don’t worry, we were actually invited, we’re not one for cold calling. The event was to promote the importance of wellbeing to the employees of the organisation. Foolishly in spite of this, neither of us had done any proper research. Many of the attendees had never heard of Escape Rooms, which is exactly what we’d hoped, however we were greeted with a bombardment of questions regarding how the experience we offer could be considered a platform for mindfulness. In retrospect this seems the most obvious question to revise beforehand.

“Well essentially you’re locked in a room with your colleagues for an hour and you have to solve lots of difficult puzzles whilst racing against the clock“ we replied.

This didn’t seem to meet the criteria. The skepticism wasn’t helped by an episode of the BBCs Not Going Out which had aired on TV the previous night. The characters all went to an Escape Room and the outing was depicted as a pressure cooker of distress, anger and animosity which left friendships and relationships in irreversible tatters. Cheers for the publicity BBC.

So we got our thinking caps on and hastily scribbled down a list of bullet points on a piece of scrap paper. After all, between the massage therapist offering complimentary 15 minute sessions and the adorable golden retriever brought in to promote the benefits of petting animals to lower blood pressure, we had some stiff competition. It turns out that Escape Rooms do indeed offer an abundance of benefits that promote healthy relationships and a healthy mind. Suddenly we fit right in and the conversations with other visitors to the event gave us even further insight into the qualities Escape Rooms has to offer when opening a discourse on mental wellbeing. Here are just a few:

Escapism and Immersion

Sorry to get all Inception-y but in being put in a room from which you need to escape, you could say you have already escaped. Let that sink in for a moment. Mind blown? No? Ok.

The fact is the term Escape Rooms actually presents a double meaning. The experience in itself is an escape. At Escape Rooms you can find yourself immersed on a spaceship in the future, a cursed Egyptian tomb, a moon base and even complicit in a high-stakes museum heist. In short, you’re transported, if you’re willing to submit to complete suspension of reality, not only to another world but a place completely removed from the London’s rat race and from the distractions of modern life.

Nowadays when we’re unsure of how to do just about anything the answer is quite literally at our fingertips. Unfortunately Google or Siri will not help you solve our puzzles and our strict no photo/video policy means that you won’t find the answers anywhere on the web. Here the brain is at front and centre and personal phones prove useless. Smart phones are brilliant but render the user Omni-present. As such they have often been credited as a springboard for anxiety levels (I admit, there is a slight irony in that our games at Angel involves a smart phone messaging system, but all part of the futuristic sci-fi immersion, my friends). So switch the real world off for an hour and come and try an escape room if you want to train that brain in an immersive and fully tangible way.

Cohesion and Communication

There’s a reason we’re so popular as a team building activity. Communication and teamwork are at the very core of Escape Rooms and the game requires you to work as a cohesive unit towards a common goal. It can allow you to identify and cultivate each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses, learning the best way to approach working together. Much like some mad scientist in the lab you are taking the best of everyone to create one super monster (but like a good monster that’s going to win the escape room or something. Time to go back to metaphor school). One of the things in which we take great pride is the vast array of puzzles we have to offer. They may require skill, dexterity, physical prowess, a great visual mind, impeccable logic. In short there is something for everyone and thus a chance for everyone to shine. This isn’t like Scooby Doo where Velma solves everything. Without sounding like an after school special, being part of a unified team is a great feeling and positive interactions go hand in hand with a healthy mind.

Asking for help is not a weakness

When discussing mental health and wellbeing in broader terms, this is a statement that is much easier said than done. It is something that is endemic throughout all of society today and surrounds a stigma that with any hope will be quashed over time. However I am not exactly qualified or profound enough to talk on this matter in the broader sense. As such I’ll apply it to the microcosmic world of Escape Rooms.

Of the deadly ‘sins’ the one to which we are the most exposed as games masters, is pride. We can guarantee that you will reach a point in your game where all hope seems lost. You’re doomed and prepare to raise the white flag (which reminds me, whatever happened to Dido?). What a lot of players seem to forget is that the games master is there for a reason and accepting an offer of help should never be considered a sign of weakness. The teams that succeed most often are the ones that are not afraid to swallow their pride. Not only in accepting help from us, but from fellow team mates too. It really is a great applied example of the notion that asking for help is fundamental to growth and achievement. It is most certainly not something to be ashamed of. “The only shame comes from not making it to the wall of fame. And to make it to the wall of fame, one must be willing to suppress the shame“- Aristotle??

The Selfish Part

As much as teamwork is intrinsic to Escape Rooms it can also teach you a lot about yourself. The environment forces the mind to utilize skills that you might not even know you possessed. When you make the link, find the code, discover a vital puzzle component you feel ever so slightly great about yourself. You did that! After the experience has finished have a debrief with yourself and acknowledge your contribution. Speaking from my own experience and testimonials from our teams, the adrenaline- fuelled feeling you complete a room within the hour is a ‘rush’. Enjoy it. This is as much a victory for yourself as well as the team!

By Josh Buckland

Which Team Member Are You?

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?

The Cassandra

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

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.

The Tyrant

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 Shrieker

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

Escape Rooms: Corporate/Team Building

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

Christmas Parties at Escape Rooms

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

Escape Rooms: Hen/Stag Do

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

Why Do We Fear Machines?

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

A Christmas Gift

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

Our Hidden Talents

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

A Dictionary of Escape Room Terms

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.

games master

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