How to Prepare for Escape Rooms
Few are the human exploits and endeavours that cannot be aided by a bit of foresighted preparation.
You prepare yourself for a night out, whether by making yourself pretty or by getting blind drunk so you’re able to tolerate the latest repurposed meat-packing factory that fancies itself to be a cheap club. Military leaders prepare for war; at any rate, the successful ones do.
You prepare for job interviews, for weddings, you prepare for the more adventurous coital manoeuvres (and, kids, you really should prepare for all of them). As Benjamin Franklin is thought to have said, ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’
Escape rooms are no different. And so, we have prepared a handy little guide to get you started.
1) Check your booking confirmation.
Get the basics right. You want to turn up on the right day, at the right time, in the right place. Only a slim minority fail at this most rudimentary of tasks, but a slim minority is far too many. I’ve had to disappoint people who turn up at 13:00 for a 10:45 booking, groups of friends for a birthday who’ve booked the wrong week; I’ve even had a double booking who travelled down from Manchester in May for game they’d booked for April and July. If you don’t turn up on time, you’ll have a bad time.
Obviously your wardrobe is your prerogative. Our only request is that you turn up wearing something. (Even if just lingerie; we’ve seen that before.) Fancy dress is allowed, but consider, please, that you are in a public place.
If you are treating the event seriously, and intent on scoring a good time, wear something practical. We make no dispensation, special or otherwise, for teams who try to navigate their way through rooms while their delightful dresses are flapping all over the place and getting in the way.
3) Brain Training.
If, like roughly 35% of the human race, you are lucky enough to possess a brain of any kind, it’s worth treating it as you would any other muscle you intend to exercise. Do some mental warm-ups. If you have a brain in good working order, you can probably get away with a light load. If, on the other hand, your neurons carry only enough electricity to power an environmentally friendly low-wattage LED bulb, consider something more rigorous. Or bring someone clever.
4) Practice Communicating.
For a species capable of grasping the basics of complex language at an early age, it’s remarkable how many people fail at its deployment later in life. It isn’t just that some people demonstrate no improvement after reaching KS2 level, some people actually regress, with the result that their utterances would have seized Neanderthal society of the need for major educational reform.
Some of us are happiest when talking to ourselves, but language evolved as a form of symbolic communication. It is an inherently social thing, used to transmit ideas, thoughts, commands, encouragement, as well as profound frustration and deep hatred to (and of) your fellows.
Failures of communication have led to several wars throughout history; since it also causes divorce, and divorce, properly understood, is a form of warfare, failures of communication cause wars several times a day. At Escape Rooms, inept communication has meant the long, slow, excruciating death of many of our customers.
So, practice. Tell your husband if you moved his car keys, tell your son if you tidied his bedroom and moved his PSP to the (eminently obvious and sensible) bottom shelf of the bathroom cabinet. Such rudimentary training will fare you well in life, love, and Escape Rooms.
5) Check Your Route.
We are obliged, if a team has not arrived by the time their game is supposed to start, to call them and ascertain their whereabouts. This happens a lot. Which is peculiar, as the website, booking confirmation and booking reminders all clearly state that teams should arrive 10 minutes before their start time.
6) Know What You’re Doing
We quite often get teams of people who’ve never before played an escape game. Occasionally they have been given the game as a gift, or have perhaps watched the film Escape Room, in which everyone dies horribly, and thought, ‘hey, that looks fun, let’s do that.’ Neither is good preparation, not least because, in our venues, if you get murdered by a member of our staff, they’ve done something wrong.
You don’t have to know much in advance, but conceptual familiarity will at least put you in something like the right frame of mind. And there is this terrifically useful new internet tool called Google which will help you self-educate. Don’t be the guy who, when asked if he’d played a game before, replied, ‘no, but I’ve played laser tag. Is it like laser tag?’
No, it isn’t like laser tag.
7) Manage Expectations.
This is aimed mainly at first time players but it applies to many veterans, too. These games are not easy. The success rate for each hovers at around 40%. Do not turn up promising to ‘smash it’, you probably won’t. Especially if you’re part of a drunk stag do whose only previous experience problem solving went so disastrously wrong that one of you ended up getting married. Do not expect to escape in 10 minutes, do not pledge to unseat the record holders with nothing more than the power of your brass neck. Do not underestimate the complexity of the games or overestimate your own intelligence. Do not expect to need no help. Do not turn the walkie talkie off because you ‘won’t need that, mate.’
Not for nothing is pride considered sinful, not for nothing was the phrase ‘twice the pride, double the fall’ coined.
Besides which, optimism is a profoundly stupid attitude, leaving open as it does a vast chasm of disappointment into which you will likely fall when you fail. Expect nothing and you can only be pleasantly surprised.