Can You Fail an Escape Room?

Your stomach drops, eyes darting about the room, still desperately searching for answers. Clammy hands barely holding pieces of the puzzle before you, reality squeezes icy fingers into your throat. No one is coming to save you. There’s still so much to do, so much to solve. The game has ended and toxic gas floods into the room. The Captive, trapped just like you, coughs and sputters before they succumb. Their dying words were begging cries for mercy, for help. Edward Tandy’s laugh fills the room, the last thing you will ever hear. So, can you fail an escape room? Yes, absolutely.

Escape games aren’t fun if they don’t pose challenges! If there aren’t any stakes and everyone wins, what is your motivation to play? We raise the pressure with the threat of death should you not escape within the given time limit. (For legal reasons, I probably should mention that we don’t actually kill our guests when they don’t escape. Can you imagine how much blood we would have to clean up on any given day??)

The Story – What Happens When Time Runs Out?

At The Basement: A Live Escape Room Experience, you enter the world of Edward Tandy, a cannibalistic serial killer looking to purge the world of those he has deemed unworthy of survival. A test of wits, teamwork, and communication lies deep inside his West Orange, New Jersey home. Do you have what it takes to solve your way out of his dark trap? Should you perish before reaching your ultimate goal of escape, you and your whole team will be… the guests of honor at dinner. The Basement LA has 40 escape room games on any given Saturday: that’s a lot of corpses to dispose.

Luckily, Edward has a companion? Minion? Underling? Pet? Named Toby. Those of you who have visited us before have no doubt seen this masked creature running about, constantly getting out of his cage. Besides causing a great deal of stress for staff, Toby does help clean up the bodies, even if he’s known to snack on the job. For reasons completely unbeknownst to me, we have allowed Toby free-reign over our Twitter feed. I guess even Serial Killers need to delegate tasks to stay on top of things.

But What Happens?

When we die? We still haven’t solved that mystery. Oh! You mean when your time runs out? Well it’s different for each room. Regardless, you’re probably not makin’ it out of there. When your game ends as time has run out, there is a clear moment meant to signify your death, capture, or disfigurement. It’s not like that in every escape room, but at The Basement, failing means curtains. But don’t be afraid, you won’t be stuck there for long.

Game Master to the Rescue!

Seconds after the game has ended, a team member (or game master, as they are sometimes known) will enter the room with a dramatic cry, “NOOOOOOO! YOU DIIIIIIED! I’m so sorry about that. I’m sure you have a lot of questions as you transition to the afterlife.” We introduce you to the actor inside of your experience as they drop character and greet you excitedly. They will then walk you through a couple of the highlights of your experience, calling attention to the helpful skills you implemented, and simple things you can do to improve next time. We ensure you don’t leave our games with clues or keys, and then you’re off to take your Obituary Photo! That way, your friends and family will know what happened to you.

Or, the floor drops out from under you, opening up the alligator pit, shutting before you even have time to scream.

How to Fail Escape Rooms With Style

We talk a lot on this blog about how to beat escape rooms, sharing special tips and tricks to make playing most escape games a little easier. This is for the rest of you. This is for the players that don’t have their eye on the clock and their fingers on the pulse. Escaping isn’t the only way to have fun in an escape room game. I think the question changes from “can you fail an escape room?” to “SHOULD you fail an escape room?”

Firstly, be sure you are paying attention to the needs of the teams you planning on playing with. Many players are seriously in it to win it. Communicate effectively before your game even begins to ensure you and your team are on the same page. Solving puzzles and finding clues are important and all, but those interested in failing with style will have different priorities. This approach to playing an escape game should be considered an outlier and is not recommended for first time players.

Entirely Buy-In to the Story

You’ve paid your $38, make the absolute best of it. Most escape rooms (the good ones, anyway) will be centered around a story, making you the star of the experience. The escape room industry has produced a wide variety of thematic excuses for why you might be stuck inside a room, solving puzzles to free yourself. If you give yourself entirely to the story, really suspending your disbelief for an hour, it can be so exciting to discover the person you become in there. Dressing up in costume is a great way to lean in and give yourself a head start on the action. You’re ready for the puzzle rooms from the moment you leave your house!

Interact with your Actor

You wouldn’t BELIEVE how many players ignore the performers inside of our escape rooms. They are trapped, just like you! Maybe they look a little scary, maybe they even startled you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends! As you search for clues, it is equally important to engage with the characters of the world around you. You didn’t think we just locked you in a box and expect you to solve puzzles, right? Of course there’s more to it than that! Our talented performers create some of the most memorable moments any escape room has to offer. Their significant impact on the game and your story lies in that interactivity. So play along with them; put yourself in their world. Forget about money and taxes and responsibilities for a little bit and just. Play Pretend.

Explore Absolutely Everything

Experienced teams know to thoroughly explore escape rooms, but I’m suggesting taking things a step further. Enjoy the strange space you find yourself in, you might just find a clue or two. Escaping isn’t always the end goal; sometimes it boils down to just having a good time with your team. This kind of idea works well at The Basement, a re-playable experience with super challenging puzzles for you to try again and again. The games themselves are built with immersion and storytelling in mind, so soak it up, we dare you.

Win or Lose: Focus on Fun

From the moment you walk through the secret door to The Basement, to the intro video, to the last breath when the clock ticks to zero, we hope you are having a truly memorable time. It is a game, after all! Build your team with cool people looking to have fun, no matter what the final outcome. If you solve even one puzzle, consider that a success. We look forward to celebrating your wins, and mourning your losses. The staff here at The Basement wishes you the best of luck escaping, but we hope you enjoy your losses just as much.

Thanks for reading Can You Fail an Escape Room? This awesome blog has tons of other cool topics to read up on if you want to dig in deeper. Follow us on social media for fun updates, contests, and more!

Kayden Ressel

Kayden is the owner of The Basement: A Live Escape Room Experience and an immersive design firm known as Nedyak Designs, LLC. Kayden has produced high-end escape rooms and immersive experiences for A-list celebrities, Fortune 500 companies, and many high budget creative projects.

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