How to Play an Escape Room
I would like to categorize this question alongside similar ideas: “How to Make the Perfect Salad,” “How to Get a Girl to Like You,” and “How to Make Cats Want to Follow You Home.” The question is simple.
The answer, however, has a few basic guidelines followed by a nearly infinite number of variables that one blog post would be foolish to attempt to cover. But alas, here we are.
We stand above the chess board; peer down into the bowl of spinach, blue cheese, and strawberries; coo uselessly at an unamused feline. We ask, How to Play Escape Room Games?
WHERE TO EVEN START
Before we go over the core ideas found in many escape rooms and other escape room tips, let’s figure out a few things first, like a beginner’s guide. Your experience starts long before the door locks behind you and your clock starts ticking down.
This is a step-by-step guide to choosing the best escape room for you. What game masters you can trust and what kind of escape games you can expect from behind the door.
1. CHOOSE YOUR ESCAPE GAME THEME
What kind of game experience would you like to jump into? Escape Rooms offer a wide array of thematic options. For example, you could visit us in Los Angeles at The Basement (wink wink nudge nudge) and have your group be kidnapped by a cannibalistic serial killer.
If you are looking for something a little tamer, there are games that host all kinds of situations. Sleuth yourself up in a real-life game of CLUE, save the planet from a supervillain, join a film-noir detective agency, break the curse, become a pirate, raise the dead, anything you dream, you can become in an escape room.
Just make sure that every team member playing is on board with the game theme. It’s a little hard to solve puzzles when team members are a little too scared of the many rooms at first glance.
PHOTO FROM THE STUDY IN LOS ANGELES, CA – “MOTHER’S ARMOIRE”
2. LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
Are you a first timer in need of some top tips? Or are you an expert at finding clues?
A novice when it comes to determining the difference between irrelevant things and related objects? A sommelier of escape experiences on a double date with a person you’ve just met?
Watch the pour of the escape room. Swirl the experience in your glass. Smell the theme. Savor each sip of Puzzle and weed out the clues.
Clue after clue will come to you. But only if you’re a seasoned game player in the group.
Most escape rooms will advertise their rooms’ level of difficulty based on escape percentage – and those statistics are no red herring. More often than not, you’ll gain all the information you need about a game from these percentages.
See Related: How Long Does An Escape Room Take?
Do your research on what kind of escape rooms are offered in your area. If you are looking for us, you can find Basement locations in sunny Los Angeles, thrilling Las Vegas, and beautiful Kansas City.
4. WHAT DO OTHERS SAY?
Checking out review websites can be really helpful in deciding which experience you want to partake in. 1163 five-star Yelp Reviews can’t be wrong!
5. PICK YOUR ROOM
Taking into account the above steps, you are now ready to make an informed decision on which room and game is best for you! Or you could, of course, just do the room with the coolest looking poster.
What? No matter how many of the best tips we offer, we know that some of your other teammates in the group will only go off of the games they see listed on a billboard.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
That’s why you’re here, right? Research? Let’s start by going over some of the basics, the standard ideas you’ll find in a lot of escape rooms.
A great place to start is checking out our post, “How to Beat an Escape Room.”
DON’T BE FOOLED BY RED HERRINGS
Found everywhere, including our logo, it would be ridiculous not to mention locks. There are so many different kinds, all with unique puzzle opportunities associated with them and a clue behind each one.
Locks with number and letter codes, locks that require nontraditional keys, even locks that need an input of directions. Familiarize yourself with what these different locks look like and be the person to help your team solve clues and puzzles throughout the games.
DON’T CHEAT, EVEN IF YOU GET STUCK
If you try putting a cut key in a skeleton key lock, it’s not going to go well. It’s not guaranteed this one key information will come in handy, but it’s best to be prepared for your play adventures moving forward.
A point of distinction, research locks, BUT NOT LOCK PICKING! That would be like showing up to a mini-golf course and walking to all eighteen holes and dropping your golf ball inside.
Or bribing an actor or game master in the escape room just to ask for hints or point you in the right direction. It completely negates the whole point of an escape room.
PRO TIP #1:
Don’t be a Lock Squatter. The guy who finds a lock inside of the room and squats down by it. He doesn’t know the answer and refuses to even try to solve any sort of puzzle. And yet, he is going to tumble that lock until he finds the answer, beating away at it and spending too much time and mismanaging the small groups’ time limit. He’s going to guess the code and pop that baby open by sheer physical force if nothing else. This literally never works. So don’t waste time. Come up with a good strategy and work with the team and time limit, not against them.
PHOTO FROM THE BASEMENT IN LOS ANGELES, CA – “THE CAPTIVE’S SLEEPING QUARTERS”
A lot of game puzzles boil down to “Communicating is Hard.” Read things carefully, clearly, completely, and ensure that your teammates understand before moving on.
You can’t do everything yourself, a truth found in life and escape rooms. Being able to rely on your team during each and every game is essential.
GETTING THE WHOLE TEAM ON BOARD
Bring trusted friends and bond with the strangers you may be playing with inside the room. You’re all in this together and the weakest link can break the chain on any particular puzzle.
These puzzles are often my favorite and can lead to hilarious moments you’ll be quoting long after your time has run out. “OKAY, SO IT’S KIND OF LIKE A WEIRD LITTLE SQUIGGLE WITH A HAT ON, YOU KNOW THE THING I MEAN?”
“UHHH, IS IT THIS THING?” “NO, THE OTHER THING!” It may be your first escape room. But be clear, be detailed, remain calm. Search the room and solve a puzzle. Remember, it’s just a game.
PRO TIP #2:
Don’t Panic. Whether time is running out or you are on the last puzzle, working away at the same object you accidentally tossed into the discard pile, you need to keep your cool. Acting under pressure is one thing, but panicking clouds your judgement and makes things a great deal harder! Take a deep breath and don’t over think it. Double check your work. But manage the stress and let your team succeed.
GET INTO IT
Suspend your disbelief and get swept away in the game story. One of the most rewarding things about working at The Basement is hearing those beautiful screams from one puzzle to the next.
Music to our ears. When people genuinely scream in terror, it tells me something very important about their game room experience.
At this exact moment, everything around them is real. It’s not just that the puzzles and clues are fun or that the hints lead to a solution that leads to success.
It’s that the games in the room make you believe what is happening right in front of you. You forget what might happen tomorrow or the next day.
You’re not so much stuck in the game as you are a part of the games themselves. So don’t miss a beat and search for a solution until you find the right clues that can lead you to victory.
A friend of mine still shivers when thinking about how much a particular moment in The Courtyard affected her. She can separate reality from fiction.
But for those forty five minutes, the lines are blurred. We do everything in our power to completely immerse our guests in the story, so go along with the games and start playing.
DON’T SHY AWAY FROM THE THEME
Get into character, put yourself there, walk in these shoes for a mile. That being said, do so without becoming manic.
Don’t break down the door or climb over a prop fence to try and escape. It never quite works that way.
PHOTO FROM THE BASEMENT IN LOS ANGELES, CA – “THE HERO DOOR”
PLAY AN ESCAPE ROOM YOUR OWN WAY!
Playing an escape room is a lot like swimming in the ocean. Dive in, have fun, keep your wits about you, and don’t step on any jellyfish.
Be observant, do your research, but don’t stress yourself too much. It’s all about the complete package, not just winning or losing. It’s as much the journey as it is the destination.
Here at The Basement, we tell all of our guests the same thing before locking them in. Good Luck. Have Fun. Don’t Die.