That one time we had to escape from an escape room
A few weekends ago was the first time I had been to Nashville, the first time we attended the Transworld Escape Room Conference and it was the first time we left an escape room. Like without winning. Or losing. Time was not up and we had to get out of there.
It’s understandable that escape room companies need to be able to sell enough tickets to sustain their business. A problem occurs though when there are too many people in the room for either a) the physical space in the room or b) the amount of puzzles that can be solved simultaneously.
Back to the room. We arrived knowing from reviews that it was going to look amazing. Like you’re at Disneyland and you get to step off the ride’s rails amazing. Unfortunately, the striking set could not make up for the fact that there were 10 us of crammed into the kind of small space where you have to ask, can I please get by you, in order to move a few feet. My nerves were going haywire and I was having a hard time breathing normally but I kept telling myself, “Wait until we open the first door, I’m sure it will open to a large expanse where we’ll be able to skip and dance and breathe.” 15 minutes later we get the door open and reveal the second room! Which turned out to be smaller than the first... I stood there for about 30 seconds watching people bump into each other and crane their necks to get a look and then I was done. My stress level was through the roof and then it hit me: this is supposed to be fun. We can leave! We’re not actually trapped here. So we left. The business was very nice to us and even gave us a refund.
I’d like to say this is the only time we’ve been crammed into an escape room with strangers that we don’t know well enough to be that close to them. Or the only time we’ve stood around because there were only tasks enough for one or two people to be doing. But that was not the first and unfortunately I’m sure it won’t be the last.
We LOVE when an escape room company knows how many people is optimal to play a given game in their space and sets the max capacity as such. We are sometimes scared to book rooms that are raved about as brilliant and beautiful when we see a high player count. It’s a tough task to design a room for groups of 8, 10 and 12 people but there are companies in our own backyard who have done this really well. Let’s highlight a few:
We played this with four people and ran around doing puzzles the entire 57 minutes we were in there. Upon leaving I didn’t know how about half the puzzles in the room were solved. Which is great! It means there was enough puzzles that we could spread out and tackle challenges in smaller groups.
We lost this room. Most of the time if we lose a room it means we had technical difficulties or there was a ton to accomplish. In this case, both were true. But the technical difficulty was not why we lost. We lost because there a lot of puzzles to solve and only two of us to go around. These puzzles included tasks easier done with more bodies in the room.
After having to report that embarrassing loss, we can proudly say we set the record playing this room. It might not still be the standing record since it was a fairly new room when we played BUT a record nonetheless. This room seemed to be tailor-made for how we think and figure out solutions and there was so much to do we were running the whole time.
Best large-capacity room we’ve played in the country:
Hands down the answer is The Roosevelt Room at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. We played this game as our 100th room (they graciously let us since the minimum player count is 4) and we had a blast frantically trying to solve all the puzzles in a massive 75-minute room legitimately built for 12 people to conquer. Our game master even had to come in occasionally to manipulate set pieces for us because we didn’t have enough hands. Surprise, surprise, we lost. But only by 3 minutes!