If you play a few room escapes, you’ll get a sense of what’s normal.
What opens, what doesn’t, what you should touch, and what you shouldn’t…. understanding this in an escape room context becomes fairly standard and eventually second nature.
Games that push boundaries
Then you’ll encounter a game that breaks the unspoken rules and requires something that seems edgy or dangerous, but in the confines of that particular game is not only safe but necessary:
- Opening electrical outlets
- Sticking items in electrical outlets
- Pulling a fire alarm
- Triggering a fire extinguisher
- Using hand tools (wrenches, screwdrivers, bolt cutters)
- Opening windows
- Opening items that generally shouldn’t be disassembled (televisions or other items that seem breakable)
The trouble as a player
As a player, you generally have no way to be 100% certain that you aren’t going to cause serious problems when the game demands something like pulling a fire alarm.
The best case scenario is that the interaction is exceptionally well-clued, and you can feel the game granting permission to do something stupid.
However, if there isn’t a little voice in your head reminding you that “stuck fork in electrical outlet” could show up on your death certificate, then there’s something wrong.
When faced with an interaction that I think I need to take, but I am not 100% certain if it’s safe for me or the escape room company’s property, I’ll toss the ball into the hands of the gamemaster (or in-game actor) and state:
“Hey gamemaster, I’m about [insert generally bad idea]. I’m going to wait 5 seconds. Tell me to stop or I’m doing it.”
I’ve been using this approach for over two years and it’s never let me down. I’m not asking for a hint; I’m making a statement of intent and allowing the gamemaster an opportunity to put a stop to my actions.
Most of the time my intuition is right and the gamemaster either says nothing or encourages me to do the thing.
But every once in a while I’ll get a slightly panicked gamemaster saying, “STOP! That’s a real fire extinguisher!”
Don’t assume patterns
As a player, I find these types of interactions exciting, but when I encounter them, I immediately begin to question other standard practices of escape room decorum.
After being led to bolt-cutting a lock off of a hasp (I’ve seen this a couple of times now), when I then encounter a fire extinguisher, I immediately question whether it’s in-play or not.
Never assume that one rule break means that all of the rules have fallen away.
Puzzle hard, but be safe and be smart.
These games are fun, but winning is never worth risking your health and safety. When in doubt, ask.
I’ve done two rooms at one venue where the gamemaster told us he would make a loud beeping noise if someone was doing/touching something they shouldn’t do. Many other rooms I’ve done will have “DO NOT TOUCH/MOVE/etc.” stickers scattered around. I dunno if that necessarily takes away from the game, but it certainly helps!
Although there was one game where I took a piece of decoration off the wall (it came off so easily?!), thinking I would need it, and then the gamemaster wrote, “Yeah, you weren’t supposed to do that…” on the computer screen hanging above us. Oops?! 😂