It turns out that I’ve been counting wrong my whole life… and the odds are good that you have been too.
On a few occasions I’ve encountered escape rooms that include high counting “puzzles.” I am referring to challenges that required our team to count a large volume of items and input those numbers into a combination lock.
While I’ve encountered poorly-clued, high-volume counting puzzles in some of my worst escape room experiences, counting as a challenge isn’t all that uncommon. Here’s how to better handle counting challenges as both a player and a designer.
Counting puzzles done well
Counting as a reasonable escape room puzzle usually looks something like this:
You’re in a music studio room and there are instruments all over the place. Most are obvious; a few are well hidden. There are 5 guitars, a keyboard, 2 basses, and 9 drums. Somewhere else in the room you find production notes that say, “when putting together the mix, I started with the bass, then added in the drums, the guitars, and finished with the keyboard.” Your combination is 2-9-5-1.
Counting isn’t fun
Every experienced escape room player eventually finds puzzle types that they simply cannot stand. For example, black lights catch a lot of flack. (I don’t think they deserve all of it.) Counting disappoints me every time I encounter it, even when it’s done well.
It’s a lazy puzzle. It’s patronizing to ask anyone older than 10 to mindlessly count, especially when they are paying for the privilege.
How to count better
While I may not like counting, I will do it when the game demands it. So I was pretty happy to learn that TED-Ed put out a video showing a number of better ways to count large numbers… with your fingers.
I wish I had known this when I was a kid because whenever I had to count anything my brother would love to shout a string of random numbers to throw me off.
Image via Wikipedia.
Video via Lifehacker.