The First Guinness World Record Escape Room Attempt [Interview]

At this moment, 4 friends are attempting a Guinness World Record for the most escape rooms played in one day. We caught up with Rich Bragg, Dan Egnor, Ana Ulin, and Amanda Harris earlier this week to learn about their ambitious attempt to play 20 escape rooms in 24 hours.

Most Escape Rooms attended in one day, Guinness World Records logo.

Room Escape Artist: What is the world record you will be attempting to set?

[RB] The official title is “most escape rooms attended in one day.”

What are the requirements for a successful attempt?

[RB] Guinness will accept a minimum of 20. They require a 50% success rate. Each escape room must have a minimum allotted time of 30 minutes.

[AH] Additionally, all team members must be actively attempting every escape room for the full duration of the time allotted for the escape room, or until the team escapes. We can’t wait for time to run out and we can’t leave rooms early… unless we’ve escaped. If we escape early, however, we can move straight on to the next escape room.

[DE] Guinness also requires body cam footage and independent witnesses. We’ll have to submit various other documentation to Guinness as well.

When and where will the world record attempt take place?

[DE] October 2-3, 2018 from 8:15 am to 8:15 am (local time) in Moscow, Russia.

Claustrophobia game promo: a captain aboard a steampunk airship

Are “escape rooms” a new Guinness World Record category?

[DE] Guinness has two escape room-related world record categories: (1) most attended in 24 hours and (2) most attended in 1 year. Neither category currently has a record holder.

[RB] When I first searched Guinness for escape room-related records, only the most attended in 1 year category existed (with the minimum number set to 415!?!?!) I then submitted an application (in December 2017) to create the record for most in 1 day, which was initially denied. I appealed the denial by pointing to the 1-year record as precedent. In March 2018, they approved the new category and, upon the approval, had also created a full list of guidelines for what the record would mean and all the rules for doing so.

I later found out that the year-long record was initially requested by S2 [Sera Dodd & Sharan Gill], a couple from the UK. They played 625 escape rooms in one year, but the requests for evidence made it basically impossible to prove, correlate, and back-date, so they decided against spending months trying to do so.

Room Escape Artist: S2 confirmed this for this piece. Additionally, S2 later also asked Guinness to add the 24-hour category and now that the category is approved, they will make the attempt as well, likely in a few months… we’ll know soon if they have a number to beat.

The Claustrophobia logo

Where did the idea for the world record attempt come from?

[AH] Rich suggested it to us!

[RB] The seed for this idea came when someone first mentioned to me that Claustrophobia offers so many rooms AND they are open 24 hours. I don’t recall if it was me or someone else who first mentioned that this might be the only place in the world where you could actually play rooms all day and night if you wanted to. Some of us had talked about the world record concept in theory before we ever actually planned a trip to Moscow. As we started to plan this trip, I decided to take the world record idea more seriously.

The team before their record attempt.
Left to right: Amanda Harris, Dan Egnor, Ana Ulin, Rich Bragg all wearing GoPro cameras at the start of their attempt.

Who is the team? Please introduce yourselves.

[RB] I’m Rich Bragg. I live in California. I’ll have played 526 rooms when we start the world record attempt. Last year I played in the inaugural Red Bull Escape Room World Championship.

[DE] I’m Dan Egnor. I also live in California. I’ll have played 451 rooms when the world record attempt starts. Ana Ulin is my partner.

[DE, AU] We know Rich and his wife Kiki (who is on the trip to Russia as well, along with a few other friends) from the Bay Area puzzle hunt scene dating back to the mid-2000’s. We’ve been playing in puzzle hunts and escape rooms together for years now.

[AH] I’m Amanda Harris. I live in North Carolina. I’ll be starting the record day at 880 rooms. I was officially introduced to Rich, Dan, and Ana at the NYC Escape Immerse Explore tour in 2017, when you suggested that I meet them! I have spent a lot of time locked up solving puzzles with some or all of this team over the past 10 months or so, including in Atlanta, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, San Diego, New Orleans, Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Portland.

Claustrophobia game promo: a woman in a laser maze
Image via Claustrophobia

Ok, so a group of Americans are traveling to Moscow to establish a Guinness World Record for most escape rooms attended in one day. Give us an idea of your game plan for that 24-hour period.

[AU] Well, technically, I’m not American (although I’ve lived in California for almost 10 years). We’re traveling to Moscow for a vacation with friends, a vacation that includes a lot of escape rooms. The world record attempt is a thing that sort of… just got added on…

[AH] We’ll be playing escape rooms at 7 (maybe 8) Claustrophobia locations. Here is a map:

Map of the 7 Claustrophobia locations in Moscow that will be involved in the record attempt.

[AH] We currently have 22 rooms on the list that take us a little past the 24 hours. We have no idea if these rooms are going to take us 20 minutes to complete or the whole hour, especially once we get tired and when we need to play the rooms in Russian. We are not sure what to expect for travel time, outside of what Google maps tells us. But Claustrophobia helped us come up with the schedule (with travel recommendations) so we think at least 21 are doable.

[RB] One critical aspect of this whole attempt is Claustrophobia. Once we got the record category approved by Guinness, we emailed Claustrophobia to see if they’d be interested in working with us to make this happen. They have come through in a huge way: building a custom schedule for us that spans many of their locations, helping us recruit local community members to serve as witnesses in 4-hour shifts, arranging meals for us during the attempt, and just doing everything possible to help us make this crazy idea a reality.

[AH] We also have a fake bear rug mascot named Boris, an emoji shortcut for our team name (Bloody Boris’s Burning Bluelight Brigade) and hastily designed and printed t-shirts!

Team emoji logo.

What’s your plan for meals? Bathroom breaks? Travel between games?

[AH] Breaks? What are those?

[AU] We’ll deal with meals and breaks opportunistically. We’ll have snacks and drinks on hand. Claustrophobia is going to order in some food for us. They have been super accommodating and have gone far out of their way to make this possible.

[AH] We’ve also mapped a few quick stops that we’ll walk by, if we’ve earned enough time to stop for coffee.

[DE] Bathroom breaks will be especially fun while juggling the continuously running go-pros!

[AH] For travel, Guinness doesn’t allow private cars, only licensed taxis. We might be having the gamemasters call those for us. Again, Claustrophobia has been the absolute best planning partner for this! Ideally we are mostly sticking to the metro and walking but it’s supposed to be cold and rainy, so we’ll see.

Claustrophobia game promo: two people in yellow suits and masks in a lab
Image via Claustrophobia

Are the games going to be in Russian or English?

[AH] Some of each! Claustrophobia has translated a large number of their rooms, but not all. Ana will be reading everything to us in the Russian-only rooms… except by reading aloud, I mean translating aloud on the fly.

[RB] When I talked with Claustrophobia about how to assemble our team, they strongly recommended that we have 1 Russian speaker. For this reason, I predict Ana will be doing a lot of heavy lifting for us!

Will your world record attempt upset normal bookings at Claustrophobia that day?

[DE] Claustrophobia was super accommodating. They are blocking out a couple of adjacent slots for each of the games to make flexibility in timing possible. They plan to reorganize things on the fly if we’re way ahead; if we’re way behind, then… we’re hosed anyway.

Claustrophobia game promo: a black winged angel in a tomb
Image via Claustrophobia

You only need to win 50% of the games. How does that impact your play strategy?

[AH] We want to earn some wiggle room, so I suspect we will be more focused and spend less time socializing and revisiting interesting puzzles while we play. We aren’t the types to refuse hints on principle, so I figure that will not be different than in regular play. We do need to win half of them!

[DE] I think we’ll be more or less “hint happy” depending on how far behind/ ahead of schedule we are.

[RB] In general, I think our approach won’t look terribly different than how we normally play unless we are falling behind. I’m hoping to still enjoy these rooms and not just rush through them without appreciating them. Fortunately I think we are usually able to do that while still moving quickly.

Boris the bear in emoji sunglasses.

What are you most nervous about?

[AH] I’m most nervous about the sheer number of moving parts. If a witness gets mixed up or a GoPro goes on the fritz, or there’s a metro detour and we lose time, or we show up to play a room but it’s too broken to play after a rough group came through the night before… any of that could throw a big wrench in this.

[DE] Logistical snags can eat up time quickly. With everything going on and this being an unfamiliar city for us, there are all kinds of opportunities for snags.

[AU] I’m a little anxious about playing the role of translator. It’s been many years since I spoke Russian regularly and I’ll be a little rusty. I hope a poor translation doesn’t cause us to lose time! My mother (who is a Russian language teacher) would be very disappointed.

[RB]  I think my biggest worry is how we’ll do in the primarily Russian language rooms. I’m also worried how the unfamiliar environment will affect our plans. When I look at our aggressive schedule, I feel confident that if these were typical rooms in a US city we were familiar navigating, we’d be just fine, but I don’t know how much extra slop time we should be budgeting for, given that we’ll be playing rooms in a language that only one of us speaks, in a city that none of us are used to navigating.

We’ve played with each of you and you are pretty level-headed players. Do you have a plan for coping with a bad game or someone having a bad time?

[RB] We’ve played enough rooms together in the past that I’m not worried about this. If someone is having a bad time or a bad game, I think the others will pick them up and keep things positive.

[DE]  We don’t have any special plans except to try to make plenty of room for each other.

[AH] We all want this to work. As the day wears on, it will be tough. But then we’ll have a long nap after. Naps fix everything.

[AU] Also, we’ll bring chocolate.

Claustrophobia game promo: a couple catching cupcakes in a unusual, brightly colored kitchen
Image via Claustrophobia

What are you most excited about?

[AH] This is an epic undertaking! I’m excited to be a part of it. The planning, collaboration and support that’s come out of this so far are mind-blowing. Even if the record attempt fails spectacularly, I’m proud to have been part of it. I am also super excited about seeing what kinds of escape rooms Moscow has to offer. We have an entire week trip outside of this one day that will include many more escape rooms, yummy food, and silly undertakings.

[RB] I’m pretty excited about the prospect of being a world record holder. I know the experience is going to be exciting in and of itself. I’m also really excited to just play a bunch of rooms in Moscow where I’ve heard the escape room quality is outstanding.

[AU] It will be interesting to see just how far can we push ourselves and how our performance changes after 10 rooms (the most any of us has done in a day so far). The logistics and collaboration with Claustrophobia and Guinness is its own kind of feat as well.

[DE] This should make for some good stories no matter how it goes down.

Outside of this record attempt, how many escape rooms are you playing in Moscow on this trip?

[AH] We have another 24 scheduled in addition to the 22 that are booked for the record attempt. We’re taking it easy.

Closing thoughts:

Amanda, Rich, Ana, and Dan have been some of our favorite teammates over the years. We wish them luck and look forward to interviewing them after the attempt.

However it goes down, we’re certain that Dan is right, the stories will be interesting.

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