On October 3, 2018, in Moscow, Rich Bragg, Dan Egnor, Ana Ulin, and Amanda Harris set the Guinness World Record for most escape rooms attended in one day. In the days following the record, we asked them to reflect on those insane 24 hours. Here are their thoughts.
For more details about the record requirements, read our “before” interview.
Room Escape Artist: Did you set the Guinness World Record for most escape rooms played in one day?
[AH] We did!
What was your final count of escape rooms?
[AH] 22. We fit in all 22!
What was your win/ loss rate?
[AH] We only lost 1 game! It was just too dense and procedural for us to tackle with just 4 tired people.
We thought we’d lost 3 games. One was a story choice that was one of those final trick question things. In the other, we thought we had lost as we were re-doing the last step of the final puzzle, but it turned out we had triggered the door and it hadn’t swung open. The game masters had been waiting in the hallway wondering why we weren’t coming out!
Which 22 games did you play?
[RB] We played 22 games at Claustrophobia in Moscow. Here is a peek at our log book:
|Time||Event||Event Type||Time||Room Count||Room Notes|
|10/2/2018 8:17:35 AM||Rise of the Machines||Room||0:58:37||Room #1|
|10/2/2018 9:17:28 AM||Breaking Bad||Room||0:43:43||Room #2||Russian|
|10/2/2018 10:04:14 AM||Terra Incognita||Room||0:35:03||Room #3||Russian|
|10/2/2018 10:49:43 AM||travel to next location by taxi||Travel||0:18:04|
|10/2/2018 11:09:20 AM||lunch break||Meal||0:11:54|
|10/2/2018 11:21:14 AM||Baker Street, 221B||Room||0:28:21||Room #4|
|10/2/2018 11:56:30 AM||Alien||Room||0:40:15||Room #5|
|10/2/2018 12:40:02 PM||Frodo||Room||0:37:01||Room #6|
|10/2/2018 1:23:48 PM||travel to next location by foot||Travel||0:22:33|
|10/2/2018 1:51:05 PM||Dungeon Prisoners||Room||0:46:00||Room #7|
|10/2/2018 2:42:29 PM||Purgatory||Room||0:35:28||Room #8|
|10/2/2018 3:22:17 PM||travel to next location by foot||Travel||0:13:27|
|10/2/2018 3:37:06 PM||memory card swap||Memory Card Swap||0:12:27|
|10/2/2018 3:51:18 PM||Deadly Vacancy||Room||0:39:28||Room #9||Russian|
|10/2/2018 4:36:50 PM||A Deal with the Devil||Room||1:00:00||Room #10 (Loss)||Russian|
|10/2/2018 5:38:06 PM||snack break||Meal||0:10:04|
|10/2/2018 5:48:50 PM||Arctic Bunker||Room||0:52:16||Room #11||Russian|
|10/2/2018 7:02:18 PM||travel to next location by metro||Travel||0:34:12|
|10/2/2018 7:38:16 PM||dinner break||Meal||0:35:49|
|10/2/2018 8:17:00 PM||Medieval Mysteries||Room||0:33:54||Room #12||Russian|
|10/2/2018 9:02:55 PM||Mexican Heist||Room||0:33:00||Room #13||Russian|
|10/2/2018 9:47:44 PM||Curse of Ramses||Room||0:59:21||Room #14||Russian|
|10/2/2018 11:00:17 PM||travel to next location by foot||Travel||0:16:58|
|10/2/2018 11:21:14 PM||memory card swap||Memory Card Swap||0:10:59|
|10/2/2018 11:36:11 PM||Houdini’s Academy||Room||0:57:09||Room #15|
|10/3/2018 12:40:39 AM||travel to next location by metro||Travel||0:22:15|
|10/3/2018 1:07:05 AM||Mystery Man Without a Face||Room||0:43:55||Room #16|
|10/3/2018 1:55:28 AM||Iron Man||Room||0:34:57||Room #17|
|10/3/2018 2:41:15 AM||Philosopher’s Stone||Room||0:29:44||Room #18|
|10/3/2018 3:27:11 AM||travel to next location by foot||Travel||0:11:35|
|10/3/2018 3:39:24 AM||Stir in Springfield||Room||0:44:55||Room #19|
|10/3/2018 4:34:44 AM||memory card swap||Memory Card Swap||0:08:48|
|10/3/2018 4:34:58 AM||Leonardo’s Last Mystery||Room||0:59:35||Room #20|
|10/3/2018 5:51:56 AM||Steampunk: The Airship||Room||1:00:10||Room #21||Russian, 75 Minute Clock|
|10/3/2018 6:58:59 AM||Alice in Nightmareland||Room||0:54:12||Room #22||Russian, 75 Minute Clock|
|10/3/2018 7:54:15 AM||end, no time to start a new game|
Our best escape time was 0:28:21. Our average escape time was 0:44:52.
Here is how we spent the hours of the day:
Claustrophobia has a difficulty scale from 1-5 on their website. 1 is the easiest and 5 is the most difficult. Here is the breakdown of how many games we played in each difficulty level:
|Difficulty Level||Game Count|
What were your individual high points?
[AH] Our team magic elevated me to places I rarely get to be. I swooped in to save a rhythm-based puzzle and a blind manipulation puzzle, which are both usually outside of my skill set!
[DE] I loved finding things that would absolutely never happen in escape rooms anywhere else I’ve been.
[RB] It was a thrill to finish a couple of the games as the clock was nearing expiration. I also got a pretty good feeling during the ceremony with the Guinness representative as he handed us the award.
What were your individual low points?
[AH] Around 2 AM we hit a pocket of themes that weren’t my style. I was also cranky because my feet were wet from puddles and sore from all the walking. I took a back seat and tried to play a support role until we hit another game that I was excited about.
[DE] Yeah, that stretch was pretty rough. Losing – or thinking we’d lost – a game killed momentum… and we didn’t even have time to get a proper walk through!
[RB] We played 6 consecutive rooms in Russian in the middle, which hit us pretty hard. As we neared the end, I was so physically exhausted that I would sit on the ground to work on a puzzle and not want to get up once I’d solved it.
What were your favorite games?
[AU] We loved Alice in Nightmareland. It had a wonderful set and really good, tight puzzles. Other standouts were Houdini’s Academy, for its mechanical puzzle elements, and Rise of the Machines, for some unique game mechanics we hadn’t seen before.
[RB] I also enjoyed Breaking Bad and Deal with the Devil, even though we lost the latter. Deadly Vacancy was especially memorable for a moment that scared me more than any of the horror games that we played later in the week did.
Were there any particularly interesting or unusual games that you found especially different, even if you didn’t necessarily love them?
[AH] Houdini’s Academy, Rise of the Machines, Breaking Bad, Deadly Vacancy, Stir in Springfield, Terra Incognita, Alien, Arctic Bunker, and Alice in Nightmareland each had unique elements that I would recommend for a certain subset of players.
[RB] That list of games demonstrates the variety that Claustrophobia has to offer. All were at top notch production value.
Who was the MVP?
[GROUP] If it weren’t for Rich’s idea to attempt this in the first place, and handling all the set up with Guinness and Claustrophobia, this wouldn’t have happened at all, so he’s for sure the MVPest. Without all that work, there’s no way we could’ve pulled this off. He was also a persistence MVP. He sat with some of the tougher puzzles for a lot longer than the rest of us would have had patience for!
Ana was the person who couldn’t have been replaced with another top escape room player. We would have been completely lost without her ability to navigate everything in Russian. Even the rooms that had been translated to English still sometimes benefited from knowledge of Russian. Ana also consistently pushed us to think out loud. Sometimes after you’ve been playing with the same team for hours and you’re all getting tired, you stop sharing your ideas and making connections between inputs and outputs. Ana kept us talking, listening, and acknowledging each other.
Dan didn’t hesitate to do some crazy <spoilers redacted> stuff because it seemed like the right thing to do (and it was!). At many points, we’d round a corner and see Dan diving into something headfirst, trotting off to investigate something, or trying a harebrained idea that we had tried to talk ourselves out of, but turned out to work. Dan also consistently provided key insights and leadership.
Amanda showed her escape room magic on so many occasions by solving things the rest of us couldn’t seem to manipulate or figure out. The moment that stands out is when Amanda solved a rhythm puzzle on the first try that the rest of us had been trying unsuccessfully to execute for a while.
Claustrophobia is an honorary MVP for putting together such an amazing team to help us all day and all night! They admitted to us that they had not had high hopes that this attempt would be successful and that they thought it would be kind of boring. Instead, they had a lot of fun watching us. They built excitement with us as we got closer and closer.
What was the unplanned or unexpected drama?
[AH] We had plenty of drama in the days leading up to the record with last-minute arrangements for our judge, last-minute t-shirt making, and all of us being on the road in separate cities. During the record, however, everything went more smoothly than we could ever have anticipated.
[RB] Our wire transfer to pay for the rooms never made it to Claustrophobia’s account, so I had to spend some time on the phone with my bank during our attempt (mostly during the travel segments) to sort that out.
We were also so far ahead of schedule for the first half of the day that we ran into a location that couldn’t let us start for about 40 minutes from when we arrived because there were other bookings already in progress. Fortunately that was also where we were planning our dinner break, so it worked out ok.
[AH] As personal drama, I had brought a fake bear rug mascot, but we kept rushing into taking pictures, so he didn’t make it into any of them. I was planning to at least include him in the photo for my 900th room, which would be our official record minimum room (room 20), but I forgot all about him. Thank goodness for Photoshop.
What was it like playing with those GoPro cameras strapped to you?
[RB] I didn’t notice it at all except on some rare occasions when I’d need to squeeze through a small space and the camera would snag. I got so used to it, I didn’t even think about it during bathroom breaks!
Is there any chance that we can edit together a blooper or highlight reel from this footage?
[AH] The judge took our SD cards, so we don’t have access to that video anymore. We had to sign some papers for Claustrophobia that said we wouldn’t use any of that video for any other purposes, anyway.
How did you feel at the end of the attempt?
[AH] Surprisingly, not all that tired… too much adrenaline! I felt really proud of us as a team, and really warm and grateful for everyone who had been helping us. Help included planning, on-site logistics, and sending Facebook and Slack encouragement!
[AU] I felt tired, happy that we did it, and happy that it was over!
Do you still like escape rooms?
[RB] Yes! We were still able to enjoy the rest of the rooms we played in Moscow that week!
Do you still like each other?
[AU] We do! We stayed encouraging and positive throughout, which is perhaps our biggest accomplishment.
[RB] This was never a worry for me; my teammates are all awesome people.
What advice do you have for anyone else thinking about setting a world record in escape rooms?
[RB] Pick the right company (or companies) to work with. Our choice to do this all with Claustrophobia, who handled so much of the logistical load both before and during the event, was probably the single biggest factor that made this work as well as it did for us. Be sure to have the ability to adjust your plans in the middle if you’re going faster or slower than you planned.
Also, don’t underestimate the physical toll this will take on your body. Eat and hydrate.
[AU] Remember to have fun! We went in with an attitude that we were going to do our best for the record, but also that it would not be the end of the world if something went wrong. A focus on fun helped us stay positive and productive.
[AH] Find a team of people that you absolutely love and could never get tired of!
We are so proud of Amanda, Ana, Dan, and Rich!
However long their record stands, we’ll always be in awe of their tenacity, planning, endurance, and the boldness it took to set a record in a foreign country while playing games in a language that only one of them spoke… and it was her second language.