Escape Room Random Player Theory

You enter a publicly ticketed room and meet your new teammates. Setting aside questions of their puzzling skills, or how pleasant they are to play with (attitude, communication skills, odor)… there’s a bigger question to address.

Who’s the random in the room?

Two of Dr Seuss' Sneetches. The one with a green star on its belly is looking down on the one without a star.

There are four conflicting schools of thought on this subject. I will explore the various theories of player randomness and evaluate each theory based on its own merits.

They Are Randoms Assumption

Hypothesis

“Anyone who isn’t me or a friend of mine is a random.”

Origins

The origins of the They Are Randoms Assumption are unknown and seem to have emerged around the same time that escape rooms emerged in the United States. Many different people came to the same egocentric conclusion.

Assessment

While the They Are Randoms Assumption was the prevailing belief throughout the early years of escape rooms, it relied on the presumption that randomness was bestowed upon one group of players by another, ignoring the possibility that randomness might have roots deeper than a player’s group identity.

Smaller Group Concession

Hypothesis

The smaller group of players are the randoms.

Origins

I first became aware of this hypothesis when escape room player Daniel Devoe Dilley proposed the idea over midnight pancakes on the night of January 19/20, 2019, in a small diner in Jersey City, New Jersey.

As a player who strives to almost exclusively play in a duo, Dilley came to the profound realization that sometimes he and his wife were the randoms.

Assessment

Dilley’s hypothesis was a watershed moment in Escape Room Random Player Theory. His notion that randomness is not assigned but is an inherent state of being completely shifted the nature of the debate.

Late Booker Inference

Hypothesis

The players that book into a partially reserved room are the randoms.

Origins

During the midnight pancakes of January 19/20, 2019, Lisa Spira, co-founder of Room Escape Artist, proposed an alternative notion of inherent player randomness to counter Dilley’s hypothesis.

Spira, one of the world’s most experienced and prolific bookers of escape rooms, argued that it’s not the smaller team, but rather the group of individuals who knowingly join another group are, in fact, the randoms.

Assessment

Spira’s argument is rooted in the assumption that the original group to book actively selected an empty escape room for their group. The original bookers would be surprised by the arrival of additional players whereas any players who booked into a semi-filled game took this action knowingly and thereby assumed the random mantle.

Theory of Random Relativity

Hypothesis

In any given random team escape game, all unaffiliated parties are in a perpetual state of randomness.

Origins

At the legendary midnight pancakes of January 19/20, 2019, the most important event in the rich history of Escape Room Random Player Theory, co-founder of Room Escape Artist David Spira proposed the Theory of Random Relativity in a predictable act of one-upmanship.

Assessment

His argument was rooted in the notion that for every story that he has about “some random person in an escape room,” there’s another player who has a story about this time that they were in an escape room with “a pair of random, obsessive escape room bloggers.”

A Modest Proposal

We here at Room Escape Artist like to grapple with the big questions that the escape room world faces.

Escape Room Random Player Theory may be a problem that is limited to the United States, but endless and constant forum discussions about “public vs private” ticketing are an international issue.

The next time you see a public vs private debate, I ask that you shift the discussion to something more important like, “who’s really the random in a public game?”

Escape Immerse Explore

Now… what you should be doing is coming out to our escape room tours in San Francisco or New Orleans. We’ve got an amazing lineup of games and you’ll have a chance to meet tons of fellow escape room players.

… They may be sort of randoms, but they’re the best kind of randoms.

11 thoughts on “Escape Room Random Player Theory

  1. Everyone is random – that’s why I prefer private games. I don’t want to be an extra person in another groups game and I don’t want extra people in my game. For me, there’s always a sinking feeling when I realize I have to play a game with people I don’t know. We’ve had OK experiences, lots of bad experiences and never any great experiences.

    1. Under most circumstances, I absolutely agree with you. I hate having to adjust the way that I’m playing to accommodate the experience of someone that I don’t know.

      I’m totally fine doing it for my friends and acquaintances. I find it awkward when I don’t have any history or connection to the other players.

  2. Random is a function of perspective which is an element of relativity. What is the ultimate relevance of all this intellectual effort? – People who end up playing with unknowns are often pleasantly surprised by their enjoyment level. Is this because they got lucky with the random pairing or is it because their fears of playing with randoms were excessively high? Social skills are on the wane for bettor or worse. Making friends or even short term acquaintances is an act that is on the decline with a large part of our society. Public vs private is not a right vs wrong, but it is a real issue for this industry. Like most products and services, economics collides with desires and means. In the end, people know what they like (mostly) and will behave in a manner to achieve those desires. That’s “The Market”. “The Market” always wins.

    This is a beautiful April 1 exercise. Additionally, I would like to get in on the midnight of pancakes summit in 2020 if there are not going to be too many randoms attending.

    1. Personally, I’ve had both amazing and terrible experiences with randoms. None of the highs were as low as the lows. Under most circumstances, I don’t like playing with randoms because the risk outweighs the reward. There’s a post in this.

      And thank you. The midnight pancakes were real, as was most of this conversation… with a tiny bit of artistic license to make the post work.

  3. While in St. Louis my wife and I where the randoms as we filled the last two spots of pretty full game. I had a wonderful time and played with some fabulous people. And as to being the Randoms I hope to have not lived up to my theory of Negativity….as relates to randoms.
    While is said one my have excellent experience with stranger’s, the players that drag down or reduce enjoyment are randoms
    For example If one where to have a great experience with strangers you might say “Tthat was fun and it was supper cool to have played with those people”
    While the opposite is said when not a good game. ” That room could have been fun, if not for the RANDOMS that continued to ,,,,(fill in the blank),,,

    Well my 2 cents.

  4. I believe my own positive experiences being the random – I often travel alone and join partial groups regularly – mostly happen because I go into every room, whether with friends, family, or unknown partial groups – with an attitude that we are there to work together and I am responsible for making sure the rest of the group enjoys it as much as I do.
    Because of this mindset, I am able to quickly put the other group at ease and I try to play unselfishly. I can usually tell when a group is quite wary of me at first, but most will warm up quickly and realize that having someone with my experience in escape games means they will have a better chance of escaping.
    If I were selfish and only thought of my own enjoyment, I can imagine those experiences would have been very different.
    Luckily, I enjoy watching others solve problems and discover the joy of escape games and escape rooms.

  5. I kind of enjoy being the random of the Late Booker and/or Smaller Group (solo) moulds when I travel to other cities or countries outside of the San Francisco area. It gives me an opportunity to be social with people I’ll otherwise never see again and helps me stretch my introversion/social anxiety.

    Also, since I’m reasonably experienced at Escape Rooms, I’ve never left a multi-party ER without the others having a positive view of my participation. Generally during the pre-game brief, I’ll mention I’ve played a few dozen ERs before and people are pretty positive about that.

    I also enjoy when others are the randoms in my own booking, especially relative noobs. What a joyous experience to help them start knocking through puzzles, solving stuff on their own, and finding things that us “veterans” overlooked in our presumption. It’s truly enjoyable. Hearing the enthusiasm and “OMGOMGOMG” spilling forth from a first time player afterwards is just so much fun.

    The appeal of private bookings is clear, sometimes you just want to play with friends. But I really like both being and welcoming randoms as well.

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