A while back, I was asked to describe the defining characteristics of an advanced escape room player.
I’ve thought about this often. I’ve watched players that I respect and tried to figure out what makes them strong players. There are a lot of characteristics that I like to see in fellow players.
Characteristics of A Great Escape Room Player
These are in no particular order.
- Strong puzzle skills
- Willing to search
- Able to accurately input solutions
- No ego about the game
- Willing to take hints when needed
- Aware of their own strengths and weaknesses
- Able to step back and let others have their moments
- An eye for what is and isn’t a puzzle
- Knowledge of the various mechanisms that show up in games
- Advanced puzzling skills of all kinds
These are all things that I love to see in a fellow player. These traits describe the type of players that Lisa and I strive to be.
The more I think about them, however, none of these are a bright-line indicator of advanced play.
The Defining Characteristic of An Advanced Escape Room Player
For me, the defining trait is simple:
Can the player continue to play an escape room effectively if the game’s sequencing has broken?
Sequence breaking can come from a bad reset, a technology failure, accidental opening of a lock, or solving a puzzle too early. This stuff happens, even in well-designed games.
A truly advanced player will do 1 of 3 things when met with this kind of challenge:
- Call the gamemaster in to resolve the issue
- Fix the problem themselves and continue to play
- Acknowledge what’s going on with the team and work around it
All of these options are viable solutions. (The optimal one shifts based on precise circumstances.) The catch here is that any of these solutions requires a player to identify the problem. That is often difficult to do.
Identifying the problem in the first place indicates awareness and understanding of the mechanics of an escape room. Additionally, a novice might notice a bypassed puzzle and simply think, “one less challenge on our path to victory.” An advanced player will realize that broken sequence is a potential hazard for the team and not necessarily an advantage.
To me, this awareness and understanding sets the advanced escape room players apart.
What do you think?
Am I right? Am I wrong? Are there other traits that I missed?
We’d love to hear additional thoughts on what makes an advanced escape room player.
Something I’ve noticed in advanced players is the ability to remain calm and not get into a “panic state”. Some of the best escape room players I have played with seem to sort of walk into a room and very calmly set out to complete the tasks in the most efficient way possible. They don’t jump around, rush about without a clear direction, or act frantic or hurried when completing a puzzle or task. They just simply DO the task and then move on. When there is 5 minutes left on the clock, they don’t panic and start rushing through things (which sometimes results in mistakes, skipping over vital parts, or hurried miscommunication – all these things waste the precious seconds left in the game and can result in having to start over or repeat the task). They simply go about solving the room without fear or worry that they might not get out. Julie and I try to do this now after watching two of our favorite people play with us in LA and San Antonio (plus the occasional “dance party” in a room can be helpful as well 😉 )
Yeah, that calmness absolutely comes from experience and comfort.
And yeah… sometimes dancing is fun too.
I like the list because I strongly agree that a good puzzler is not always a Great Escape Room Player. Tenacity is a key characteristic of those that are very good “puzzle solvers”. However, in a team environment this can be detrimental. Sometimes a good puzzler will not let another puzzler make an attempt even when the first puzzler is spinning their wheels. I think you cover this in personality traits section. It also goes with the characteristic of accepting hints.
Totally agree experience in actual escape rooms can make a player appear like a Great Player just by the recognition factor in puzzles (listed in Deeper Skills). Running into a pigpen cypher makes me look advanced while the really smart people who have never seen one before are pulling their hair out. When I’m playing with newbies they think I’m an advanced player as well. I am not.
I cannot disagree with the defining characteristic to be an Advanced Player as listed. Since the most advanced players I’ve been exposed to are room designers or owners, I believe knowing how a room should/could be designed/played is a huge part of the equation.
It’s really interesting (and easy to forget) that there are a lot of standard escape room tricks that are learnable… and simply knowing them will provide a massive speed boost – and make you look like a wizard to newbies.
I think another characteristic (which may be a subset of “no ego” and “communicative”) is: able to integrate other player’s suggestions into their thought process and willing to try teammate’s ideas even if they think they’re wrong.
Yeah, “no ego” is a catch-all for a lot of different behaviors.
Perhaps another advanced trait is to have a mental stock of the game – be able to track puzzle progression, use of different parts of the game and story flow if there is one. So the advanced player knows what has been solved, what hasn’t been done, how things have connected up and has some awareness of what other team members are doing, even when not directly involved.
This is a thing 100%. There’s a feel that comes from knowing room functionality, story structure, and other hard to quantify details that make it possible to judge how much is left.
There is another trait that I think is important, although it’s hard to put succinctly. It has something to do with being able to determine the level of precision that the designer intends for her solves. When every solve thus far has landed with a precise “of course!”, then one can presume that future solves will have a similar level of precision. If the solves are more loose or playful, then one can expect that to continue as well. The trick here is identifying those trends and applying them.
Oh yeah. I call this my trust threshold – and I have a post that’s been 75% written on this subject that I really need to finish.
When everything is solving cleanly and we get stuck, I’ll usually stop my team from doing wacky – unclued stuff. Conversely, there are games where everything is loose (to put if kindly), and I’ll encourage everyone to try whatever crazy ideas pop into their heads because you never know what BS will turn out to be the right solution.