I don’t even know what people mean when they make statements like, “I don’t like puzzles” or “I’m bad at puzzles.” I’m pretty sure that they are imagining only one type of puzzle.
[Original comic via Extra Fabulous Comics.]
Random Player Theory is by far the most important philosophical question in escape rooms.
So much mischief.
I’m not totally sold on the viability of the concept in most markets… but that’s a post for another day.
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?
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
“Anyone who isn’t me or a friend of mine is a random.”
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.
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
The smaller group of players are the randoms.
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.
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
The players that book into a partially reserved room are the randoms.
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.
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
In any given random team escape game, all unaffiliated parties are in a perpetual state of randomness.
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.
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.
We all have our weaknesses.
Some friendships are built to last. Some aren’t.
Something to consider when designing a game:
Each puzzle should be there for someone to enjoy.
If a puzzle is present for the sole purpose of slowing a team down or making the game hard… consider replacing it with something that’s actually fun.
The oldest conversation in escape rooms.