Are Escape Rooms For Adults?

Escape room companies host a variety of player types: corporate team-building outings, birthday parties, families, bachelorette parties, competitive puzzle people, and fantasy role-playing nerds, to name a few. 

Recently, however, I’ve noticed a clear trend emerging. Escape room companies across the country seem to be experiencing it. Kids are getting into escape rooms, big time.

Kids’ birthday parties, teen outings, kids urging their parents to take them to an escape room. Kids, kids, kids. They’ve become a non-trivial customer group. The reactions I am hearing from owners range from extreme gratitude for the revenue, to disappointment with an audience that doesn’t get their themes, stories, and puzzles, to mild disgust with the destructive tendencies of unsupervised younger players.

A child's hand placing blocks on a stack.
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Create The Escape TV Show [Kids’ Product Review]

Editor’s note: David Spira, co-creator of this website, was involved early on as a production consultant on the pilot episode for Create The Escape. He was not involved in the writing or editing of this review.

Create The Escape is a series on the Peacock network in which professional designers work with kids to plan and build a room for their parents to complete. Each half-hour episode consists of a creation segment and a playthrough segment. The creation segment focuses on set construction and puzzle prototyping, allowing the kids to contribute to the process. The playthrough segment reveals how all of the details come together and then follows the parents as they attempt to escape the room. Some of the kids watch the parents from a Control Room and deliver hints, while the others participate in jump scares and controlled set interactions. If the parents complete the room in under 30 minutes, they win a trophy and a mysterious prize box. Otherwise, the kids win these items.

Create The Escape title card depicts the cast and a couple of child game designers viewed through a keyhole.
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Escape Room Design Links from That Guy With The Puzzles

Brett Kuehner, also known as That Guy With The Puzzles, maintains a modest-looking website at www.thatguywiththepuzzles.com. Behind the link labeled Escape Room Design Links lies a gold mine of information about escape room design.

Homepage of Brett Kuehner's That Guy With The Puzzles website includes a list of links and a photo of many beautiful puzzle boxes.

A basic Google doc contains more than 110 links to articles, books, and blog posts from many different authors. These cover everything from general game design to escape room tech, hinting, and playtesting. The breadth and depth of relevant information all in one place is really remarkable. This is a valuable resource that more people need to know about.

There is something for escape room designers of all levels. Some of the sections include:

  • General Escape Design Principles
  • Puzzle Design
  • Problematic Themes
  • Design Process
  • Escape Rooms in Education
  • Immersion and Narrative
  • Videogame Design and Storytelling
  • Technology
  • Fabrication
  • Puzzle Creation
  • Puzzle Examples
  • Accessibility in Escape Rooms

I asked Brett a bit about his collection.

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Vintage Rotary Phone Tutorial… Or Why They Are Confusing

Rotary phones in escape rooms are sort of a running joke. They are period-appropriate for a few decades of history, but for those who don’t know how to use them… they are completely unintuitive.

An old rotary telephone with the receiver off the hook.

It turns out that they weren’t exactly intuitive when they were released either. Here’s an infomercial from 1936.

The biggest problem with the rotary phone interface is that it doesn’t do much to imply its own usage. It’s truly designed with the assumption that the user will be taught how to use it.

If you want to see this in action, give this Kids React to Rotary Phones video a watch. It’s adorable.

Introducing EnigMarch: A Month-Long Puzzle Design Challenge

Editor’s Note: REA writer Sarah Willson tells us about the new event she’s organizing for puzzle creators… and those curious about creating puzzles.

Next month, we’ll celebrate the inauguration of EnigMarch, a 31-day puzzle design challenge that will hopefully become an annual tradition in the puzzling community.

EnigMarch logo

Background

It all began on January 1, when I decided that one of my goals for 2022 would be to improve my puzzle design skills. And what better way to do that than a month-long gauntlet of daily challenges? After I started asking around about the existence of such an event, a group of enthusiastic puzzlers got together and decided to create one ourselves. EnigMarch was born.

How It Works

Every day in March (technically, the night before at 8pm ET), we’ll release a new prompt on social media and enigmarch.com, to be used as inspiration for any type of puzzle you like. Once you’ve created a puzzle, you can post it with the hashtag #enigmarch to share it with the world.

The purpose of the daily prompts is to provide the structure and motivation to create a puzzle every day and emerge stronger and wiser on March 31. Some people may prefer to choose only certain prompts or take more than one day to create their puzzles, and that’s fine too. Whether or not you want to participate as a designer, you can check out the #enigmarch hashtag and see all the different interpretations of each day’s prompt. Some of the fun of EnigMarch will undoubtedly be seeing people’s experimental ideas and the seeds of future puzzle masterpieces.

How to Get Involved

In preparation for the main event, we’ve assembled some resources, inspiration, and secret bonus content on enigmarch.com. Whether you’re already a seasoned constructor or you’ve never tried to write a puzzle in your life, we’re hoping EnigMarch will help you build your design skills and confidence in your creations.

My favorite thing about EnigMarch is that it’s really just intended to help people increase their puzzle-writing prowess and have fun doing it. There’s no agenda except to celebrate a love of puzzles and share them with the community.

If you decide to participate, we’d love to see what you come up with!