How to play an escape room

How to Play an Escape Room

I would like to categorize this question alongside similar ideas: “How to Make the Perfect Salad,” “How to Get a Girl to Like You,” and “How to Make Cats Want to Follow You Home.” The question is simple. The answer, however, has a few basic guidelines followed by a nearly infinite number of variables that one blog post would be foolish to attempt to cover. But alas, here we are. We stand above the chess board; peer down into the bowl of spinach, blue cheese, and strawberries; coo uselessly at an unamused feline. We ask, How to Play an Escape Room.

Where to Even Start

Before we go over the core ideas found in many escape rooms, let’s figure out a few things first. Your experience starts long before the door locks behind you and your clock starts ticking down. This is a step-by-step guide to choosing the best escape room for you.

1. Choose your Theme

What kind of experience would you like to jump into? Escape Rooms offer a wide array of thematic options. For example, you could visit us in Los Angeles at The Basement (wink wink nudge nudge) and be kidnapped by a cannibalistic serial killer. If you are looking for something a little tamer, there are games that host all kinds of situations. Sleuth yourself up in a real-life game of CLUE, save the planet from a supervillain, join a film-noir detective agency, break the curse, become a pirate, raise the dead, anything you dream, you can become in an escape room. 

how to find your way out of an escape room
PHOTO FROM THE STUDY IN LOS ANGELES, CA – “MOTHER’S ARMOIRE”

2. Level of Difficulty

Are you a first timer? Or are you an expert? A novice? A sommelier of escape experiences? Watch the pour of the escape room. Swirl the experience in your glass. Smell the theme. Savor each sip of Puzzle. Most escape rooms will advertise their rooms’ level of difficulty based on escape percentage. More often than not, you’ll have some idea of what is to come. 

See Related: How Long Does An Escape Room Take?

3. Accessibility

Do your research on what kind of escape rooms are offered in your area. If you are looking for us, you can find Basement locations in sunny Los Angeles, thrilling Las Vegas, and beautiful Kansas City.

4. What do others say?

Checking out review websites can be really helpful in deciding which experience you want to partake in. 1163 five-star Yelp Reviews can’t be wrong! 

5. Pick your Room

Taking into account the above steps, you are now ready to make an informed decision on which room is best for you! Or you could, of course, just do the room with the coolest looking poster. 

Do Your Research

That’s why you’re here, right? Research? Let’s start by going over some of the basics, the standard ideas you’ll find in a lot of escape rooms. 

A great place to start is checking out our post, “How to Beat an Escape Room.” 

Found everywhere, including our logo, it would be ridiculous not to mention locks. There are so many different kinds, all with unique puzzle opportunities associated with them. Locks with number and letter codes, locks that require nontraditional keys, even locks that need an input of directions. Familiarize yourself with what these different locks look like. If you try putting a cut key in a skeleton key lock, it’s not going to go well. It’s not guaranteed this information will come in handy, but it’s best to be prepared. A point of distinction, research locks, BUT NOT LOCK PICKING! That would be like showing up to a mini-golf course and walking to all eighteen holes and dropping your golf ball inside. It completely negates the whole point of an escape room.

TIP: Don’t be a Lock Squatter. The guy who finds a lock inside of the room and squats down by it. He doesn’t know the answer and refuses to even try to solve any sort of puzzle. And yet, he is going to tumble that lock until he finds the answer. He’s going to guess the code and pop that baby open by sheer force of will. This literally never works and just wastes a ton of time.

How to complete an escape room
PHOTO FROM THE BASEMENT IN LOS ANGELES, CA – “THE CAPTIVE’S SLEEPING QUARTERS”

Communication

A lot of puzzles boil down to “Communicating is Hard.” Read things carefully, clearly, completely, and ensure that your teammates understand before moving on. You can’t do everything yourself, a truth found in life and escape rooms. Being able to rely on your team is essential. Bring trusted friends and bond with the strangers you may be playing with. You’re all in this together and the weakest link can break the chain. These puzzles are often my favorite and can lead to hilarious moments you’ll be quoting long after your time has run out. “OKAY, SO IT’S KIND OF LIKE A WEIRD LITTLE SQUIGGLE WITH A HAT ON, YOU KNOW THE THING I MEAN?” “UHHH, IS IT THIS THING?” “NO, THE OTHER THING!” Be clear, be detailed, remain calm. 

TIP: Don’t Panic. Whether time is running out or you are on the last puzzle, moments away from escape, you need to keep your cool. Acting under pressure is one thing, but panicking clouds your judgement and makes things a great deal harder! Take a deep breath.

Get Into It

Suspend your disbelief and get swept away in the story. One of the most rewarding things about working at The Basement is hearing those beautiful screams. Music to our ears. When people genuinely scream in terror, it tells me something very important about their experience. At this exact moment, everything around them is real. A friend of mine still shivers when thinking about how much a particular moment in The Courtyard affected her. She can separate reality from fiction, but for those forty five minutes, the lines are blurred. We do everything in our power to completely immerse our guests in the story, so go along with it. Get into character, put yourself there, walk in these shoes for a mile. That being said, do so without becoming manic. Don’t break down the door or climb over a prop fence to try and escape. It never quite works that way. 

how to win an escape room
PHOTO FROM THE BASEMENT IN LOS ANGELES, CA – “THE HERO DOOR”

How to Play An Escape Room: Your Own Way!

Playing an escape room is a lot like swimming in the ocean. Dive in, have fun, keep your wits about you, and don’t step on any jellyfish. Be observant, do your research, but don’t stress yourself too much. It’s all about the complete package, not just winning or losing. It’s as much the journey as it is the destination. Here at The Basement, we tell all of our guests the same thing before locking them in. Good Luck. Have Fun. Don’t Die.

The Basement is a Live Escape Room Experience based in Los Angeles, CA. Schedule your experience today or find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Yelp.

Anna Kraus

Hiya! I’m Anna, a Supervisor at The Basement with an undying passion for telling stories through themed entertainment. With experience working for the Walt Disney Company, I’ve brought my unique brand of pixie dust to theatrical productions, independent projects, and of course, escape rooms!

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