Happy March everyone! Winter is in full swing and my thoughts are drifting to Florida beaches and a good book. Before all of that nonsense however, let’s talk escape rooms. Even if you’ve visited our Lemoyne, PA escape room location, you may not be familiar with how they work. And you definitely don’t know what I personally like about escape rooms nor what I look for when picking one. So, it’s time to talk a little about me.
Believe it or not I hadn’t played an escape room until I started working as a host. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew games. Over time and after playing more rooms I devised a set of things to look for when picking a room. I mean, you didn’t know you liked a whopper until you went to Burger King. Now I’m hungry.
Please Hold for a Brief Intermission….
Ok, sorry about the interruption. Back to escape rooms. I have played over 20 escape rooms so far, which is nowhere near as many as I want to play. Previously, I talked about numerous aspects of escape rooms and some of the better ideas but let’s talk about what I like. Maybe you will find some commonality, or you might read this and think I’m a complete loon and have no idea what makes a good room. I’m cool with either, but those that choose the latter, well…you’re awfully judgy.
This should be a no brainer, but it’s very important. Some people don’t like Battleship, but put a Star Wars skin on it and it becomes a fan’s favorite game. Themes get me excited to play in a specific genre or setting. There are many versions of some of the themes: pirates, cop offices, zombies, serial killers. I like to find themes that fit things I enjoy as hobbies. My dad instilled a love of westerns in me so wild west really excites me. Superheroes or comics would be great as well. I am not even close to over saturated by all these comic properties being put on the big and little screens today. I haven’t seen or played one yet but I am heavily on the lookout. I also have equal affinity for horror and medieval/fantasy genres. Ultimately, the most important thing is to find a setting that makes you excited and evoke some mental images of what might be encountered in the room.
Theme is one thing but a strong narrative can make or break a room for me. This is not a narrative in the sense of having pages of backstory to read through and enjoy to be immersed. I used to think that when I first started hosting rooms. What I have learned and really come to appreciate is finding rooms that have a compelling description on the website as well as puzzles that weave together the story. A good setup with thematic puzzles and a compelling story for being stuck in a room massively helps you remain immersed in the experience.
This has nothing to technically do with the room itself, reviews can say a lot. No, I am not looking for how many 5 or 1 star reviews a place has. Some of that could be attributed to some troll that decided they need to flood a business with bad reviews because they didn’t like the way something happened or someone’s family member or friend owes so and so a favor and gets all their friends to put up 5-star reviews. The meat and potatoes are how many reviews a place has and the actual comments on the reviews. I also look for common threads among the experiences of reviewers. The room was tricky and set up well or the bathroom had an open sewer line. Things like that. I also look on more than one site (for example, Facebook and Yelp) for reviews to find commonalities. Don’t take one person’s word for it. Take 300. Same rule applies with regard to steak dinners and Broadway shows.
I would be a liar if I said price did not have something to do with my selection. Now, understand that this is not in any way telling you that I always look for the cheapest option. Quite the opposite actually. The only things that concern me regarding price is a very high price versus an extremely low price. Cost is variable by location whether it’s by person or as a private group. If there is a higher price, I want to know what I am paying for. Is the production value higher or is there a cinematic type of experience? Perhaps it is a licensed IP like Harry Potter or Star Wars and thus drawing on my fandom. (By the way, if anyone makes a solid Batcave room I will throw my wallet at you…hard.)
These are really the main things I look for when selecting an escape room in York, PA or anywhere. Honorable mention is whether or not there is a potential for playing with people I don’t know. I am not uncomfortable with this possibility, but I’m an extrovert of the highest order. I would still like to know that is a possibility. Of course, at Escape Games Live that is something you’ll never have to worry about. Because all of our bookings are private!
James is a super nerd that has been playing games at a table or on a screen or with the sanity of others since he was about 6 years old. Some time may or may not have passed since then. James has been hosting Escape Rooms for over two years and also manages both locations for Escape Games Live as the GM. He has also played numerous escape rooms and has learned much through personal experience watching and playing rooms. In his time away from work he enjoys life with his wife and daughter as well as volunteering time with The Bodhana Group, which is a local organization that uses tabletop gaming as a form of adjunct therapy for those in need of their services, helping to develop critical thinking, planning and strategy, social skills and building self-esteem and identity by exploring each individual’s “character”. He is a fan of all things nerd which is good because his name would be a waste otherwise.