One of my biggest complaints of the American escape room format is the threat of open seating. With most escape rooms in the U.S., you book a time slot for a certain number of people. This means that anyone else can also sign up, essentially joining your escape room experience. While this may be fun for some people, Escaperoomers are competitive and want to work a room on our own.
Like many people, I first discovered escape rooms while in Europe. Escaperoomers J and K decided to give one a try. We booked Traveler’s Room at Exit Room in Vilnius, Lithuania, and showed up. It was our first try, we got out in time with zero hints, and were instantly hooked. Over the next 24 hours, we completed four other rooms, with Live Escape Game and Wrong Room, with a record escape of Party at “Jamaika.” The difference with these games is that you book a room and you get the room.
I prefer booking a room rather than a slot because you don’t end up with a bunch of “randos.” I’ve been in an escape room with other people on three occasions. The first time, it was a dad and his two kids (aged about 8 and 12). Escaperoomers wanted to crack the room on our own, but especially with kids involved, I also wanted the other people to have a fun experience. This meant taking time to explain how I got a certain code, what sudoku is, and letting the 8-year-old try and figure out a combination lock. In the end, it took longer with the three additional people than if we had worked alone.
On the second occassion, Escaperoomers J and M found themselves forced into a room with two noobs. Making it all the more complicated, neither of the other players were fluent in English, and the female player had a religious reason restricting contact with any other males. So what happens next? We all get handcuffed together. Communication was difficult, considering they alone had access to the handcuff key. We eventually got out, and hopefully they had a fun time, but for us it was tainted.
I understand that escape room operators are looking to maximize profits. However, if a time slot would otherwise go unused, I would prefer the option of booking it without being forced to work with someone who signs up last minute. Many rooms allow you to book the entire room, but requiring payment for all the time slots. If it’s a room for 2-6 people at $30 a person, instead of $60, two Escaperoomers would have to pay $180! That’s quite a premium.
What do you think? What are the benefits and drawbacks of teaming up with strangers?