After now running an “escape room” business for just over a year, we were thinking about why people enjoy these types of activities so much. It can’t just be the tension of trying to “escape” from a locked room, because (spoiler alert)… in our three different rooms at Quandary, you are not locked in any of the rooms. Yes, there is certainly positive stress created from having to accomplish a mission or achieve a goal within the time constraint of an hour (or for those who reserve two rooms, playing against another “team”).

One of the things that almost all people do when they play – and sometimes before and after – is laugh. Let’s face it, people enjoy sharing a laugh. When something is funny, it tends to be even funnier when others around you experience it. Because laughter is contagious, the effects are multiplied. Even if something does not necessarily tickle your funny bone, often you find yourself laughing anyway, simply because you are entertained by the laughter of those around you.

There is a Swedish proverb that explains this phenomenon succinctly: “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”

An article I came across, Laughter Is The Best Medicine, listed a variety of benefits which laughter provides – physically, mentally and socially:

Physical health benefits of laughter:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease

Mental health benefits of laughter:

  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and tension
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Strengthens resilience

Social benefits of laughter:

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

Book your room at Quandary: An Escape Room Experience, and get your laugh on.

The Benefits of Exercising Your Brain

I have noticed a recent trend in the promotion of websites, books and magazines devoted to the subject of exercising the brain in an effort to retain mental acuity over a longer period of time. While usually geared toward seniors, recent studies have shown how the benefits apply universally — that is to say not just limited to older folks, but across the board. Like any other muscle in the body, the brain needs regular positive stimulation in order to keep it at peak efficiency, not to mention longevity.

Researchers revealed that engaging in cognitively stimulating activities both early and late in life is associated with slower late-life cognitive decline.

And just like exercise, if the stimulation is not fun — or at least enjoyable — we won’t do it. Which brings us to “Escape Rooms”, the generic term for places where people attempt to solve their way through a room or series of rooms with a time deadline. Quandary – An Escape Room Experience, is ours, but there are many to choose from, even within the small state of Connecticut.

I found an interesting website article about this and would like to share part of it with you:

Stimulating Your Brain Throughout Life Provides Protection Later On

The research suggests that the sooner you start challenging your mind, the better, as those with more frequent cognitive activity over their lifespan fared the best, cognitively, in their later years. Researchers wrote:

“More frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline that is independent of common neuropathologic conditions, consistent with the cognitive reserve hypothesis.”

The cognitive reserve hypothesis suggests that people with greater cognitive abilities (education, knowledge, etc.) have better cognitive function later in life, and may even be able to delay some symptoms of dementia despite physical changes in the brain that would typically be related to such symptoms in others.

The latest study supports this hypothesis, as have many before it. One such study showed, for example, that mice with the rodent equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease given high levels of cognitive activity throughout their lives were protected against memory impairment.2 The researchers noted:

“ … our data suggest that humans who emphasize a high lifelong level of cognitive activity (over and above social and physical activities) will attain the maximal environmental protection against AD [Alzheimer’s disease].”

Information taken from:

Red Herrings

The term “red herring” gets thrown around quite a bit in the escape room (ER) business, and, like pornography, everyone seems to have a different definition and opinion of it. The history of the term red herring is quite old; internet legend claims when our early settlers hunted, they would leave red herring along their trail because the strong smell would confuse wolves, hence creating “a false trail.”

Today, the term gets bandied about in ER circles, both by players and owners. This creates some confusion, as opinions vary considerably as to what is – and isn’t – a red herring. We have players who, upon completing a room, point to various objects and items and say “This was just a red herring, wasn’t it?”. And while the answer is no, the polite answer is “not really”. A true red herring is something intentionally created to mislead, and we have never been a fan of that approach. The rooms are challenging enough without trying to make them exasperating. Think “decor”, not red herring.

We have had players tell us about their ER experiences (almost always from another state, not Connecticut) with some outlandish, time wasting tasks. One was a chest that was locked, and when the players finally were able to figure out the code to open it, found it to be empty! Another was a room full of gym lockers, each with a built in combination lock. There were codes scattered throughout the room, and through trial-and-error, each locker was opened. The catch was, almost all of the lockers were empty, save a few. Those, we feel, fall into the category of red herring.

Now, if a player finds him or herself in a well-decorated, immersive room, where the decor is theme appropriate, that is not the same as having a room full of red herrings. Think how stark (not to mention simple) a room or rooms would be if they only contained clues to the game. Bland, unattractive, unimaginative and cheap are some of the words we would expect to hear in players’ feedback.

In contrast, one does not want to walk into a room that looks like a flea market either. Balance is the key, as it is to most things in life. Too little decoration, and the room is drab and uninspiring; too much, and it is overwhelming and laborious. At Quandary – An Escape Room Experience, we strive to hit that “sweet middle”, not too much of this, or too little of that, but just right.

5 Tips To Keep In Mind When Playing

Having had the benefit of watching many groups go through our rooms, it’s been interesting to see the difference between the teams that are successful and the teams that are not. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when playing…

  1. Obvious clues are there for a reason. It may seem like it need not even be said, but a lot of groups will see a clue, know that it must be there for a purpose, but then ignore it if they can’t figure it out right away. Generally speaking, a clue that is immediately visible in the room is probably part of the early game and there’s a good chance you’ll need to solve the puzzle before you get too far along. If you’re not getting the puzzle, enlist the help of your teammates and see what you can come up with. It’s OK to set aside a task for a time if you’re not getting anywhere, but know that you can’t ignore it for long or you’ll likely find yourself dead-ended and time-short.
  2. Don’t travel as a pack too much. It helps to break up into pairs and have different people working different parts of the room or different puzzles. It also helps to switch it up a bit and let other teammates work on puzzles you’re not getting. But when groups stay together as a pack for much of the game, they often find themselves running out of time, or have several members of their group standing around watching.
  3. Communicate well and often with your teammates. If you’re following the previous advice and breaking into smaller groups of twos and threes, it’s important to be communicating with the rest of your team, filling them in on the items and puzzles you find. It’s common for one clue to relate to another. If you are struggling to make progress, talk it out with your team and brainstorm.
  4. Manage your time clock and your hints well. We will provide hints when asked, but not if you are making progress. There is no sense of accomplishment if you “hint” yourself through a room. Our Game Masters are watching and listening while you play. If you are doing well, you don’t need to ask for a clue (you can ask, but it may not arrive right away). Likewise, if you hit a dead-end and going nowhere fast, ask for a hint.
  5. Think boldly, but play gently. Just like an elevator will not arrive faster by pushing the call button harder, a lock will not open by yanking on it. Locks and props either work… or you don’t have the right code or combination. If you think you have the right solution, let another teammate try – each lock has a unique mechanism, but none respond well to force. Don’t over-think, but do re-evaluate. Look for items or objects that have not yet been used. But be realistic. A chair is just a chair; the manufacturer’s label on the bottom is not going to be a clue.

Using these tips can make a big difference in the success or failure of your team. Remember, escape rooms are meant to be fun, not overly frustrating. It’s all about the experience – and not the win – for you and your team. But that’s no reason not to try to play a better, smarter game.