Escape Room Leadership Design

Before the pandemic, my friends and I would plan days where we would do an escape room at Breakout Dayton. We’ve done only a handful of them such as a museum heist, being spies in a casino, and being Santa’s elves in the North Pole. We always wanted to do an escape room about a mystery mansion as one of our go to board games is Betrayal at House on the Hill. We think it would be a great way to try and act out our favorite characters from the game. However, that dream has been put on hold until we are all fully vaccinated and believe it’s safe to hang out in large groups. Escape rooms offer a sense of mystery, adventure, and challenge. It mixes a theme with puzzles, big and small. They offer a test of your attention to the details and a great narrative to follow.  

We loved that our local escape room’s decor was always exciting and detailed. Each of the rooms had a great theme that was incorporated throughout the room. When we were supposed to be spies in a casino, the room felt like what you see in a movie about a casino. There were different types of casino games, a fake bar, and was designed with colors of red and black. In the museum heist, the room looked like a small museum, with a study connected to it. Some of the items on display in the museum were under plastic domes and cases, to make it seem like how an actual museum would display their pieces of art and history. The Santa’s elves room was decorated to be as festive as the North Pole in a Christmas movie. There was a large decorated Christmas tree, cookies and milk left out for Santa, a bunch of wrapped presents, and a toy train running along the room. Everything in these rooms is thought out and fits into the world where we were put in. Every object could be a clue or lead to a puzzle. The room sets the stage for how the entire escape room could pan out. 

During our time in the escape room, we tend to start out the room searching for clues by ourselves. We find it’s better to have a bunch of people looking for clues around the whole room, rather than everyone sticking close together at first. Once a person or two find some clues, we usually break into teams to have more people looking into trying to solve the puzzles. Usually, we have about six or seven people doing an escape room. About three or four will stick to a puzzle together while the others look for clues and locked compartments. It can get hectic and chaotic at times trying to solve the puzzles. Sometimes screaming does occur. Other times frustration kicks in. In the end, we all do end up having a blast and create a great experience for all of us. We are happy to say that we have completed every escape room we have done at our local escape room. Although, there are times where it was too close for comfort with seconds left until the time was up.

One important trait for a leader is the ability to communicate. When doing an escape room with others, you have to communicate with others. You can’t just stay in the corner working on a single puzzle without the input of the others. Not to mention, puzzles are a lot easier to solve when more than one person is working on it. One person may be stuck in a loop trying to decode something, but if another person can help and work with them, the puzzle could be solved more easily. Most escape rooms have a time limit to complete them, so everyone’s opinion and observations matter to be able to escape the room in time. Quick and focused communication will lead the team to success.

Being a leader and doing an escape room both involve decisiveness. Some escape rooms have an ability to give the players hints. When doing escape rooms, a lot of my friends don’t like asking for hints from the game makers. They would rather try and complete the room without any outside help. However, to be a good leader, you need to understand when your team is struggling and to know when you can’t do something alone. When you are stuck on something, it’s okay to ask for help from others. In my local escape room, all players have to agree to want a hint before the game master will give you one. Everyone has to verbally state that they would like a hint. This has some drawbacks for my friend group. A few of us are quite stubborn and want to try everything they can before resorting to help. This has made the group lose precious time as we don’t make any progress. This in turn can impact how far we get to completing the escape room. After about five minutes, stuck on the same clue, the rest of the group, including the stubborn one’s, usually asks if we can have a hint. We were lucky in asking for a hint when we did during our casino room, as we finished that room with about 30 seconds to spare. 

Trust is an important factor in both leadership and escape rooms. As a leader you need to have a foundation of trust with your team. You cannot look over everyone’s shoulder at all times to make sure that they are doing their job. A leader needs to inspire trust in others to motivate and inspire their team. A team built on trust is more likely to succeed on their goals than that of a group not built on trust. Trust is an integral part in succeeding in an escape room. You need to trust that your teammates are trying to uncover hints, clues, and puzzles to complete the room in time. If you second-guess their abilities and reasonings, you might not be able to complete the entire room.  

Escape rooms are a great team-building experience. I would recommend everyone to at least try one in their life. They offer challenges that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Each puzzle leads to the next, pulling you closer and closer to completing your mission. Don’t leave anything unturned or overlooked, except for the things the game maker tells you not to. Everywhere in the room could be a clue and help lead you to victory. But, an escape room can’t be completed alone. For your next game night with your friends, or after the pandemic, go to a local escape room and have a great adventure trying to escape the room.