Thursday, June 22, 2017

Librarian Post: Escape Room - the aftermath

     Alright, so, if you have read the blog in the past you all know that I had been working on an escape room created by me from the ground up. This was a sick and wrong decision on my part, and it almost killed me dead but I am happy to report the first full run of the room was on June 21st and we all survived to tell the tale.
    First, you all ought to know this program was MILES more popular than I ever would have expected. If you all are looking to bring millenials and 30-somethings into your library, DO AN ESCAPE ROOM PROGRAM and do it now.

Group #3 came the closest to escaping the room.
    Originally the plan was a one-day only run of the room, with 4 groups of up to 6 people. Normally getting 24 people to sign up for, let alone actually SHOW UP for a program at our little branch would take Harry Potter like-wizarding skills, but we had a total of 23 slots filled and of these 19 humans actually showed up, which for us is a massive win. Also, I am now going to have a second run of the room in July because I had 20 OTHER people who were too late to sign up for this run on a waiting list and eager to participate.
     Even though I had opened the registrations up to "all ages" I was warning parents that anyone under about age 8 would be horribly bored. I was 100% right about that. I had one mom who very much insisted on bringing her 6 year old and he lasted about 3 minutes before he started crying, demanding to go home, asking for candy and trying to destroy various items. Everyone else however, had a fabulous time!

Group #1 was almost all strangers. It took them longest to start working together. 
     The hardest part of the run was room setup, which I luckily had the opportunity to do the day before the program. Re-setting the room after each group was surprisingly easy. I had allotted myself 15 minutes for each reset and it took only about 10. Before I let anyone in the room for their time I did ask them very nicely to please try not to actively destroy the place, which they were all very good about. I also did not allow cell phone use, or writing utensils in the space. This made it so that no one was trying to google answers to things (which would have been hard anyway since all the puzzles came from out of my own head) and not to deface anything in the room. They had 30 minutes to attempt completion and none of them successfully "escaped."

    Here are some things I discovered while observing the teams in the rooms:
                  1) Kids between the ages of 8 and 12 were the best at this! The one team that came closest to completing the challenge had 3 kids and 3 adults in it.
                  2) Adults do not listen to kids, but they SHOULD. Several times a child would have a GREAT idea about how to solve a clue, would voice their opinion, then would be promptly ignored until it proved that their suggestion was completely awesome and valid and would have saved their team loads of time.
                  3) Teenagers really sucked at this game. One group was made up completely of teens, and this was the group that did the worst. In general the other teens who participated also got really confused really easily. I noticed that the all-teen group was the only group that chose to completely ignore the first clue they were given and simply looked for any puzzles in the room without trying to solve any of them. This was a VERY bad plan because then they got totally confused, could not remember where they had found the puzzles or clues and could not figure out how anything related to anything else.

My all-teen group, Group #4 had the hardest time. They also made the biggest mess.
                4) People fixate on REALLY weird stuff and ignore other REALLY obvious stuff. Of course, there were several red herrings in the room, but some people got really tied up in them. One person got completely obsessed with a small bowl full of gold buttons. They were 100% convinced that the buttons were important and spent at least 5 minutes trying to arrange them into some kind of pattern. Several people got very hung up on a few outdated newspapers in the room, and someone else on a tin filled with ribbon scraps which they were convinced held a message.
                    At the same time, it took every group shockingly long to realize that there were complete keys to each of the puzzles prominently displayed in the room. One person realized one clue was in Morse code, for example, and then spent several minutes looking through a pile of books trying to find one on Morse code, while there was a complete chart taped to a wall in plain view.
               5) Pressure makes fast friends. Most of my groups were made up of pairs of friends, parents with small kids or couples smooshed together into a team. It was great fun to see everyone being very shy at first, with friends sticking together on opposite ends of the room... but the closer the clock got to that end game, the more everyone worked together and made friends. By the time they were done and getting pictures, everyone was chatting and smiling and recounting their adventures.

Group 1. They did well once they loosened up. Only 2 knew each-other prior to the game.

Group 2: They did well, but our youngest player got bored very quickly. 

Group 3: They did the best. They came so close I gave them goody bags even though they lost. 

Group 4: They had fun even though they admitted their strategy was a big mistake in hindsight. 


  1. Fantastic! I love reading how other librarians have handled the whole "escape room challenge"!
    I did this with my teens at our annual Summer Reading lock-in and they loved it! Of course, I (like you) opted to build my own challenge from scratch and lived in a special kind of hell for the couple of months it took to come up with all the puzzles and decoys and such...but now we are planning another one for International Games Day in November!
    Congratulations on your success! All that hard work does pay off!!

    1. It certainly does! I had as much fun building it as they did playing it. Everyone wants us to do it again so a coworker and I are already plotting a music themed one for next SRP!

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