Recently I went to an escape room with some friends. I’m not good at these things, primarily because they privilege a particular type of observational ability. Knowing this, I expected to be little help, and besides figuring out a set of magnets was placed on a board, I wasn’t. Thankfully, our group wasn’t made up of people with my learning style/approach to the world. Among our group was my wife, who is very good at these things, and several other people I consider extremely intelligent.
The room we were assigned had a 28% success rate, and as the person at the front desk explained, their most challenging room. Never having done one, I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised that, as a designed experience, some of the puzzles were very innovative, almost closer to a ride or movie. (The props in our room suggested someone was a big fan of The Fifth Element.) In one instance, a laser had to be shined in multiple mirrors to trigger something.
The room had a 70-minute or so time limit. Our group got close to figuring it out, but we didn’t. I have to say, I don’t recall being frustrated during my time in the room. I had a nice time looking at the gadgets and do-dads. However, when we were released into a state of patronizing failure, I was seething with rage. Sure, I’ve already stated I was fully aware that I would never be an escape room gold medalist. So why was I so mad? My wife later commented that she touched my arm at the end, and I jerked away, which I don’t recall doing. Despite the haphazard set of steps to figure out the puzzle, what burned me most was that a group of reasonably educated people could not figure it out. I’ve felt frustrated in other walks of life when there are expectations to complete and participate in specific processes. However, there is no explanation or transparency about where that ‘participation’ leads or what it ultimately results in. It’s either that, or I’m just really competitive, and I don’t relish being made to feel like an idiot.
The takeaway? I’m glad I had the experience, and I’ll probably be thinking about my emotional reaction to it for some time. God, it pissed me off and still does.