Monday, January 19, 2015

Know your role

As one professional wrestler so regularly informed his enemies, it is important to know your role.  This is particularly true when you are part of a team and there are a variety of tasks to perform that require different sorts of talents.  While people often want to work with others just like themselves there is a huge benefit in having a broad spectrum of abilities, skills, and even approaches to problems when facing an unknown challenge.

This past weekend I was involved in a pair of escape room challenges.  This is a puzzle composed of a number of rooms with many stages that is tackled by a small group of people - in my case 6 and 8 individuals for the two respective games.  The first was themed around the idea of a diamond heist where my group had to break through a series of locked doors using keys, codes, and odd puzzles of all sorts.  The second was set in a mocked up Japanese house that had been the site of a variety of horrible deaths and was filled with plenty of scenes that would fit in nicely in a horror film.  In that one we had free run of the house and had to solve a large number of puzzles in any order to advance to the final challenge.

It was *amazing*.  Not the cheapest entertainment around as it was $40 for two hours but so worth it for the experience.  There were some folks in my group who genuinely found the horror elements of the second game difficult to deal with because the company that did it (Escape Games near Downsview station in Toronto) did a great job on the aesthetics and ambience.  Unsurprisingly I was so engrossed in trying to win the game within the 1 hour allotted I barely registered any emotional reaction to the scenes except to note that they were well done.

In nearly all random groups of people trying such a task I would be the puzzle nerd.  I would expect to be tasked with sitting down grinding out codes or working out interfaces.  However the group I went with had a huge number of hardcore game geeks with strong technical backgrounds so there was no need for me to play that role as it was thoroughly saturated.  I looked around at those playing with me and realized that in this particular group I people I was the physical one, the person who should be running around, yanking on things, bashing myself into objects, and generally trying to solve all of the meatspace portions of the games.  I took to this role so thoroughly that whenever I encountered a new piece of an intellectual puzzle I almost universally handed it to the nearest person and ran off to go push on some other piece of the environment.  As Sthenno put it when I described it "In that group you were the jock!"

It worked beautifully.  I was the one who leapt into the tunnel on my belly, scooting forward under the laser.  I yanked furniture, found secret tunnels, spun wheels, slid things, discovered hidden materials, and jumped into dark, mysterious holes to see what was there.  It was glorious.  So while I feel I played the game pretty well the thing I am most pleased about was how I played the metagame.  There were definitely times when I was just wasting my effort poking at random stuff that had nothing to do with anything while my team solved puzzles but all the things I did do pushed us forward.  When you are taking a specific role in a game like this it is important to accept that sometimes you will be the hero and sometimes you will stand around being useless and you must keep focused on doing what you are good at rather than hunting for all the glory.

I highly recommend this genre of games in general, and Escape Games in particular.  If you do give it a try I definitely suggest going with a group with varied skills and talking about each person's specialties so that everyone can know their role.


  1. Glad you liked it. I was pretty sure you would. I'd love to do it again.

    I would have happily jumped into the dark mysterious hole first, but you (and a few others) were in the way! I was giddy when I jumped in that mysterious hole - great fun.

  2. There has *got* to be some joke about you and me and our relative propensity to jump into dark, mysterious holes... if only I could find it.

  3. I had a great time too... Escape games did a great job setting up that "Noriko" run! You solved a key part of the puzzle we were missing with your poking around.

    Glad we could complete both missions - albeit with less than a minute left in the "Diamond Heist"!