Now we’ve got all that “serious” stuff out of the way, we can get on to the main reason the Escape Room World Championships is so good; the unserious stuff! This post is both the easiest to write and the hardest to do justice, but never mind all that, let’s jump in.
We were told to assemble at 18:30 for a “welcome dinner”. The first part of this dinner wasn’t a dinner at all as we were given presentations from Scott Nicholson and other members of the Red Bull team on what they had learned from 2017, why this year would be better, and how it would all work (the first bit of controversy). After the presentations, the second part of this dinner wasn’t dinner either. It was 90 people milling about in a bar, desperately trying to grab a canape before they were devoured by someone else. We quickly decided this wasn’t the best preparation for an Escape Room World Championships, so looked for an alternative.
Partly due to a common language, partly due to similar “experience levels” (okay, ages), but mainly due to knowing each other via Slack and Facebook, there was an immediate bond between us and the two American teams and Team United (United Kingdom, United States and Slackers United) was born.
We descended on a restaurant directly opposite the hotel, to discover they had only been open for three days. We basically ordered everything they had in (including an ice cream barm?) and promptly emptied their pantry. The evening culminated in a heart-racing (literally) game of credit card roulette which I was lucky enough to win!
The schedule for Friday would vary for the different groups depending on when you were due for your qualifying run. But for reasons clear to nobody, everybody had to be up unfathomably early. I had an 08:00 breakfast with the Australian team, and really felt sorry for them as they battled with the jetlag of a 26-hour journey (to be in London just three days!).
We then met up with the US team who were also in our timing group, and headed off to ClueQuest; the first stop of an incredibly long day of waiting around. We got up to various hijinx to pass the time before our 18:30 qualifying run, including me playing my 350th room, which is definitely not a milestone despite the escake.
As the last qualifiers of the day, we didn’t have long to wait before finding out the results. We assembled in a ludicrously loud and busy bar to find out we hadn’t made it. But after the disappointment had worn off, the pressure was off, so we were able to enjoy ourselves, and enjoy ourselves we did. The crowning moment was a sterling rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody that you’ll have to find on YouTube yourself.
Unless you were in the final, there wasn’t much to do on Saturday. An open top bus ride had been arranged as the official entertainment, but this wasn’t Barcelona nor the weather for open top buses, so most teams chose to entertain themselves. I use the term “entertain” quite loosely as we played two of worst escape rooms I’ve done in recent memory. PSA: If rooms are available on short notice on a Saturday, it’s probably for good reason.
In the evening we got to walk through the escape room that we never got chance to play (sad face) and then await the final results. After Slovakia were crowned champions (narrowly avoiding serious injury via the multi-sectioned trophy falling apart at the wrong time) we headed off to another bar for the after-party. Unlike the night before, this was a private area where we could properly mingle with the other teams, so mingle we did.
Learning lessons from 2017, and with an early train in the morning, I had no intentions of it being a late night. But while having a few drinks to decide how late it should be, we became aware of a new challenge. Oggy from Slackers United hadn’t spent his day playing terrible escape rooms. Instead he’d been perusing local shops to find materials to make a puzzle hunt! And with the assistance of his teammates they had created, tested, refined and duplicated the resources needed to run the incredibly unofficial Hotel Puzzle Hunt World Championships!
And so it was that at 23:00 on the night after the Escape Room World Championships, teams from the UK, Greece/Bulgaria, Brazil and a Wild Card team ran up and down many stairwells and hallways looking for answers to the mysterious instagram posts. If this had been the sole focus of the weekend it would have been worth going for, but as bonus content it was incredible.
Approaching the end of the hunt we were stuck on a puzzle. We thought we were looking for something green hidden in a stairwell. After much ascending and descending, Dave found a bottle with a green top. He tasted it to discover it was lemon, and we confidently sent in our answer. It was not correct. Not only was it not correct, it was confusingly incorrect, so much so the hosts asked why we thought it was that. Dave and Sera weren’t replying to messages, so I set off to find them and ask. When I found them, they were “busy” trying to “explain” to a security guard why they were trying a drink belonging to one of the cleaners, because it fit the clues of a puzzle hunt. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever walked into. So funny in fact I had to laugh from round the corner and then sneak off to not get involved.
Literally 10 minutes of “explaining” later, we decided that we didn’t want this getting out of hand so we better go and speak to reception. Again, we tried to explain, along with why had been sneaking around the foyer examining album covers used as artwork on the walls.
“We didn’t know it was the cleaner’s drink. We didn’t know it was alcoholic. We just thought it was a puzzle answer.”
“The cleaner’s drink was alcoholic?”
And like that we were in the clear.
Shortly afterwards we found what we were really looking for in the stairwell (in a completely different place) and charged back to the hosts to share what we’d found. I’m only telling you this for your own closure, but we won (happy face). We grabbed one of the final beers of the trip and sat down to await the other teams.
But we still had chance for more fun. So while we sat around we used the hotel’s fine selection of vinyl to invent the best game ever; ‘record makers’. Each team had 30 seconds to study an album cover and then had to recreate it to the best of their ability. There was far too much hilarity to ever do it justice, but this gives you a flavour:
All good things must come to an end, and people started going their separate ways. We headed off to St. Pancras for a Eurostar to our next adventure, but that’s a story for another time.
Thanks to everyone I met, chatted to, hung out with and/or otherwise contributed to a fantastic experience, especially Team United. Thanks to Tammy and Sera for taking photos for me to steal. Thanks to Red Bull for making it all happen. Hopefully we can do it all again sometime.