They gave you the rules and put you in a room. They locked the door on their way out and told you it's all over in only 60 minutes. You look around at your group and think, "What are we supposed to do now?"
You might be tempted to ask for one of your precious hints right off the bat. Have no fear Houdini wanna-bees! There are some things you can try to push yourselves along before you beg your Game Master to be kind!
1. Start Talking Until The Cows Come Home
This one hint might be the most useful thing you can do in an escape room. Announce out loud what you see, Shout out what you are missing. Yell when things look out of place. Make sure your team mates are aware when you find numbers, letters, or symbols. It may seem like you are being obvious and calling out things other people should be noticing but we tend to have a one track mind in an escape room and overlook simple things.
2. Stand Back and Observe
A simple scan around the room when you feel stuck can reveal places you might not have searched or broken patterns. You may notice a symbol you passed by or a clue hidden in plain sight. Tearing apart a room can lead to a clue but just being observant of things that are a little out of the ordinary can lead to clues as well.
3. It's all about Checks and Balances
You are rushing through your room and you tried a solution to a puzzle and failed miserably. You keep looking around for another five minutes trying to find another solution. Your team mate walks up to the puzzle and tries the exact same solution to roaring success. Sure, you could have a devious game designer who put a delay element in the puzzle but it is more likely that it just took a new set of eyes to get past the clue. Don't be afraid to check each other's work.
4. Laugh At Yourself Before Anyone Else Can
Your escape room experience is first and foremost a game. Enjoy yourself, laugh at your own mistakes, and have a good time. That 60 minutes will seem like an eternity when your groups is frustrated and angry. Most game designers are trying to fool you and make you work for your escape. Own your mistakes, laugh at yourself and each other, and make amazing memories. That's more important than your escape rate.
5. Manage Your Time Without Counting the Seconds.
It can be hard not to focus on the clock when the countdown is flashing in your face but it can be more helpful to glance up once in a while than to worry about the seconds. Your group will hopefully find a natural rhythm. If you have spent several minutes searching for a clue and don't know where to look next you may think about taking a hint. You could break the room down into segments of 15 or 20 minutes and try to wait to take a hint until you reach the next time block. Whichever method works for you it is helpful to spend more time working on puzzles in the room than it is watching the timer.