Real Escape is a Japanese phenomenon, which is generally enough to get me in the door. Through my Japanese teacher I met one of the creators a few months back, and he described a real life puzzle game that sounded like a ton of fun. I was invited to go to their Doctor Mad event a couple weeks ago.
Going in, I had no idea to expect. I knew that there would be some sort of brain teaser and logic puzzle element to it, but that was all I knew. I want to give away as little as possible, so that you'll get the most out of it if you go, but it's essentially a real life computer game. There are no fancy graphics-- you're basically in a minimally decorated room with some stuff stuck to the walls, but the skills needed and the procedures of the game reminded me of and old-school adventure game like Monkey Island.
Suffice to say, I had a ton of fun. I've always wished that there were more non-drinking based social nighttime activities, and Real Escape definitely fits the bill. It's very entertaining, if you go solo you'll be put into a group that you'll get to know a little bit, and it's good for your brain.
It's also hard. Very hard. I sort of think that I'm a genius of logic puzzles and the like, but my team failed (unless you count me cracking the lock that the answer was in before the game started). In fact, only one of the ten or so teams actually completed the puzzle. And while I'd like to blame my team for our failure, the most interesting part of the experience was being faced with my own deficiencies.
Even though the game was only an hour long, it was very intense and involved a lot of different aspects of problem solving. Some of them I did really well on, but I was really shocked at how poorly I performed in many other ways. I saw the game as a microcosm for life, and it really brought to my attention various areas where I could use some improvement.
The first mistake I made was to not get a clear picture of the task before starting. We knew that we had ten main puzzles to solve, so I immediately picked one and started working on it, encouraging others to do the same. Twenty minutes in I walked around the room looking for clues and realized that there was a second room that was part of the puzzle, and that we could only enter it once we had completed three particular puzzles. Within that room were clues to some of the other puzzles. If I had taken a moment to really understand what we were trying to do, rather than just start attacking, we could have worked far more efficiently.
In real life, I can see how I do this, too. When programming I just start working on part of the problem, and often don't really fully consider the full picture. This works okay usually, but once in a while I find that I have to rewrite huge sections of code because I didn't properly consider everything.
The next mistake I made was not triaging the work that needed to be done. Each of the ten puzzles gave us a letter, which would eventually spell out a word. We had all but one very difficult puzzle done, and could infer the letter that puzzle would give us. I'm embarassed to say that I didn't even consider this and I spent twenty minutes solving that last puzzle, mainly because I was frustrated with the member of our team who was working on it and completely failing. We came pretty close to solving the whole puzzle, and I think that if I hadn't wasted a third of my time on a superfluous puzzle, we may have actually done it.
This error reminds me of the 80/20 rule, which basically says that a small amount of the work you do is responsible for the bulk of the results. I can think of examples of this mistake in real life, too, where I've spent inordinate amounts of time on details that aren't likely to matter too much, while avoiding core pieces of work that are much more important. Because this is a principle that I think about on a regular basis, I think I usually catch myself making this mistake, but since I made it last night, I'm going to be extra vigilant.
The last mistake I'll mention, which surely isn't the last mistake I actually made, was that on one puzzle I fixated on one possible (yet incorrect) solution, and was so errantly confident that I must be right, that I didn't even consider some obvious alternatives, one of which ended up being correct. Others were also stuck on this puzzle, so the game director gave a hint which immediately revealed the answer. A bit of humility probably would have gotten me the answer earlier.
This failure manifests itself in real life, too. When programming, there have been times when I've pigheadedly kept trying to bludgeon some code into working, rather than taking a step back and finding an eaiser or more efficient way to do it.
Altogether, Real Escape was a great way to spend a couple hours, both in terms of entertainment and in terms of introspection and self development. They have another event coming up in August, and I'll definitely be attending. This time I'm bringing my own team of champions and will hopefully improve my thought patterns in my life by then to the point that I won't make the same mistakes again.
If you want to play the next game, keep an eye on RealEscapeGame.com. If you think you're a puzzle champion and want to be on my team, PM me. I might have a couple spots.
Photo is me trying to solve on of the puzzles.
I'm in Vegas playing poker for a couple days, and then flying to Alaska to rent a motorcycle and drive around for a few days.
This relates to one of your prior posts Tynan. It shows the dangers of being overly aggressive in attacking a problem. You called your prior post "Slow Twitch and Fast Twitch Brains". You felt you were a "fast twitch" brain. Most of the readers seemed to jump on the band wagon and think that was a good thing. Yet, you pointed out the disavantages of operating that way and how it was helpful to have a "slow twitch" partner.
This might be a good time for reader to go back to that blog and read it again. It's important to be somewhere near the middle when solving complex problems.
This sounds awesome. I'd like to give it a try. Sounds like Real Escape is to adventure games what laser tag is to first person shooters- which is to say, a harsh reminder that video games haven't prepared me for real life.
We do a Puzzle Hunt at Bungie every year as part of our Pentathlon (whole-company game competition day.) I guess Puzzle Hunt is an MIT thing, but it sounds very similar. Lots of SUPER intricate problems. For example, one of them was they set a route on our climbing wall (I know 'cuz I helped with that one) where the tape on each hold was a transistor coloring, which apparently had been a problem from the prior year, but if you translated them all from transistor colors it just spelled out a message like "keep going!" And then you had to notice that the angles of the tape corresponded to flag semaphore (like plane runway flaggers use) and that spelled something out. I have no freaking idea how you have those kinds of insights but probably I should participate next year. The team aspect of it does sound pretty fun, having all those brains working on it at once.
The whole thing this year was themed to Snoopy and the Red Baron, and the end was you had to fire a bow and arrow down a hallway and hit a specific grid square at the end, and the more puzzles you solved the more certainty you had which grid square, and all that. Crazy stuff.
"If I had taken a moment to really understand what we were trying to do, rather than just start attacking, we could have worked far more efficiently."
Agreed. A lot of times intelligent outlining seems to be the first, best choice to approaching a project but a lot of times my anxiety gets the best of me. I just jump in. For easy projects, that works great. For complex ones, you are bound to get lost.
Here's the latest on Alaska weather: http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/anchorage-experiences-coldest/68033
Interior areas may be warmer and dryer. Fairbanks - Yukon river valley, Chena Hot Springs, HAARP, Brooks Range. Consider flying to Anchorage, take the Alaska Railroad up to Fairbanks. The train stops at Denali National Park along the way. Denali is not to be missed if the weather is good. Bon Voyage!
You know when I was the most productive? The day before I started writing about how productive I was. You know when I was the least productive? About a week after that. You know where I am now? Still trying to get back to the pinnacle.
What went wrong? I started to believe not that I was producing, but that I was a productive person. I'm a man, and it takes no maintenance to stay that way. I'm American, and it takes no effort to remain american. Those are things I am. But producing is something I do. I'm productive when I'm producing, and I'm no longer productive when I stop. There's upkeep involved.
When I write a blog post about how productive I am, and it is received well, I see myself in a different light. I shouldn't, but before my conscious could grab ahold of it, my subconscious granted me the title of Productive Person.
So I started slacking. Not a lot, but enough to notice. Rather than pushing myself to not browse Reddit all day, I'd take a break here and there. Instead of pushing through from 11pm to midnight, I'd cut out early and waste time for the last hour of my day. I downloaded a chess game for my phone and would play a few games per day, rationalizing that it's an intelligent game, so learning how to play was a good idea. But that's not why I played-- I played to escape the pressure of hard work. Twelve hours of honest work shrunk down to six or eight hours of work stretched to a twelve to fourteen hour window.
Currently, I am learning how to program games in C#. I have been reading books and articles concerning game development and theory. All those have been very helpful and with this new knowledge I have been forming ideas in my head of the first games I plan on making. During my interview with Žiga Hajduković, Žiga recommended that if I have an idea I should see what people think to see if I am wasting my time on a possible dull potato.
First some backstory: Before I wanted to develop ludic content, I've always enjoyed puzzle books. Logic puzzles, anagrams, word searches, sudoku, kenken, kakuro and the like were the recreation activities I tinkered with fervorously. As such, it was inevitable that a game idea develop in which the parent was these games.
Now, regarding the above title, you may be asking yourself, "what in the hell does 'cryptophonetic' mean and how does that apply to a puzzle?" Well, there are puzzles called 'cryptograms' in which the same letters of words are replaced by another letter. So the word 'antidisestablishmentarianism' may be replaced by 'zqisoswbwizapswynbqizeszqswn' in which z=a, q=n, i=t, s=i, etc.. Accordingly, a 'cryptophonetic' puzzle is one in which the sound is replaced rather than the letter.
This is the example that inspired me with the idea. Say the answer to a cryptophoneticism is 'Caution you!' Then, the initial puzzle would be: Caught I on U. Allow me to explain. 'C-A-U-T' (usually sounded as cawsh) can be sounded in the same manner as the word caught in that they both share the phonetic information: a "cau" followed by a "t". In other words, the sound of cawsh is replaced by kôt. Similarly, '-ion' can be split to form "I on." And, in the same fashion, 'you' can be changed to the letter U. Hence, the puzzle. (Notice by design that the puzzle turns the phrase "Caution you!" into a kind of pseudo-meaningful sentence.)
Yet, here is an important trick to the puzzle: the answer is not considered word-by-word but fully. In other words, I could have represented "Caution you!" as 'Caught I, O' nye. Uh!' (i.e. "Caution you!" is split into C-A-U-T, I, O, N-Y and O-U rather than C-A-U-T, I, O-N and Y-O-U). In other words, when thinking about the solution "Caution you!" should be considered as one, singular block as "cautionyou." But, and here is where I think the puzzle has potential, when forming the puzzle the metagroboligist (puzzle maker) can split the text block up in any discrete fashion in terms of sound and grammar (i.e. the structure of the sentence can be messed around as well).