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!
When I bought a house ten years ago, I also bought place settings for six and silverware for twelve. Then I developed a minor fascination with bone China and bought settings for eight. I probably had four dozen glasses. About once a month or so, all of these dishes would be piled up in and around my sink, begging to be cleaned. I didn't have a lot of dinner parties-- I just hated doing dishes so much that I'd procrastinate until washing became a full day event. Those days were some of my least favorite.
A few days ago, I was doing the dishes for the six of us that ate dinner. There were pots, pans, plates, serving utensils, and glasses. The works. For the first time ever, I found myself enjoying doing the dishes. I could appreciate the warm water on my hands and the shine in the pot when it was clean. When I washed everything that wasn't dishwasher safe, I started handwashing the things that could have just gone in the dishwasher. It wasn't fun exactly, but it was so enjoyable that I actually found myself looking forward to washing the dishes the next day.
Work has become the same way. I don't love all aspects of it equally, but when I wake up and know I have a tough day ahead of me, I feel great. Pant of it is that I know the day will end with a nice chunk of progress made, but most of it is the actual act of working. I love it. I can't wait to face off with a bug that's been bothering me for weeks, trace it through all of our code, and fix it. It's relaxing, like an internal Swedish massage.
My friend Constance wrote me an email today. She was talking about me with her sister and some friends, describing my hyperfocus on work, learning, and other productive things. An excerpt from her email:
I used to play a ton of video games. Not like “a lot”of video games, I’m talking a shit ton of video games. Most of the times I played RPGs, (role-playing games, or games where you level up your character and otherwise make choices about their “development”) some, but not many, RTS’s (real time strategy, games where everything happens in real time and actions have to be constantly inputted and strategies revised on the fly. Command and Conquer anyone?) and a handful of just action/adventure games.
Note: This post is divided into two sections, first my story regarding video games and then what I learned from them, feel free to skip.
First I want to break some misconceptions about video games and gamers in general. For one they aren’t all fat, nerdy and awkward. In fact some of the coolest, chillest people I know play video games. A lot of them just do it to relax and escape, others just love to pour hours upon hours watching their characters advance. Some are “achievement whores” or gamers that spend all their time chasing numbers. Some are min-maxers, or people who through excel spreadsheets, repetitive testing and brainstorming determine what the “most effective” way to play the game is (something usually the developers only know unless they divulge a lot of information). Regardless in all these sub types I’ve met tons of people who are genuinely cool, laid-back individuals.
In almost all games I’ve played of every genre I’ve met people interested in different facets of the game. Some people like to focus more on the economy of the game and the ways the markets work. Some spend hours trying to make their character perfect, detailing every relevant piece of information and plugging it into various spreadsheets. Some focus almost solely on player-versus-player aspects and spend their time practicing in teams in order to outcompete. There is something for everybody.