Number of players: 2-6 people / Time of the game: 60/80 minutes / Location: Vienna / Ticket price: 19-30€ per person
"How could I not see that?" - How stress affects our game strategy in Escape Games!

"How could I not see that?" - How stress affects our game strategy in Escape Games!


What have Ockham's razors, the hard-easy effect or functional fixation to do with escape rooms? What is that anyway? We want to answer that in this blog post. Behind our thought patterns are various principles that influence our decisions to solve a puzzle. Have you always wanted to know what your brain does during an escape game? We’ll try to explain it here.


Everyone who has ever experienced an escape room game knows this situation: things that actually seem quite logical are not at the crucial moment in the game. When the explanation comes at the end, many grab their foreheads and wonder how they couldn't see the - now obvious, solution.

The good news first: This happens to us all and there is even a logical and psychological explanation for it. This is because of certain processes that can influence our thinking during a stressful situation.

With an Exit The Room Game in Vienna, there is a time factor. You and your team are under stress to solve all tasks and puzzles as quickly as possible in order to escape in time. But what exactly happens? It's about so-called bias (prejudices or pre-made opinions) that distort the picture of reality. Here are a few examples:

Subject Expectancy Effect

Expectation makes literally blind. You have a certain expectation of an object or a situation and therefore rule out any other possibility.

Example escape game:

You have used an item before or do not think it is helpful and therefore do not consider using it.

Hard-easy effect

As the name suggests, a heavier or more complicated option is first chosen to solve a problem. This happens quite often in escape room games. At the end of a game, many players say “We thought too complicated” instead of finding simpler answers. We as gamemasters always remind players that the tasks in Escape Games should be challenging, but that all participants have to be able to solve them.

Example exit room:

Instead of entering a code (1234), the code is tried in reversed order (4321) 

Availability error

This term, which comes from cognitive psychology, is a judgment based on how likely something can happen. That means a solution seems possible or not possible, depending on how much you can imagine it happening,  based on your experience. Such an availability error happens especially to players who play an escape game for the first time. Experienced players know that unexpected things can happen in such interactive live escape games.

Example Open The Door game:

A group has to solve a puzzle and should clap their hands 5 times. Inexperienced players may believe that this is useless and overlook or ignore the clue. But be careful - in escape games you should leave all options open.

Functional fixedness

Similar to before, a certain function is assigned to an object and fixed. This prevents any other handling, application or strategy. It is a matter of a mental limitation of the brain to assign an object only one fixed task. 

Example Escape The Room:

There is a lamp in the game - it gives light. So it is no longer interesting for you because its function is clear. However, the same lamp could change the light through a puzzle solved in the game and reveal a hint with UV light.

Probability neglect

This means the tendency to misjudge, ignore or overestimate a decision (which involve a risk). This means that the actual probability is not taken into account when making decisions.

Example escape game:

For escape game games, the best example is asking for clues. There are two types of teams: teams that keep asking because they are afraid of not being able to finish otherwise, and teams that don't want to ask because they think help is not needed or misjudge time.

Occam’s razor

This principle is actually quite simple: the simplest and most direct explanation is the right solution. This idea goes back to Aristotle's time. If there are several ideas, it is best to choose the simplest solution.

Example escape games:

You found a key. What should you do with it? I agree! Unlock something. Look for the lock and don't get distracted before trying out all the options (locks) available. Only then is time to put it aside! 

Inattentional blindness

Back to our headline. Why are visible objects simply overlooked? Has it ever happened to you that you searched for your cell phone, until you figured out, that you are using it? That is inattentional blindness. The brain is unable to perceive a visible but unexpected object because the attention is focused on another object or a task. This happens especially when there are a lot of stimuli that happen at the same time and this is often the case in escape games.

Here is a fun video that you can try out:

Example room escape game:

In our game “Help Hanna” (an old game that is no longer available at Open The Door in Vienna), the first task of the players was to free themselves. The keys hung from the ceiling, visible in the room. Many teams were unable to see the keys immediately, even though they were right in front of their noses.

There are a lot more effects and psychological principles tobe discover and compared with playing escape games in Vienna. It is exciting that the part of the brain that is responsible for solving the puzzle (the fluid intelligence) is strongly related to age and potentially wears off with age. That is why it is so important to train our brain, e.g. with puzzles and brain teasers, riddles or codes. Silence / volume also affects thinking skills and of course stress is a crucial factor for thinking processes. 

A great leisure tip for Vienna are escape games and especially with our games at Open The Door Vienna, brain power is not neglected. So next time you will understand, why  you solve a puzzle quickly, or why  you might need a little longer. Do you have any examples for us? Feel free to write us in the comments!


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