Cast your mind back to 2021. Yep, a whole two years ago. I was halfway between 20 and 30 and probably feeling listless and directionless about live (oh, hello 20s) and decided to make myself an “escape room bucket list” for all the things I wanted to achieve before I turned 30. A lot can happen and a lot can change in two years – but I’m still here, and more important I’m still playing escape rooms.
But now, on the 2 year anniversary of making that list, seemed as good a time as any to revisit what I’ve achieved, what is still on the list, and what advice I can share to other folks making their own [number before age] list for themselves.
Playing Escape Rooms… Around the World?
Reeling from being locked up for about two years at this point, it’s unsurprising a lot of my bucket list items involved travel. So, how did I do?
- Play an escape room in Central Europe
- Play an escape room in North America
- Play an escape room on the other side of the world
- Bonus: Play an escape room in another language
Well, the first three are easy enough. Though I’m not quite sure what I meant by “other side of the world”. Probably Asia, Australia or New Zealand. In that case, not quite yet – but I did recently play some in Canada, the Netherlands, and Poland. As for an escape room in another language, I was really hoping to do something clever and play a ‘language-less’ escape room. But I’m not quite sure they exist, so I’ll settle for French. Another tick. Or should I say il est complété!
Playing Escape Rooms… With Specific People!
The next category of escape room 30s before 30 seem to be about playing escape rooms with specific people:
- Introduce all my friends to escape rooms
- Play with friends from around the world
The first I’m working on every, single, day. *shakes fist at friends who haven’t played one yet*
They say you should never meet your idols but that’s false because I met mine and they were the best people. As for playing rooms with friends around the world, I have my Canada trip to thank for that! It was a whirlwind adventure in that I got to meet so many of my absolute favourite people in the world, all in one place. The escape room communities of Toronto and Montreal were amazingly welcoming, and I had the most wonderful time. Cheers to all of you! 🥂
Playing Specific Rooms
The next category of ‘bucket list’ items I can group by seem to be centred around playing specific rooms. These were:
- Play a horror escape room
- Play the first room in the UK
- Play the Crystal Maze
- Participate in a Zombie event
The first one was always going to be an easy win. I think I booked a horror room the very next month after writing my list. How was it? Terrifying. But nothing as terrifying as this year playing one of the world’s scariest: Stay in the Dark by DarkPark in the Netherlands. Sometimes I still wake in a cold sweat thinking about it, hah! As for the Crystal Maze, Zombies, and first in the UK – I’m still working on those. It doesn’t help that I moved away from London, but since that’s not in the spirit of things I’ll mark them as “pending”. There’s still time before 30!
Shooting for Gold on the Leader Board
My next few ‘bucket list items’ concerned leaderboard scores. Namely:
- Come first on a leaderboard
- Achieve a puzzle game speed run record
- Compete in the Red Bull championships
I’m simultaneously not sure I have, and absolutely certain I have achieved something of all. As for those escape room scores, I just can’t say for sure which one. Plus, with many escape rooms resetting their leaderboard monthly, it’s quite likely if I go back through the list, any went for in the first day or two of the month are strong contenders. With regards to the Red Bull championships, sadly those don’t exist anymore – but I have been enjoying ER champ these last few years. Last year Team Escaping the Closet (consisting of myself, Al, Ash and Tasha) placed 36th in the world and 2nd UK team! Not bad.
Creative Escape Room Goals for the Next 3 Years
Besides playing rooms, it’s clear from my bucket list I made back then that I wanted to focus on designing more.
- Publish a digital escape room
- Work on a new murder mystery
- Publish a board game
- and so on
Well, 25 year old me would be very proud, as I’m now able to say being a puzzle game designer is my full time job. I’ve completed all of the above, and more. It’s been a wild few years (mostly of burnout), but I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved and how far I’ve come. I won’t list them all here, but if anyone is interested I have a portfolio available here.
Last But Not Least: The Escape Room Tattoo
Argh! How could I have forgotten this one? Well no. I haven’t got that tattoo yet. But I still really want to. If anyone knows of any tattoo artists in the UK who might be up for designing me something, please do let me know!
What’s Next? 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?
There are a number of fun things on the bucket list I still need to achieve, and that’s great – I’m getting round to them for sure. But this also seems like an excellent opportunity to take stock and suggest some new things for my 30 before 30 bucket list. Such as:
- Play 100% of all escape rooms in Edinburgh
- …And why not also try to play 100% of all escape rooms in Scotland too!
- Reach 500, physical, in person rooms played
- Play an escape room in Japan
- The home of escape rooms. Big bucket list item for me!
- Visit a Punchdrunk experience
- How have I reached this ripe old age and managed to miss them all? I’ll never know.
- Beat 33rd in the world in the ER Champ
- Collaborate on a puzzle experience with [specific person]
- Note, I’m not actually going to name said person (or tbh, people, there are a few who are dream collaborators). But I’ll reach out when the time is right for sure.
- Collaborate on a puzzle experience with [specific business]
- Again, same reason. I know who they are. THEY probably know who they are due to my ‘Adoring Fan’ nature
- Start a podcast about the puzzle industry
- I have the format, I just need to get a move on. Haha, the story of my life.
- Launch Escape Industry Jobs
- A little project to help job seekers in the industry that I’ve had brewing in the background for a while
Bucket Lists, Are They Worth It?
Yes, and no. It really depends on what you want to get out of it. It’s a lot of fun making a list of things you’d like to do, and an excellent resource to look back on when you feel like you’re in a rut. Writing one really lets you lay out your priorities and in some ways can hold you accountable in a fun way. By not achieving something – you’ve only letting your younger self down.
But by that metric, it’s important to keep in mind they are fun. That’s one of the reason I wanted to write one about escape rooms and not say, my general life. Escape rooms are fun, playing them is fun, and my lists are just fun reminders to get out there more and seek out more exciting adventures in my life!
If you want to write your own bucket list, escape room or otherwise, I’d suggest setting a “before a certain date” on it. That way you have a target, and a milestone to pause on and look back at how far you’ve come.
Writing Your Own Escape Room Bucket List
So you’ve read this far, and you’ve thought “okay I want one of those”. Having looked back on mine, I’ve been reminded of the things I actively worked on, and doubly reminded of those things I completely forgot about. But armed with that knowledge, I wanted to share some advice.
Having escape room goals like “travel to far away place” or “win competition” are excellent – but only if they’re realistic. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t afford to travel, or enter the competition and only come 2nd place. The point is you put your heart into something, and that counts for a lot.
Ask for recommendations
In the escape room world, everyone loves talking about their favourite rooms – so this is a great opportunity to get recommendations for escape rooms and venues to put on your own bucket list. What are your friends favourite room? What are the experts’ favourite rooms? Ask around, and you’ll be amazed at the answers – and probably discover some new hidden gems along the way.
Get your A-team
Lets be real, most escape room bucket list items will need a team. Unless one of your bucket list items is to “play a room solo”. Which would be pretty cool if it were! Once you’ve written your list, share it with your friends and start getting a team together to help you play through or achieve new targets with your rooms.
So this is an ‘out there’ tip, but I’ve found many folks bucket lists are all thing they want to do, but for their own personal reason are waiting. Maybe they fear people will laugh, or say no when you invite them along with you. A good friend told me about the “100 rejections” challenge. You aim to collect 100 rejections in the course of a year. By aiming for rejections, you apply for the things and ask the questions you’re sure you’ll be rejected for. Out of those 100, you’ll surely collect a few “yes” replies, won’t you? 😉
Want to try designing an experience yourself? DO IT.
Some of my absolute favourite puzzle games and even escape rooms were designed by people who didn’t think they knew how, or did have any experience. Trust me, you can do this. And hey, if you want tips on where to get started – I wrote this guide here!
This is the absolute most important one of them all. We’re all in this escape room industry to play games and have fun. Making an escape room bucket list is first and foremost all about having fun. As you write your list and work your way through them – don’t forget that!