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22nd July 2017

Puzzle room psychology: The truth about our penchant for puzzle rooms

Over 2 million viewers tuned in for the return of The Crystal Maze, probably the biggest and most well known puzzle room of them all, last month and according to MarketWatch statistics there are now more than 2,800 permanent escape rooms, aka puzzle rooms, worldwide. As Patsy from Ab Fab would put it, puzzle rooms are all the rage right now sweetie. But why we hear you cry? What is it about problem solving puzzles that gets us all so excited? Well, let’s find out.

Puzzle Rooms Bring Us Together

Believe it or not sending a PM, Whatsapp or liking your loved ones post does not replace actual connection. Ergo a retweet is also not as good as a cuddle. According to a study by a professor in game design and development Scott Nicholson, escape or puzzle rooms involve teamwork, communication, and delegation as well as critical thinking, attention to detail, and lateral thinking. While you may think this is something that happens in board games or when you all veg out in front of a good Netflix marathon you would be wrong. Nicholson explains:

“Escape Rooms bring a whole different experience as players distance themselves from a board with meeples and cards, entering a physical fantasy world where they will find challenges and engagement opportunities.”

Solving Puzzles Gives Us satisfying nimble brain tingles

No Nimble is not just a paper thin low calorie bread – if you can call it that – it’s also a way to describe brain activity. Puzzles apparently help you to be, well… more nimble. Problem solving goes right back to the Stone Age, back then we were inventing fire and the wheel and now, we are filling in the answer to 26 down. Science Editor at The Times, David Corcoran explains that this experience we have with puzzles is heightened even more when we laugh:

“When you’re trying to solve a puzzle that requires that ‘aha!’ moment, that insight where something just seems to pop into your brain, it really helps to be in a playful frame of mind.” That mindset can help you “spot connections or see things in the background that you might not otherwise pick up if you were feeling sober or serious.”

So, puzzle rooms don’t only help you flex your brain pecs, they also give you a double whammy shot of good vibes. Basically, instead of just the ah ha moment, you also need the ah ha ha ha ha… ha ha stuff.

Puzzle Room Experiences Help Us feel something real

The modern pace of living and digital connectivity is actually creating a void for many of us who crave actual human connection and experience. Like those dodgy 80s outfits that have made it back into mainstream fashion, there has been a growing trend of experience over stuff. Even if we are still searching for experiences on our smartphones, our ultimate goal is to do more and hoard less.  A multi-generational nostalgic shift further demonstrated by the return of The Crystal Maze. There were those of us who watched it in the 90s experiencing joyous nostalgic tummy flips when we saw the Aztec zone again, while newbies fled like magpies towards the reality star bait discovering puzzle rooms for the first time.

In his book ‘Stuffocation: Living More with Less’, the futurist author James Wallman delves further into the reason for a new experiential movement, he explains:

“Experiences are more likely to make us happy because we are less likely to get bored of them, more likely to see them with rose-tinted glasses, more likely to think of them as part of who we are, and because they are more likely to bring us closer to other people and are harder to compare.”

Puzzle rooms give us a new experience, which distracts us from worry or fear and gives us a welcome break from the digital noise.


Go on admit it. You want to strut in that puzzle room, proclaim ‘well this is a piece of piss’ and strut back out like Bruce Willis walking out of a burning building. Proving our intelligence, solving clues and winning something feels good. In his book ‘The Winner Effect’ psychology professor Ian Robertson says that the reason it’s so much fun to win is largely chemical.

“Winning increases testosterone, which in turn increases the chemical messenger dopamine, and that dopamine hits the reward network in the brain, which makes us feel better.”

Now, there is a chance of course you won’t solve all the clues, but there are plenty of puzzle rooms to work your way around until you become the master. Just please don’t set any of the puzzle rooms alight for your Bruce Willis moment.

Find puzzle rooms near me

Well, there you have it. Now you know why you love a good puzzle you just need to get your finger out and book an escape room experience. Of course, we’re biased and suggest kicking off with one of our puzzle rooms in London or Brighton. But, you can also head on over to escaperoomhub.com to find a puzzle room near you.