The Escape Room Game – A Positive Teaching Moment

Ben was nine when went on his first school trip with his class. Thrilled by the outlook of the first sleepover of his life, our son had been counting the days and weeks before the event. The weekend was supposed to be great fun. Yet he returned deeply disappointed. What went wrong? A company specialized in team-building events for kids provided the entertainment. Divided into two teams, the kids had an exciting and well-organized program to accomplish. They were having a real good time. Until the very end, that is.

That was the moment when one team was declared the winners, the other team the losers. Our little one happened to belong to the latter group. Despite all excitement and joy, he and his friends returned home totally crushed. ”They have to learn how to cope with losing,” one father opined. ”My ass,” I thought. Surely they have to learn to cope at some point but do they really need to start on an occasion they had been anticipating so much? What does losing in this context teach them, anyway? That life has the tendency to kick you in the balls randomly? They will have plenty of opportunity to learn this lesson later in life.

Ben learned valuable things that day in a great, playful way. He was practicing team work, communication and problem solving without even noticing. Adding the experience of futility to all the hard work seems grossly counterproductive to me. One look into his disappointed eyes is all the evidence I needed to have a grasp of how our society is obsessed with competition. It always has to be either us or them. Or does it?

The answer is a definite NO! It is absolutely possible to play exciting games, have fun, develop skills and even compete without the necessity of having to declare losers. Enter escape room games. The genre offers an alternative to traditional thinking. Your goal is to solve a challenge, such as getting out of a room in time, rather than to crush the opposing team. Your enemies are time and puzzles, rather than other players. If the team achieves the goal, everybody is happy.

Don’t get me wrong, learning to compete is important. But so is learning to cooperate Just pick any of your favorite end-of-the-world scenarios. If you frame it so that an other group of people is your enemy, we will all certainly lose. If we learn to frame challenges so that we work together to solve them, we will actually stand a chance at surviving the next couple of decades.

Now that is a message I would love to pass on to Ben.


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