Which nations are the world’s cleverest? Mind gaming may hold the answers.

Is there a link between the aptitude for puzzles in many Asian countries and additional mind skills? Who’s better at working together to find solutions, engineers or IT professionals? And does the wisdom of experience trump the audacity of youth? A world championship in Budapest this week may yield data on those topics and more.
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You’ve heard them again and again. The cultural stereotypes: Women are better communicators. The Swiss are precise and Germans are great engineers. Young people think outside the box, while their elders possess valuable experience. How true are such perceptions? A unique gaming event streamed live across the globe from Budapest, Hungary on Saturday, March 25, 2017 will provide fresh new insights on the way different cultures think and approach problem-solving.

Delivered on the Red Bull Mind Gamers platform, the “Mission: Unlock Enoch World Finals” is the first-ever Escape Room World Championship. Across three days, twenty-two national champion teams of four players each, plus two Wild Card teams, will engage in a race against time that challenges problem-solving skills such as creativity, logic, visual thinking and strategy. Developed by Fox in a Box, the Escape Room World Finals in Budapest were designed by a team led by Dr. Scott Nicholson, a guru in the field who was a visiting professor at MIT, and is a Professor of Game Design and Development at the BGNlab at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, Ontario.

The findings started right from the first step of qualification, when more than 10,000 individual players tried to solve a puzzle on the Red Bull Mind Gamers online platform. A full 45.85% were female, blowing apart the perception that men dominate the global interest in gaming. That was only the tip of the iceberg.

Asian gamers are renowned for solving puzzles, and in fact, of 2,345 teams participating in national qualifiers worldwide, the winners in Singapore and Korea had the best average times. However, it was a US team playing at the University of California in Berkeley that produced the best time of any country – a stunning 7 minutes, 7 seconds, 616 milliseconds – challenging the stereotype that Californians are “laid-back.”

On March 25, many viewers will be following national rivalries. The team that won the German championship did so over a minute and a half faster than the Austrian victors. The Norwegians were two minutes quicker than the Swedes, and the Estonians held a similar advantage over Lithuania. Can preparation narrow the margins before Budapest?

“For players going into an escape room, there are a number of different team roles that you need to have established,” says Nicholson. One of those roles is communications. Can a supposedly innate talent for communication give an edge to teams with one or more female members, like Romania, where the gender split is 50-50? And will the close-knit team of friends from the Ukraine have a communication advantage over the players from Oman, who are all of different backgrounds and nationalities, or the Slovenians, who had never met before they united for the competition?

Several teams, like Oman and the Swiss, are comprised entirely of engineers. How will they fare against a team of IT experts, like France? Or a team like Spain, with two chemists, an archeologist and a geologist?

France is one of the youngest teams, with all players 21 or under. Meanwhile, teams like the Swedes and British have players in their 30s or older. Will age make a difference?

What of Turkey? While the team excelled despite the hardest road to the World Finals, they had never played an escape room game. Will they survive against a team like Great Britain, with roughly 1,000 escape rooms among them? Plus, what will the two Wild Card teams – one of which includes the world champion of puzzle solving – bring to the mix?

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There’s only one way to find out. The Mission: Unlock Enoch World Finals begins with Semi-Finals on Thursday and Friday, March 23 and 24. Then see what happens when the top two teams battle it out in the World Championship Final on March 25.

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