Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

I’m Speaking About Escape Rooms at Transworld

Speaking at Transworld Escape Conference

Transworld Escape Conference

I’ll be speaking at the Transworld Room Escape Conference later this week! The event starts on Friday and runs through the weekend. If you’re not far from Chicago where it’s happening you should come and check it out!

The nation’s largest dedicated conference for the emerging room escape industry features interactive exhibits & vendors, on-site demos, networking opportunities and dozens of targeted educational seminars presented by escape game industry leaders from both the United States and Canada.

My talk is titled Designing Puzzles for Player Flow and this is what it’s about:

Are your players getting stuck and frustrated? Find out ways to rethink your puzzles as part of a greater system and how to retool them in case they aren’t working how you envisioned. Learn how video game design techniques can be applied to physical rooms, how to troubleshoot design issues, and a template to approach your puzzles in isolation through a holistic lens.

If you cannot make it to Chicago for the conference you can always get my book. With the popularity of escape games of all sorts growing it is likely a matter of time until a conference pops up in your area!

Say hello if you see me there.

Get the Update to my Book: Escape the Game

escape the game sale banner

My popular book on escape rooms, Escape the Game, has been updated and expanded! It’s more useful than before for making your own escape game experience.

The book has more information on how you can make your own escape room or similar game experience. I added an entire chapter about an example puzzle that you can use and modify in your escape room (but do so before everybody else does!). If you’ve already bought the book through Amazon then your edition will be automatically updated. All new purchases will obviously be the updated edition.

Included in the update:

  • Template for your puzzle design!
  • List of documents!
  • Better examples throughout the book!
  • And more!

You can buy the book on multiple sites thanks to Smashwords! I’ll announce when the new sites become available on my Twitter and update the list below.

And of course, you can still get the book on Amazon.

If you have any further questions I do consult on – and make – custom escape game puzzles!

A Framework For Understanding Escape Room Games

Puzzle in an escape room
I’m a fan of escape rooms and I keep finding myself writing about them (and bring trapped in them). First it was my book Escape the Game and now it’s chapter in a book on using games in education. Along with Markus Wiemker, and Errol Elumir, I co-authored an article on escape room games titled
Can you transform an unpleasant situation into a pleasant one?

In short, our conclusion is yes you can.

The article goes into more than just thoughts on using escape rooms in learning, we wanted to provide a way to think about and discuss escape rooms as they grow in popularity. We have created a potential framework for understanding escape rooms and discussing the puzzles found within them.

Dialogorientierung & spielerisches Lernen analog und digital
Here’s a short excerpt from what we wrote in Game Based Learning -English Dialog Orientation & playful learning analog and digital:

Puzzle Types in Escape Rooms
Puzzles can be categorized into two basic approaches: mental and physical.

A mental puzzle makes use of the player’s thinking skills and logic. In order to overcome the mental puzzle, the players must deduce, correlate, or decipher clues to arrive at an answer. This type of puzzle is cognitive.

A physical puzzle, sometimes known as a ‘task’ or a ‘twitch’ puzzle requires the manipulation of real world artifacts to overcome the challenge and get the reward. For example, a maze is a task based puzzle. There is no ‘trick’ in solving the maze, you just need to get to the exit. Crawling through a laser grid is another task based puzzle. These puzzles are usually used to eat up time or provide a challenge for people who do not like mental gymnastics.

These puzzle types can obviously be used in combination with one another. A cryptogram may take a while to deduce, however, once the answer key is figured out, it will also take a while to translate. Or possibly a puzzle is obscured by darkness so another player needs to generate light via a bicycle.

Lastly, there is one more type of puzzle which is the meta puzzle. Although not a separate type, this tends to be used as the final puzzle for an escape room. In a meta puzzle, the final answer is derived from solving previous puzzles. For example, let’s say as the players progress through the room, jigsaw puzzle pieces are found with every other puzzle solved. Once they have completed all the other puzzles do they get every jigsaw piece. This jigsaw is the meta puzzle and when put together, it will lead the way out.

From:
Escape Room Games
“Can you transform an unpleasant situation into a pleasant one?”

By: Markus Wiemker, Errol Elumir, Adam Clare

Which can be found in Game Based Learning – Dialogorientierung & spielerisches Lernen analog und digital. You can get the book here, or a PDF here.

If you’re interested in learning more about puzzle and escape rooms check out my book: Escape the Game.

On Marketing Indie Games In 2016

Marketing games is already a difficult challenge and marketing indie games is playing the marketing game on hard more. In 2015 game companies spent $630 million on TV ads with one company, Supercell, spending nearly $60 million themselves on 29 ads.
Marketing spending on games

How can a small indie company compete with these big spenders? Many have tried and thankfully they have also documented their success and failures when marketing their indie games. One thing I have noticed this year is the death of the idea that good games will sell.

Various talks and meetings I had at GDC have led me to believe that the industry has learned as a whole that marketing matters – a lot!

As a result, here are some wise words that I’ve come across about how to get your indie game seen in this changing landscape.

Community

Community
Hannah Flynn of Failbetter Games attributes success to having a very strong community, which she acknowledges can be a challenge.

In indie games, your community is everything. The gaming community at large cares more about games than any other community I’ve worked in cares about anything. Their ratings, recommendations, reviews, feedback, fanart, streams and videos are worth their weight in gold. Investing in your community is crucial to your future.

It’s not just your community that you are trying to build that matters, there are already many communities that you may want to consider joining. The TIGSource forum is one of the best known. To discover more communities take a look at the big list of indie development forums.

YouTube and Twitch

Streamers use Twitch and YouTube because it’s presently a great way to get a large audience, which means you might want to do the same thing. Over at Wero Creative we’re trying that out. We’re streaming every Wednesday (3pm EST) this summer to see if people are actually interested in watching us make our games.

Watch live video from werocreative on www.twitch.tv

You can stream like we’re trying or you can approach streamers.

Both YouTube and Twitch are popular places for people to discover new games. Minecraft benefitted from positive exposure from streamers and you can too. The key though is have a game that is interesting for both the viewers and the player – try to think of ways the streamer can interact with viewers.

The key to this approach is finding personalities who want to review the sort of game you are making. Reach out to them and hope that they want to review your indie game. Indeed, Pocket Gamer has a good summary of how to approach and work with influential streamers.

Don’t know of any popular streamers? You’re lucky that somebody create a list you can spam: contact list off YouTubers – or don’t because spamming them will make them hate you. On that note, if you make things hard for streamers then they’ll likely ignore you or worse they’ll berate you.

Discoverability

One apporach to indie game marketing: gifs
One way to be found is by putting yourself out there.

In a world filled with emoji and GIFs and all that jazz one needs to utilize visuals effectively. Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words and a GIF can be worth way more. Black Shell Games (now also a PR/marketing company) noted in a Reddit post that the key is visual media.

Don’t spend week after week perfecting your copy down to a T if you could instead spend a few hours culling breathtaking video footage and screenshots that sell your game much better than text does. Even on the App Store and Play Store, the icon and screenshots are stunning for most hit apps, and encourage people to play the game.

One way to get discovered is through being part of game bundles. Jaime Dominguez-Blazquez discovered this when promoting the game Vortex Attack, as well as other important notes, in his post mortem on releasing the game on Steam.

Luckily for me, a few days after there was someone, Alie from Groupees (a site about bundles) telling me that placing my game in his bundle would help it to get extra visibility. … I just had to wait a month for the bundle to become active but it was great. We sold almost 4000 units; from that about 25% of the people took time to vote the game in Greenlight.

At first, I thought it was pretty good as it ended up increasing my visibility permanently.

Here is how it went (it’s the green line):

Sales of Vortex Attack

Another way to get discovered is to find a publisher (which is a whole other can of worms). This used to be a really great and guaranteed way to have your game found because it let the studio focus on making the game and publisher focus on marketing. The catch is that over the years the role of the publisher has changed – and it depends greatly on the size of your studio and the publisher in how effective the relationship can be.

Rob Remakes is incredibly skeptical about the benefits that a publisher can provide in terms of helping your game get the attention it deserves.

As ever, there’s no guarantees here that a publisher can definitely get you pushed on sites you may not normally be able to reach (and this is also why PR and Marketing firms exist too, but that’s not for this post) but upping the odds, yeah? It’s not just about mailshots either, it’s about what we call mixers (where devs and journalists meet to talk about works) and show floors and organising demonstrations for the press and sorting keys out and so much more. It’s work.

If none of the above is working for you then jump on to the current trend of in-app advertising and integration.

Price point of a game

photo-1434871619871-1f315a50efba

Yes, the price point of your game is part of marketing mix, in short – your pricing strategy matters. That Wikipedia link is based more on physical goods than digital, but the core ideas apply to video games. A good publisher can probably help you figure out what price to sell at.

The core problem with video games is that here never is a good price for them. Over at the Guardian Simon Parkin asks the question is the price of a video game ever really right? He examines expectations of the consumer and of the creator and how neither might not matter in the actual price.

Similarly, the price of games themselves has remained fairly constant for the past 20-odd years: the blockbusters cost around £40-£50, budget and independent titles around £10, and phone and tablet games go for a couple of quid or nothing at all. The pricing is reflective of nothing much beyond consumer expectations. It often doesn’t account for the number of hours that went into a game’s production or the value and quality of the game itself.

Conclusion

The attitude that a good game will sell on its own has changed and now indies are finding that they need to market games as much as create them. Marketing indie games is hard, but you can do it!

There are ways you can market your game in these competitive times:

  • Embrace communities (whatever that means to your game)
  • Reach out to streamers
  • Become a streamer yourself
  • Consider a publisher
  • Have the right price

Other things to think about:

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