Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

Tag: escape the room

On Designing Escape Games For The Real World

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia

Looking for tips on making an escape game? Read tips on designing escape game.

Two and half years ago I posted on how “escape the room” games have become physical, they are similar in concept to digital games like the classic The Room insofar you are locked in a room and must escape using logic.

Escape the Game book cover

Get my book Escape the Game to find out even more ways to design your escape room.


Since 2012 escape games have surged in popularity. There’s even a Wikipedia page on real-life room escape games. These games have branched out from where they started in eastern Asia and have now landed seemingly everywhere from New York to Prague.

Here in Toronto Japan-based SCRAP Entertainment showed up to run a one-off event and there are a ton of other companies entering the market too. One of those companies is LockQuest and I recently had the chance to play test their game – it’s the best room escape experience I’ve had! The obvious question is what made it so good?

Ryan Creighton is behind LockQuest and he has been open with what indie game design as a career is really like (for example his post on exhibiting a game at PAX). In his announcement post of LockQuest he mentions that his room-escape designs are a result of trying as many other escape games as possible and trying to figure out their logic in a narrative-less environment:

The first game by LockQuest, Escape the Book Club Killer, aims to improve on the experiences i’ve had travelling around North America playing escape games. For one, we pay a lot of attention to story and character. Too many escape games dump you into a bizarrely decorated room (why’s that bicycle in here?) with no compelling reason to escape other than “the door’s locked.” Cool. How did i get here? Who locked me in? Why are the means of my escape scattered around the room in a tightly-knit logic puzzle format?

In Escape the Book Club Killer, all these questions and more are answered in the course of the game. You’ve responded to an invite by a friend-of-a-friend to attend this book club. You don’t know the guy who’s running it, but you’re adventurous, so why not? When you show up, your host seems a little unhinged, and the book he wants you to read – a sleazy pulp novel – is entirely inappropriate for polite company. In short order, he tells you he’ll be back in an hour, and the door locks behind him …. from the outside.

hot linking an image from Ryan's site

Learning from other game designers is not new, but what is new is that Ryan started as a video game designer and this was his first foray into making real-world games. From experience, I can tell you that the basic rule of thumb for anything in the real-world is that everything will break at some point (I’m sure one day gravity will break). Ryan published what he went through transitioning from making digital to physical games.

The design differences are vast and can be eye-opening to designers who haven’t tried their hand at both mediums. The full post is worth reading, here’s a snippet of what Ryan observed:

With a real escape game, so much of the experience is tied up in your props and sets that you basically have to spend all your money on the “graphics” and have them in place before you can test the thing. The “mechanics” of the game come next, so the process is effectively backwards. And you run a real risk of spending money on a prop for a puzzle that just doesn’t work.

Going back to the birdcage example, you might think “well, the ‘programmer graphics’ version of that is to buy a cheap, modern birdcage and swap it out later.” That’s what i thought too. But if you’re like me, a landlocked urbanite with no vehicle and no easy access to yard sales, the cost of a modern birdcage is about two hundred dollars. The cost of our hard-won fancy birdcage is about the same. Often times, testing with a less-than-ideal prop would cost as much or more time and money as just doing it the right way to begin with.

Remember that the medium you choose to make your game in can dictate so much of the experience and the design process! Personally, I find it refreshing to see how many ways game design elements can impact other forms of entertainment and how through that exploration new ideas arise.

If you like the idea of escape games and can act then you should know that LockQuest is hiring!

Escape the Game

Are you interested in making your own escape room?

Read my book Escape the Game, available now at Amazon!

Escape the Room Games Become Real

In China you can pay to play a real-life escape the room game. The real-world games are inspired by the online Takagism games in which people have to click around and gather clues to find out how to escape a building.

This is an interesting way that casual online games have made their way into real world activities.

Shanghai Daily has a story on a local gaming group’s adventure:

A millionaire is kidnapped and a squad is sent to save him, however, they are captured and knocked unconscious. When they awake, they find themselves in a locked room; their hands are chained to each other, but each person has one free hand. The only way to escape is to gather all the clues in the room.

This is the situation in which real-person players of takagism, a popular computer adventure game, find themselves.

First they solve number puzzle or soduku, which enables them to open the coded locks on their handcuffs.

Global Times has a window in the business of the operation:

Using a one-room apartment spanning 50 square meters, the 10 different games the club has developed have different scenarios, including one based on American horror movie Saw that requires two chained men to escape a bathroom. At 50 yuan ($7.90) per person for an one-hour game, it requires two to six participants. Huang offers real-life gamers a simple explanation of the rules and outlines their task. Groups who successfully solve the puzzles are rewarded with either cash or gifts.

“A lot of people initially thought our club presented a life-death situation. Actually, what we offer is game of knowledge, logic and reasoning,” chuckled Huang, who used to work in the advertising industry. “Although some scenarios seem terrifying, we only make them appear like that to enhance the experience.”

For example, staff at the club sometimes put a clock in the room that shows a different time to the real time. “This is to encourage participants to look at their watch and figure out the time difference, so they know can surmise which country the story is unfolding in,” said operation manger Chen Lei.

Source.

Escape the Game book cover

Get my book Escape the Game to find out even more ways to design your escape room.

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