Escape room creators pour every ounce of love, creativity, and passion into all aspects of creating their escape rooms. They use technology and techniques, both new and old, in order to add as much dynamic and surprise as possible and to bring the rooms to life.
Technology and techniques may include magnetic locks, infrared sensors, LED lights, and the like. In some instances, there appears to be absolutely no technology on the inside of the room, but behind the scenes, technology may be what is making the room operate. For example, there are some escape rooms that contain a behind-the-scenes control room with a motherboard of controls which operate all of the magnetic locks, infrared sensors, LED lights, and other hidden mechanisms. Inside the escape room, though, everything is extremely low-tech, or not technological at all, as players must deal with old furniture, miscellaneous props, or even pen and paper. Some escape rooms contain complex props that are not supposed to be touched, while others encourage you to touch as much as you want in order to perhaps discover even more hidden clues.
Overall, most creators will attest that making an escape room is pretty difficult. At the same time though, it doesn’t require very much space or money. Time, dedication, and passion is all that is required to create a successful escape room.
Qualities of successful escape rooms:
- Narrative, or theme. From pirate themes, to time warp themes, to office themes, narrative (or themed) escape rooms tend to be much more popular and successful than those escape rooms that lack a narrative. Unfortunately, some companies try to avoid higher production costs, and therefore choose to skip the narrative option. Instead, they simply present their guests with an empty room and an abundance of puzzles and pen-and-paper problems that they must solve in order to escape. This is not a good idea, as it is absolutely critical for an escape game to have a solid narrative in order for the players to experience complete immersion in the game. The key here is to match the theme to the entire experience, from the moment the players first step into the building, until the time they leave, including the pre-game room, the props inside the escape room, the puzzles and clues, and so forth.
- Timing. Most escape room games last about an hour. Anything shorter than 45 minutes is not worth the players’ money, and anything longer than an hour tends to affect the players’ ability to stay focused. In addition, people start to get hungry, thirsty, or have to use the restroom.
- Sense of progress and/or success. This doesn’t necessarily mean everybody should win. What’s the fun in that? It is important for players to remain optimistic and in good spirits, though. One way to do this is to have several points throughout the game in which players can feel like they really made a huge step in getting closer to the escape, such as by finding a secret door or opening up a secret room. If the players do escape the room within the allotted time, it is important for the end to feel extremely rewarding so that players feel accomplished and like the overall experience was worth their time, energy, and money.
- Group size. According to research, the average successful group size in an escape room game is 4.5 people. If there are too many people, it may become boring for those who aren’t as involved, or there may be communication issues. On the other hand, if there are too few people, the puzzles and overall game may be too difficult to have any chance of completing within the allotted time frame.
- Pre-game room. In essence, a pre-game room is simply a waiting room. This is extremely important to have as it is the area that the players first see and it sets the tone for the rest of the experience. This is where the game and the theme are first introduced to the players and the rules are explained. Some companies use videos to do this so that every group receives the same introduction, and some companies simply use staff members to deliver the introduction. Whatever method is used, the main goal is to get the players excited about the game.
- Data collection. Many escape room companies track players’ actions in order to collect data on how various groups approach the puzzles. In other words, in these cases, almost every activity that goes on inside the room is tracked, measured, or recorded in one way or another. This allows creators to see how well groups work together, any issues they may encounter with each other, whether they are analytical problem solvers or experimental problem solvers, and much more.
- Expansion. Consider ways in which the establishment could expand and grow over time. For example, can more rooms or themes be added so that guests can come back and play again in the future? If perhaps this isn’t possible, can the same room be re-playable with some alterations? How about two teams playing against each other, so that instead of racing against the clock, they are racing against another team.
One of the most fundamental goals of all escape rooms is to try and get people to interact with the physical space and whatever is within that space in as many different ways as possible. Furthermore, it is the primary goal of most escape rooms to provide the players with as much fun, excitement, and surprise as possible. If this is achieved, the mission is accomplished!