How Does An Online Escape Room Work?

2020.10.06.

Unless you've spent the last decade living under a rock, then you'll know that the escape rooms business has become a world wide rage. From their humble beginnings in Japan, escape room games now dominate the world, offering exciting and puzzling adventures for players looking for an hour of taxing fun. And now those games have evolved into the online escape room that can be played over the internet remotely. So you could be anywhere in the world playing game thousands of miles away. But what exactly is an online escape room? And how can we play?

What Does An Online Escape Room Entail

First you'll need to log into the escape room site.This can be on your phone, tablet or PC. Providing your device is equipped with a speaker and a microphone then you're good to go. (It's true that a camera is a huge help...but if push comes to shove, you'll still be able to play without it). Essentially, you're going to be playing a one hour long adventure game. Or a new way of experiencing the telling of a story.You'll have a mission to complete and you start this from a single room. In order to move forwards towards your goal, they'll be any number of clues and puzzles that'll need solving before you're able to proceed. It's this combination of challenging puzzles along with an immersive and interactive adventure, that give the game a sort of real-life adventure quality. Ultimately you free yourself and thereby are able to complete the original task.

Exit the Room Online - The real online escape game

The Games Master

Within the real live room there's a guy (or gal) who we call the "game master". Without him nothing can happen. He's wearing a camera which allows you to see, up close and personal, everything he's doing. Using this device, you'll be sending him instructions over the internet as to what to open, where to look and where to go. As he's acting as both your eyes and ears it's important to be absolutely clear with you instructions. If you think you've missed something, be sure to say so. Don't be afraid to ask him anything about the online escape room. It all sounds rather convoluted and complicated, but in real life is all works surprisingly well. 

Themes

In order to make the games more interesting, many will come with a back story. This narrative helps to make the game appear more realistic, in the same way that the story-line in a novel will act as a setting for the action. Apart from the story told before you actually enter the room, you'll find that the decoration and themes used will compliment the narrative, creating a more immersive environment for the players. As for the types of themes available in escape rooms, well, your own imagination is the only limitation. On the whole, having themes based around happenings and historical events over the past 500 years or so, appear to be the most popular. So you could find yourself in a bank in the Wild West of the late 1800's. Or in a room with the setting of the Second World War in Italy. For something more contemporary, you might find yourself locked in a modern office, with the tag-line; "Everyone's worst nightmare, stuck in the office at work and you can never leave". 

Horror Themes

As a sub genre of themes, nothing proves quite as popular as horror. Nothing beats the terror of racing against a clock as the zombies and demons close in on all sides. Some escape rooms employ actors to add some spice to the mix. Moving along with this theme, we have others which incorporate the same dark desperation, including mad scientist running around underground labs clutching test tubes containing extinction level microbes, military bases with rouge agents about to launch a nuclear holocaust and a bunch of flesh eating zombies trying to break into your room as you frantically try and escape via another door. All good stuff! 

Problem Solving

The back story and the theme are there to set the mood. But the real nitty-gritty is in the clues and puzzles. First you'll need to find them. And then set about piecing them together to make some sort of sense. These can involve simple solutions like viewing some writing in a mirror, to much more complex forms involving a high degree of lateral thinking. To that end, some rooms can be extraordinarily difficult to navigate, whereas others can be relatively simple. But at whatever level of game play you find yourself, you'll find that many of the clues and puzzles need the combination of their individual answers to make a single solution for the problem at hand. 

The Puzzles

As with the back stories and themes, the puzzles themselves are also only limited by the creators imagination and technical prowess. On a basic level, puzzles can involve deciphering signals, finding hidden objects, various riddles and identifying patterns. Some times you'll need to put those old and forgotten mathematics skills to good use. Then there are the puzzles that require some form of manipulation which will in turn cause something else to be triggered into action, be it turn on a light or open a secret box. If you do get stuck, then most online escape rooms have a system whereby you can get into contact with someone who'll be happy to give you clues. By the way if you don't happen to complete the escape by the time the clock ticks down, don't worry as you're not alone. World-wide the average success rate stands at just 41%.

Team Work

We suppose that you could play an online escape room on your own. But the best experience comes from having at least one other person with you to help sort through the clues. It's probably best played by a group of between 4 to 8 people. As long as you're able to communicate clearly and precisely with each other, then you'll all have a great time. In fact, the very nature of escape rooms in having to solve problems and find solutions, often within teams, has turned this activity into the darlings of corporate team building. Instead of white water rafting or 4x4 off roading, the virtual escape room offers a much more focused experience for all those involved. And it can be used in many ways to mimic real life scenarios that might be found in the business environment. Plus it's a much cheaper option for a company to send it's employees on. 

Different Horses For Different Courses

One interesting point about virtual escape room games is the way people true identities start to come through. In fact, these stereo-typical personalities are so distinct, that the internet has already formed memes for each type. For example, there's the super aggressive player, who's more used to solving problems without using any brain power. Then there's the person who's super competitive, who wants to solve all the clues single-handily and claim all the glory for himself. Of course there are also the calmer more thoughtful players who are more interested in finding clues and puzzles and enjoy the problem solving. And finally, least but not last, we have the natural leader, who's a great communicator and motivator.   

Another positive thing about escape rooms is that people are "forced" to work together towards a common goal. To that end, it doesn't matter if you start the game with a group of friends or a group of strangers. By the end of it everyone will know each other better. Because finding solutions is a shared activity, everyone gets involved, working together, sharing ideas and having fun. So, if you want to play, many escape rooms encourage players to team up with strangers. After all, a stranger is just an unknown friend! 
 

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