One Game Master to One Room

2021.06.29.

We recently had a discussion about how many employees most escape room games use when their real live escape room games are in progress. In other words, if more than one room is being played, do the businesses have a single game master for both rooms, even though they are being played simultaniously? Though there were a number of different answers, one thing was clear in that the need for profit often eclipses the needs of the customer. And that's because the owners and the game masters often had a different set of criteria as to how many game masters are necessary in order to keep customers happy and maintain an immersive atmosphere.

Speaking with a group of game masters, most of them shared the same vision of having just one game master per room as being the ideal setup. As one game master said, “I work in an escape room. We have a number of identical rooms where larger groups can often compete. As a rule, we work with one gamemaster in a room. It can happen that we run 2 rooms at the same time.. When one group finishes before the other, they don't mind waiting for the other group to finish and then do the outro together. This means that in general you're only gone around a minute or two from the other room and it's rarely a problem.” But let’s face it, having to keep customers waiting, even for five minutes is not really acceptable for any business. You would hope that the owners might realise this, but in many cases it’s all about keeping those expenses to a bare minimum..

Another game master put it better when he said, “In my experience having a gamemaster working 2 rooms at the same time lowers the quality of service. It also has an impact on how often you can sell the room as there's more things to reset, which takes more time to run the intro and outro, and therefore the time breaks needed in between rooms are bigger. Both are things that play into why we book 1 gamemaster to a room instead of one to 2 rooms.”

He went on to say, “With that said, it also depends on the room and it’s concept. We do have one room where a larger group can be split up into two smaller rooms. But effectively, you're still one gamemaster controlling 2 rooms. It does work, as the group gets out together. We also have another concept, where it's normal to run 1-5 rooms alone, with just the one game master. The teams in each room can ask for hints but they only get 3 hints in total. As it's optimized to show at a glance how far each group has progressed, we’ll know what hint to give them. It's easier to run 5 rooms alone, than running one room of our less optimized concept.” To us this sounds nothing but lax and lazy behaviour. One game master for 6 rooms is insane. The player experience cannot be anywhere near it is when having just a single game master all to yourself.

Someone billing himself as a dedicated game master, also had a take on the number of rooms for each game master, saying, “The rule is and should be everywhere, 1 game master per room. No game master should ever be told to run multiple games simultaneously. By dividing your attention, it's simply not fair to either the game master's or the customers. Nothing is more off putting than when a game master switches in the middle of a game. If you have the skills, it can be done seamlessly providing you make it part of the game play. It's also much better than having one game master for 2 or even 3 games run by 1 person, which is absurd.” A main negative takeaway was a practical reason. How can you hope to debrief if the game master wasn’t present? How do you know what the customers did or did not do if the game master was off watching another room? How can you have a relatable debrief without having shared their experience? Simply put, you can’t.

One of the main problems is that the larger these escape room businesses grow, the bigger the gap forms between game masters wanting to give an original and immersive experience, and his boss whose only concern is the cost of more game masters. In some ways, this is those at the top interfering and inevitably causes a negative effect on both the game masters and the customers. Here at ExitTheRoom, we throw our hands up whenever we hear about a number of rooms being run simultaneously by a single, overworked game master. As its the business owner who's calling the shots, there’s not a lot that can be done to improve the situation.

Another game master pointed out, “I believe that true multitasking is a myth. We actually just switch our attention back and forth between 2 (or more) tasks. This results in a decreased quality on each. No one can read one sentence while writing another.” From the customer’s point of view, they are paying $30 or more, and it’s only right to give them the best experience possible. Not just for their own benefit, but also as an advertisement for the establishment. You would imagine that bosses are thinking about all the ways they can improve their service as opposed to being fixed on costs. We would go so far as to suggest that if you can’t afford the best customer service, then maybe this type of business isn’t for you.

The idea that anyone can multitask is rubbish and has been proved so over and over. You’ll find these “multi task challenges” on YouTube. They more often than not involve a conceited CEO claiming that anyone can multitask. In one case, they had him drive a course which had various objects placed around. Of course if that’s all you have to do, then no problem. But then they had him drive the same course, whilst being on the phone and asking difficult questions. As you can well imagine, this was an absolute failure. There’s tons of supporting research which also illustrates how difficult multitasking really is.

As a customer, if you’re in the middle of a game and call out asking for a hint, it’s more than a little disconcerting to have to wait for the game master to answer because he’s also dealing with another room. He’s obviously not able to follow 2 rooms at once, and therefore doesn’t even know what stage we’re at in the game play. In these cases, some players have reported asking for a hint, only to have the game master ask then whereabouts they are in the game? If he’s not following their progress, then how can he know to nudge them in the right direction?

Finally, by trying to run a couple of rooms at the same time, it’ll make the post-game chat slightly awkward, as the game master would have missed significant parts from each game in his efforts to follow all the action in both rooms. The post-game chat is super important from the perspective of the players as well as for the business itself. By chatting at the game’s end, the players can relive their victories and learn about approaching their failures from a different perspective. It completes the experience and allows them to have some extra bonding time before leaving the premises. 

For the business, well, it should be obvious that the post-game chat is a means of ensuring good word of mouth publicity. It also allows the players and game master to share their highs and lows, as well as providing feedback on the game play or on anything that could be changed to allow for a better game experience. If the post game chat is rushed, or meaningless thanks to having a game master slitting his time between several rooms, then it ends what should have been a fantastic adventure, on a whimper. As the last interaction is with post game chat, if it’s missing in range and depth, then the customer will leave feeling as though the game was never really completed. That’s not the way to end the day.


 

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