So What Does An Escape Room Games Master Actually Do?

2022.03.31.

When you're out one evening having drinks with a group of friends and a stranger asks about your job, you probably will not be surprised to see the blank look on their face when you say the words “Games Master.” Now, most people have heard of a Jedi Master, but for many people, particularly over a certain age, they will have no idea about what type of job you do. Of course, if you mention that you hide in small dark rooms, watching people as they struggle, some may question your mental well-being, as well as taking two steps backwards from you and start looking around for the nearest door! 

After coffee and a quick brief to see what groups are going to be appearing, at what time, then the first task of the Game Master is to ensure that everything in the rooms are set up correctly. He will spend time checking all of the locks, also making sure the electronic devices work correctly and everything is ship-shape and Bristol fashion.

Keep in mind that as soon as the first team enters the reception of the escape room business, that means their experience has already begun. It's essential that all employees understand that first impressions really do count. For the Games Master and is the point of which he'll enquire as to how much experience they have or not and also what kind of place they might be and the level of interaction they might be looking for. Then comes the explanation of the rules and especially focus on safety. With so many escape rooms being in the basement of buildings safety should always be another one concerned and the briefings from the Games Master should cover this aspect in detail. Nevertheless, it is still important to convey these rules in a manner that maintains an atmosphere of being  light and breezy. 

Now we come to one of the most important aspects of the game, namely explaining the game’s narrative. Virtually all escape room games will follow a story which creates the ambiance, thus allowing the game to be fully immersive. Many of these stories will follow a fixed script. It’s super important the way that the Games Master conveys the tale as this makes a huge difference as to whether the players think it's a game worth playing in seriousness or not. So the Games Master must weave a tale that, on the one hand, is interesting enough to keep the players listening and engaged, whilst at the same time not being too heavy, as it would quickly become boring.

Virtually all modern escape room games will have a Games Master control room situated somewhere within the building, normally within easy reach of each separate escape room.  When the team of players enters the first escape room, then the Games Master will go and sit in his sanctuary. From here he's able to monitor the progress of the team, as well as keep an eye on how they're finding puzzles and solving them. Whilst the game is being played, it's not as if the game master has time to play Sudoku on his phone or read a book. He needs to be concentrating fully on every member of the team of players. Part and parcel of his job is to ensure that all the players are fully engaged. On some occasions teams will become stumped over one particular puzzle, and without quick intervention, they could quickly lose interest in the whole gameplay.

To that end, the Games Master needs to be an expert in reading body language. You'll often find that players are shy about expressing their frustration or fear of failure. The Game Master needs to know when to step in and offer a hint or some encouragement. Also he needs to keep an eye out to ensure that the team doesn't get too excited, otherwise they're likely to start breaking things without meaning to. As the game is in progress, there are a million and 1 things the Games Master needs to have his eyes on. In some ways he provides the oil that lubricates the whole game experience and ensures that it’s played smoothly and without issues. So it could be said that, as much as being a Games Master, he's also a psychologist.

If you ask many Games Masters what they most enjoy about the job, it's that every day, and for every hour of that day, there's something different and new  going on. It's certainly not a job that you learn and then perform the same action over and over. Every team needs handling in a different way. Only experience and common sense will teach you that no two teams are the same. You'll find some teams are very happy with a lot of interaction from the Games Master. Other teams prefer the peace and quiet of working in almost solitude. They prefer to have time to thoroughly think through every puzzle. As such it's part and parcel of the Games Master’s job to understand exactly what the players' need, and then providing them with those as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

As a Games Master, you won't get very far if you don't know every tiny minutiae of the game being played. Not only will you need to know how the puzzles work on an individual level, but also you need knowledge of all the quirks of the room, as well as all the workarounds,   and how to fix things. In some ways, you can look upon escape room games as a live theatrical performance. The paying players are the actors taking part in your production. So if something fails or goes wrong, then the Games Master, in a similar vein to the theatre house manager, will need to be quick on his feet and with putting on his thinking cap. You want to ensure that everything is running smoothly without bothering the actors themselves.   Likewise, when escape room players are fully immersed in the game, the last thing you want to do is pull them out of their fantasy world.

Whether the team successfully completes the game or runs down the clock, they all take part in a debrief at the end. You'll find that all teams will finish their game on a high with adrenaline pumping. So it's equally important that the Games Master doesn't deflate this feeling for them. After experiencing an hour of sheer fun and excitement and then having a dour faced Games Master debrief you, is going to suck all the goodness out of the previous 60 minutes. The debriefing serves several purposes. For one thing it allows the group of players to decompress. They will have many questions for the Games Master about puzzles they were unable to solve or things they might have missed. But remember, even in these circumstances, the Games Master must not give away the games. The second reason for the debrief is that it functions as a sort of upsell for the business. By helping players who took part in the game celebrate on the completion of their 60 minutes, you are subtly ensuring the possibility of better reviews, whether via social media or word of mouth.  Essentially the business is a service one. And the day is not over until the happy and satisfied customer has finally left the premises.

Now one team of players has left, it's time to rush down to the room and reset all the puzzles and clues once again. There may be a period of unbooked game sessions, in which case the Games master needs to get busy with all sorts of other jobs that will need doing. In other words, Games Mastering is not just specific to playing the games and helping teams of customers out. There will be blogs to write, props to be repainted, puzzles to be designed, and probably a considerable amount of cleaning to be done. It should be pointed out that the pay for being a Games Master is surprisingly high. But we suspect it's because, after several years of the genre being running successfully, the standard and quality, along with the experience of Games Masters has increased considerably. Today, many of the top Games Masters are in big demand across the industry. Having a professional and knowledgeable Games Master can take any escape room business to the next level and increase profits hugley. And they really are masters of their craft. 

If you were to ask 100 Games Masters what their favourite aspect of the job would be, they wouldn't point to themselves. There’d be no talk about how much they were able to help others. Or how much they enjoyed the puzzles themselves. Almost unanimously, they all reply that it’s simply seeing the team of players doing well. And the real buzz comes from watching a team struggle over a puzzle, and then suddenly finding the solution. That special Eureka moment which erupts in whoops of laughter, relief and sheer joy. And it’s that which makes being a Games Master all worth it.
 

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