Training Escape Room Game Masters

2021.08.09.

As a business owner of an escape room it's normal that when we want to hire the best we already have an idea of what that should be. And to be truthful, it's often going to be pretty unrealistic. Your ideal candidate is a people person who has the skills of Superman, as well as a will to go as quickly as a Formula One driver. We want someone who is mindful of others all the time and is able to know what the customers are thinking before they actually think it. So it’s only after the interview we realise, that though the candidates are all top-notch, the problem lies with us in that we have set ourselves up an impossible expectation. At the end of the day, it will all come out in the wash, because even though they may already be highly skilled game masters, they will still need training in your particular escape room game play and system.

We have spoken to many game masters who say their biggest complaint is that when they start a new gig, they are given the most cursory of introductions and then, on the very same day, thrown into the deep end. In many cases, the escape room business will have a gamesmaster’s manual and the new employee will be given 5 minutes to flick through this huge volume before the first customers come through the door and start to play in earnest. Many complained that on opening said manual, it‘s obvious that it was written probably the day the escape room idea came to the owners head, as opposed to containing any useful information that could be used today. Just a word to point out that if you do keep a games master manual, then please ensure that it is regularly updated. Nothing's going to kill your game and customers and lose the game master's respect for an owner faster than discovering a lock which has no combination to open it listed in the game master’s manual.

There is a school of thought that says that game master training that's carried out by an existing game master or someone who already knows the game backwards, is never a good idea. Yes we know that sounds bonkers because who else can train better than someone experienced? The problem is in the details. Many of the game masters who are experienced with the game and the gameplay tend to have a lot of what is known as “compound knowledge” that is knowledge that is practically second nature to them. Almost a reflex and it's ingrained so deep in their brain that they don't mention it when they are training a new games master. 

A good example is the Wi-Fi password. It goes without saying that this is an essential piece of information. Even though the whole business will come to a grinding halt without these few numbers and letters, they are probably written on the back of the Wi-Fi router and nowhere else. The problem comes with the fact that with nearly all Wi-Fi routers is that they have been rebooted countless times and there are many occasions when they have experienced a password change. Most people don't write the new password on the router itself. You can bet top dollar that it's written on the inside page of the game master’s manual. Along with the 12 other passwords which you’ll have no clue which is the correct one for the router in question.
When you're training a newbie and you’re the game master doing the training, it's important to recognise that everything is going to be brand new and everything is going to be confusing. So don’t assume anything.

We believe that the best way to train a gamesmaster is slowly. It's better to be slow and thorough rather than going through things too quickly. Of course, for us the best game master training is for them to play through the games in their own time. This puts them in the shoes of the customer and allows for the introduction of empathy, in that the game master will understand exactly where and how and for what reason a player becomes stuck and even frustrated. Today there is so much pressure on all businesses that deal with the public thanks to social media.  No business owner wants their games master to mess up any games whatsoever as they have a dread that could lead to a bad social media review. 

But in such an atmosphere, as that found was playing an escape room game, with the inevitable stress of the clock clicking down the minutes as well as the frustration of being unable to understand certain puzzles and clues, it’ not surprising that a games master will be unsure in some occasions as to how exactly he should respond. We suggest that you have another game masters together overseeing a new recruit's first gaming experience. Remain calm and step in whenever necessary to help ensure a seamless experience for the players. In some ways, it's not the mistakes themselves that are important but rather the fact that they can help bring the customer out of a fully immersive experience. And it's this last point that is of paramount importance and is the source of all good or bad social media reviews. 

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