Why an Escape Room is Not A Scavenger Hunt

2021.01.15.

We’ve come across several customers who were complaining about their escape room game experiences coming from other businesses. Apart from a lack of guidance, which is a biggie in our books, their biggest gripe was that they spent more time looking for clues and puzzles than they did solving them. They felt cheated in that their time was wasted unnecessarily. And, in truth, they have a valid point. The joy of solving clues and puzzles lost its shine after hours spent under beds and behind cabinets. 

Scavenging isn’t the Game

When you pay for an escape room game, you’re paying for the solving of clues and puzzles within a certain time frame. What you’re not paying for is time being wasted on searching for those clues. It’s a poor game design that makes the customers spend time searching for things as opposed to providing ingenious and original puzzles to solve. It means that the owner doesn’t properly understand the whole purpose of the game himself. Trying to drag out the time is not the same as filling the time productively. It speaks of ignorance of how a game should be played, along with a complete lack of understanding from a paying customer’s point of view. All relevant items and objects should be easily found. The game revolves on how they are put to use, not spending valuable time looking for them in the first place. Customers have reported spending over half the time looking for the clues, to the point of asking the game master for hints….to find the clues! You couldn’t make it up. 

Let's Be Cheap!

By their nature, many escape rooms tend to be on the darker side, as that goes hand in hand with many of the story scenarios. Throw in some furniture and furnishings, and you have the makings of a massive game of hide and seek, should the owner fail to understand the real purpose behind the game. On the whole, you’ll be wanting the props to fit in with the styling of the room. But they also need to be colored or dressed up in a manner that makes them stand out slightly. This can be achieved with design or form. Placement is also important, with some clues being deliberately placed center stage for maximum attention. Another bug-bear is placing items around the room which appear to be part of the game, but in fact, do not contain anything of use to move the narrative forwards. This just creates a lot of extra work for the players, as they are forced to open every box or container to see what’s inside. Once again, a pointless waste of time and effort.

Scavenging is not Conductive to Immersion

For an escape room game to work, the players have to let their imaginations follow the narrative given at the start. The backstory that creates this rushed need to find solutions. If told well, and accompanied by great-looking rooms that help reinforce the time period, then the players have no difficulty letting the whole theme wash over them. Their pulse quickens, there is a genuine excitement and a desperate race to the line towards the end. But nothing is going to take you out of the game experience faster than the sheer frustration of looking for the clues. This can turn a great day out into a horrible chore. If you have to spend more than 60 seconds looking for the puzzle before you can begin to tackle it, then the immersive element is completely lost and the game will quickly become boring. You should ask for your money back. 

Escape room games should test your intellect, not your patience.
 

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