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Before removing the blindfold. Escape room intro - Part 2

Before removing the blindfold. Escape room intro - Part 2

Hanna Kwaśniewska |

This is the second part of the article about escape room introductions - after its types it's time to place their role in the context of the entire experience. In this part, we will focus on the seven biggest mistakes made by creators. You will also learn what are the three pillars of a good escape room introduction.

The 7 Deadly Sins - mistakes made during the introduction

One has not yet been born who could please everyone - the issue of taste among the audience is a non-negotiable matter. As is the fact that man learns best from his mistakes. So what are the most common mistakes developers make when introducing - not only during the default introduction of the player, but also, and more importantly, at the stage of room planning itself? What to pay attention to, what to avoid?

It is important to remember that the introduction must not be tiring - points out the owner from Wroclaw. - Even if we prepared a real performance introducing the atmosphere before entering the room, it may turn out that if it is too long it will take away the players' enthusiasm and energy for the game, to which the introduction is supposed to be only an addition.

It's hard not to admit he is right in this case. The right balance is important for any game: a disproportionately long introduction could cause the group to become weary even before it begins, and thus less engaged in the main part of the game, which is playing the room. This is a very universal remark that applies to any type of introduction, and Filip Mroczek is of a similar opinion: - In addition to the technically incomprehensible content of the introduction, a common mistake is an overly long and complicated intro. The player expects the game to start once he finds himself alone in the room.

A different perspective is provided by the owner of a room from one of Silesian cities in Poland. - The biggest mistake is certainly the lack of authenticity. In order for the introduction to the atmosphere of the room to make sense, it must be believable. It cannot be an artificially recited text. This form of introduction (by an actor, ed.) requires the introducer to react flexibly to the players' behavior. Then immersion is achieved quickly, and players do not feel uncomfortable. This is a rather delicate procedure and quite often prone to failure for various reasons - he recalls.

It's actually very important to focus on creating a fitting form, but without using "by force" measures. If the form of the actor's introduction is over the top, or the room attendant does not necessarily cope with reacting quickly without leaving the role, it should be reconsidered. Perhaps this form will require specific game masters to be delegated to handle the room, making the logistics of handling difficult. In turn, sometimes it is better to leave it for other rooms to avoid the effect of overkill. - As for the preparation of the room at the construction stage, adding the same owner, requires a great deal of work. First of all, at the stage of designing electronics and scenery.

These were mistakes pointed out by the developers themselves. But what do the players, or customers, have to say about the mistakes made? Their perspective is able to point out further shortcomings to keep in mind in the creative process. - An overly elaborate or too laconic introduction is often a duplicated mistake - says Adam Miller with about 500 rooms done. This overlaps with what was mentioned earlier from the owners' perspective, which bodes well, as both parties are aware of the consequences of a bad time balance. - From the perspective of the games played, a well-crafted scenario can find the golden mean between one and the other. In this sense, neither a lengthy introductory video, nor a very long narration by a game master or other storyline introducer, nor a voiceover telling a story for several minutes when the group is already standing in the middle of the room blindfolded, in starting blocks and eager to play, is a good rule. On the other hand, a laconic introduction, limited to technicalities and two sentences of the plot, doesn't work either - he adds.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of things that can go wrong. It turns out that introductions relying on reading from a sheet of paper or reciting the rules dispassionately is something players strongly dislike and, in the age of today's opportunities, consider a mistake. Sticking too firmly to a set script does not bode well. - This mistake is most often made when discussing the technical side of the game - Miller recalls. - While a reminder of key safety rules is important and should never be skipped regardless of the group's experience, discussing the rules of padlocks for a few minutes if the group has played several hundred games is unnecessary.

- Anecdotes about other groups ("We had a person who..."), often appearing in such a prepared script, are also frowned upon, as one may feel that the group itself will become the subject of anecdotes and its play will be judged - Adam Miller further mentions, showing a completely different perspective in which the client may feel some discomfort.

Another mistake related to scheduling timeframes is the lack of dedicated group time in the booking system. This is especially important for owners who face the problem of defining hourly slots and scheduling time between groups. While it is not always possible to have long conversations, you should be careful when planning how much time to allocate to each group. - Lack of group time is a mistake that fits into the broader context of poor gamemastering. Underestimating this element very often translates into other elements of gameplay and its overall rating, such as procrastination in taking a hint, not following up on gameplay, a play-pay-leave attitude, lack of a souvenir photo or changing the game master during gameplay - he further mentions.

The last thing he mentions is the employee's lack of predisposition to be a game master, a purely human factor. - Hiring a game master who knows little or nothing about the escape market, plays little or nothing at all, treats the job purely as a temporary contract job, or lacks a natural, unforced friendliness and contact ability will always affect the evaluation of an escape room and how players will evaluate the game.  

It turns out that this is a very important element that is often forgotten. Working in an escape room is, without a doubt, working with clients, which not everyone is suited for. And probably nothing can spoil the experience of playing in the room as quickly as the staff.

And what does it look like in terms of live cam rooms? - First of all, there is often a lack of explanation about players not shouting at each other and talking at the same time - says the owner of a room operating online from Warsaw. - Often players shout at each other and ask the Game master to perform two different actions at the same time, which is impossible in online gameplay. I encountered once or twice a lack of explanation of how the particular online communicator we were using during the game worked. This caused me to feel slightly lost and the first few minutes of the game didn't go as enjoyably as they could have. Certainly, explaining to players in advance how a particular communicator works would make the gameplay easier.

In conclusion - so what are these 7 cardinal mistakes of introductions, called 7 Deadly Sins by us before?

  1. Introductions that are too long or too short
  2. Excess of form over content, i.e., improperly matching the form of the introduction to the content of the room and its theme
  3. Failure to properly lay out the pre-construction work in terms of creating space for electronics and room layout
  4. Failure to match the introduction to the group's experience
  5. Incorrect estimation of time for the group by having too short breaks between them and incorrect logistics
  6. Lack of predisposition of the employee to work with the client
  7. Complete disregard for the technicalities

A good introduction - what should it look like?

What does a good introduction to an escape room look like? Does such even exist? It would certainly be impossible to set a common scheme for all escape rooms in the world: after all, each requires an individual approach when considering the most optimal form of introduction. While there is no common golden mean for all types, it is worthwhile in this regard to consult the audience, i.e. the customers who will ultimately experience this introduction.

Do not forget that a significant influence on the evaluation of the introduction is players’ preferences (which is hard to argue with, but it is worth knowing, as it can set trends and direction of development). So what do players like to experience and what do they dislike? - I'm a huge fan of the most classic room introductions - says Jakub Zaborowski, who currently has over 300 rooms done. - I like introductions "right away," including those that require the game master to dress up and get into character. An introduction in which the game master is absent is also something different and interesting. However, the most important element for me is contact with the other person, when I can ask questions and simply talk. On the other hand, I don't like introductions without information of an organizational nature, such as prompts or game time. Yes, technical introductions often last too long, but it has happened more than once that they were completely skipped, and this is no longer right because they give a kind of sense of safety - he mentions.

The issue of the introduction of voice acting from the doorstep is also raised by Adam Miller, who has previously listed several sins of the creators. - In short, I like the kind of introduction that doesn't look like an introduction, but actually is one. In this sense, the game starts de facto from the moment you cross the company's threshold. In our experience, this is possible regardless of the category of the room, although in the case of thrillers and horror escape rooms the situation seems a little easier "organizationally" - he says. - In the case of such introductions, the line between the introduction and the actual start of the game has been blurred. This kind of introduction has another common denominator: the involvement of the game master is then not reduced to mere mastering but requires quasi-acting.

Without beating around the bush: there is no clear recipe for a perfect introduction here. A good introduction is first and foremost to avoid the seven deadly sins already mentioned. Each creator should choose the form individually, and then plan the course of his introduction according to his capabilities and predisposition.

The impact of the introduction on the overall experience

The introduction to the room, i.e. not only the plot introduction itself but also the environment surrounding the visit to the building itself, is only a fraction of the overall experience. However, it has a huge impact on the perception of the entire stay, which is why it cannot be treated in a low-key manner. This is something that developers often forget, and players: never.

This is confirmed by the customers themselves. - The introduction is of great importance. If the game master greets players with joy, they immediately want to play. If, on the other hand, he has a worse day, he creates an unpleasant atmosphere for the start of the game, and this projects the whole experience - says Jakub Zaborowski.

In most cases, players know that developers' capabilities are sometimes limited. Therefore, it is very important to tailor the introduction to the possibilities of a given scenario. The care with which the introduction was prepared in the context of these possibilities is therefore evaluated. - If one separates the introduction from the mastering, it is a tertiary element of the escapade experience to the overall evaluation of the room visit - says Adam Miller. - A decent introduction, i.e. without acting or unique form, but based on a solid presentation of key technical principles and plot basics condensed to a few minutes in a "normal" waiting room, with a positive attitude of the game master, is enough for us to positively evaluate this aspect of the game.

So there is no denying that the introduction "weighs a lot" in the context of the whole. A well-done introduction is able to heavily weigh in the overall evaluation of the room. A poor one, on the other hand, despite the rest of the environment on the level, significantly reduces the quality of the whole visit.

3 pillars of a good introduction - summary

While both each player and each owner may have their own vision of an introduction dictated if only by individual taste, there are a few conclusions that can be considered common. We should call them the pillars of a good entrance.

First, any entrance to a room should be designed for the indicated scenario and planned even at the beginning of the work. Of course, like any creative work, it can be modified during the construction process, but it is nevertheless worthwhile to have at least a partially outlined vision at the beginning. There is no one right answer to give a formula for the perfect introduction, which works in every case without exception.

Secondly, the introduction has a huge impact on the perception of the entire room, which determines its role in the context of the whole. Thus, it cannot be treated in a low-key manner, let alone be completely ignored.

Third, let's not forget to have fun first and foremost. Both while playing in the escape room and while creating it.

This article (and the previous one, marked as PART 1) contains a lot of useful information for owners who are planning to create their (first or next) room. The perspectives of the creator and the customer presented will certainly allow you to decide which type of introduction will be best for your particular plan and allow you to lay out the work in the room in the most optimal way. It is worthwhile to use the layers of creativity, but substantive issues will certainly also come in handy. This text will also be useful for players who want to expand their knowledge of rooms "from behind the scenes" and find out at least a fraction of the behind-the-scenes of creating escape rooms.

Hanna Kwaśniewska

Hanna Kwaśniewska


Lock.me team member. Germanist and scholar of German literature - German language is also her superpower. Besides escape rooms and board games, she loves Dragon Ball, Star Wars and cynology. After work she likes learning foreign languages, writing texts and planning her next trip to escape room, probably with rap music in the background. Totally extrovert.

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