Author Archives: manpans

Escape Room Narrative: My Favourite Character-Driven Escapes (That I have Played…Mostly)

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at RECON Global about characters. In it, I did a high level 101 talk about how characters can be presented in escape rooms. At the end of the presentation I made a vague reference to the interesting things I have seen some escape rooms do with their characters. And because I didn’t have an additional two hours to ramble, I left it at that.

So, I decided I would use my very unlimited word limit here to talk about them in more detail! Enjoy the spoiler free list of the escape rooms that are pushing the boundaries of characters!

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Escape Room Narrative: The Remote Avatar

It’s been three months since my city locked down. I’ve had to adapt to working from my dining room chair and lining up with anxious citizens outside a grocery store.

Likewise, Escape Rooms have had to pivot to try to survive the next few months. How successful they are is still up for debate, but it has resulted in some interesting new trends that are becoming the new norm.

Now is a time of uncertainty. But it is also a time of opportunity. Innovation is often born out of  limitations. There are creative mines to be delved here. I wanted to dedicate my next few entries to some of these trends and narrative possibilities: what’s working, what’s not working, and what we could be doing with the time we have now.

The first thing to talk about is one of the first things escape rooms decided to employ: the remote avatar.

No…not that one…although he is awesome
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Escape Room Narrative: What the Myst Series Taught Me About Narrative

The holy grail of escape room narrative is having a seamless integration of puzzles and story. This is difficult to say the least. The very presence of puzzles in a narrative already is somewhat unnatural. Ideally, the puzzles at minimum tie loosely with the theme. The rest is a suspension of disbelief on the player’s part.

This is fine, but there is always room to evolve. Attempts to make puzzles more natural usually involve making them simpler and more task based. It makes sense to do it this way. For a natural narrative, puzzles that could actually be found in the natural world is the way to go.

But what about difficult puzzles? Those “aha” puzzles that involve finding patterns in constellations to find a passcode for a computer? Surely there is no way to make narrative and puzzles seem like one when they involve so many illogical steps.

Or…

myst1

Is…

myst2

There…

atrus

Okay, let’s talk about Myst.

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Escape Room Narrative: Music

“Immersive” is definitely a buzz word that has been growing in popularity in the escape room industry over the last few years. Designers and companies strive to make their players feel immersed in a world. There are many discussions of elaborate sets, seamless technology, and environmental storytelling.

But there is one tool I have rarely seen discussed: music.

bugs

Music has shaped so much of our art and entertainment. Whether it is opera, film, or video games, I doubt there is anyone who can imagine these mediums completely devoid of music. It lets us know how to feel. It helps tell the story. It builds the world. It is one of my favourite parts of the entertainment I consume. And yet I rarely see it discussed in escape rooms.

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Escape Room Narratives: Plot Twists

Spoiler alert: I will be talking about the ending of the Sixth Sense. It is twenty years old, but there might be a likely hood you have not seen it….but still, I am going to discuss it.

I remember being in the theatre when I first saw The Sixth Sense, long before it became one of the most quoted movies of all time. Come on, we all know the scene. Little Haley Joel Osmand clings his blanket closer to him, looks fearfully at Bruce Willis, and utters the phrase “I see dead people….”

Movie_i_see_dead_people-769472

Insert meme here.

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An Escape Enthusiast Abroad: Seattle/Vancouver and Final Thoughts

Today was the last day of our vacation. It has been an intense three days and felt more like three weeks. We played 16 escapes in just over three days. Although we are tired we have sworn to make this an annual thing.

EDIT: If you are interested in our thoughts in audio form, check out the podcast we recorded on the trip!

http://www.inversegenius.com/roomescapedivas/2019/7/12/95-seattle-and-vancouver-escape-room-marathon

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An Escape Enthusiast Abroad: Seattle Day 2

Our second day in Seattle was less intense than our first but no less interesting. Today was the day we finally got to try out the fabled Locurio! Read the rest of this entry

An Escape Enthusiast Abroad: Seattle Day 1

Today was our first marathon day in Seattle. We did six rooms. Six very puzzle heavy rooms. I. AM. TIRED.

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An Escape Enthusiast Abroad: Vancouver

I am back with another escape room vacation! Yaaay! This time we are tackling some of the west coast of North America!

Shortly after booking our NOLA trip, my friend Errol learned that his sister would be in Vancouver for a week while her daughter went to camp. She was despairing about how little she would have to do other than miss her daughter.

So naturally the solution was to invite ourselves along and travel to the west coast to do as many escape rooms as we could! I very briefly considered whether two escape trips in a year was too much/costly…then decided not to think about it anymore. And here we are!

Ontario Bumpkin Status: 60%

Because I am still in my beloved Canada, there is not really much culture shock going on. That does not mean however that British Columbia does not have its differences!

There are mountains! They’re huge! And misty!

It’s like an episode of the X-files here

In Toronto it’s about 30°C and summer has officially kicked off. In Vancouver it is 16°C. I am already sick of wearing pants again.

In BC there are many traffic lights that flash green. Apparently this means they will only turn red when a pedestrian needs to pass. To us it looks like something is just very wrong with the light.

The water in Vancouver is better than Toronto. Hands down. It’s wonderfully soft and is probably drawn from some wonderful mountain stream. I don’t want to go back to Toronto water.

The jet lag is only 3 hours, but it’s still jet lag (that was originally spelled “lage”. Hurray for minor post jet lag editing!). I am so tired.

I saw a steam clock! I went full tourist and took about twenty photos of it.

So much steam!

The Escapes!

We managed two escapes today at Find&Seek. The first was The Curse of Madame Zita’s Curiousities and the second Mystery At the Magestic Theatre.

I think there was some sort of overarching narrative for the entire facility…something to do with time travel or dimension travel…but darned if I could actually hear the initial monologue all that well. I must be getting old. Luckily it was not integral to the rest of the room so we still managed to get through. Still, it would be nice to find out what sort of narrative work went into the rooms.

I’ve come to realize how much I’ve come to appreciate good feedback in a room, even if it does not always make sense to the narrative. Having sound effects declare whether you got a puzzle right or not really helped with the flow of the room.

There were some neat little reveals and the puzzle solutions all made sense. The sets were solid. Everyone got a chance to have a hero moment. For the most part, we had fun.

But then came…the logic puzzle.

Let’s talk about logic puzzles. I love logic puzzles. Actually. I love the feeling in my brain when another solution slides into place.

But in escape rooms…they are difficult to do. They are naturally designed to be longer, usually only one person can work on them, and the more complex you make them the more tedious they get in an escape room scenario.

This logic puzzle was…more complex than usual. There were two or three layers to each clue before we were able to confirm which item was what, there was a lot of information to try and hold in our head, and there was some outside historical knowledge that very few people would know off hand.

It got very frustrating very quickly. Admittedly, we made a mistake on our own that did not help our situation. But even without that, we spent about ten minutes on one puzzle. By the time we finally asked our GM for the answer, I was done with the room.

Which is a shame, because it started so strongly. It’s a bit of a bias, but logic puzzle by committee simply does not work as well as designers like to think it does. Every time it has happened in an escape, especially where there are more than five clues, it grinds the whole game to a halt and I am jolted out of the experience.

Errol was not shy about pointing out his problems with the room after. Our poor GM was a good sport and did his best to take the criticism and frustration in stride. The puzzle ended up leaving a bitter taste in an otherwise perfectly good experience. Still, looking forward to what else Find & Seek will come out with!

Community

Vancouver does not really have much in the way of an escape room community. There are actually only about twenty facilities in Vancouver and the surrounding area. That does not mean it’s non-existent though.

We had lunch with Brian Hughes of Pandora’s Locks and proceeded to talk escape rooms for a full three hours. It was glorious. It was nice to hear an owner talk about experimentation and finding the next generation of room. Without experimentation, the medium cannot grow. We play his rooms on Wednesday and are looking forward to it!

Tomorrow is Seattle…we have six rooms booked…this should be entertainingly intense.

Yaaay travel buddies!

An Escape Enthusiast Abroad: NOLA, Baton Rouge & Houston Final Thoughts

I have been home a full day now, slept many hours, and had a chance to let the whole trip process in my head. It is 14 degrees Celsius here so I am forced to wear long pants again. It’s sad. So…time for some final thoughts.

First things first: The trip was fantastic. Escape rooms aside, I loved seeing the city of New Orleans. It has an insanely rich history. Even if you are not a party person, there is a lot of stuff to see there (and eat!). I would 100% go there again…after all, there are more Gabriel Knight locations to find!

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