Chasing Immersion in Escape Rooms

First of all, I apologize for not posting last week.  As you can imagine, life at The [?] Adventure has been very busy. I want to start a discussion about immersion in escape rooms. It's been a topic of discussion within the escape room community for a while, and everything points towards immersion being key, but I want to take a more practical approach to the discussion: what does this kind of room look like and what do we give up in the process?

We decided that creating an immersive experience is something we wanted to focus on when creating our adventures.  As we started brainstorming what that would look like, we realized that it might be a little harder than expected.  It is clear that set design is a large part of actually feeling like you are in the scenario that your adventure says you’re supposed to be in, however what is often overlooked is the placement of the puzzles.

In a typical escape room, you may find lockboxes, puzzles painted on walls, and other scenarios where the logical flow and what you must do is very clearly laid out.  However, there is considerable suspension of disbelief when you walk into a jail cell and see a puzzle on the wall.  To reach the next level of immersion, we considered how puzzles are presented. We need to offer puzzles that make sense to the gameplay, without making it completely ambiguous where to start or where to go. In other words, blend the puzzles without hiding them.

There are two ways to deal with this.  Either the puzzles are placed within the room in such a way that guests can organically and logically find them, or something must be written into the narrative to allow ‘nudges’ towards the puzzles and how to solve them.

I’ll try and give you an example with one of our rooms without giving away anything.  In “The Parent Trap”, the main character doesn’t want you to succeed, necessarily.  So for her to leave a clue saying, “Make sure you look in the top drawer,” wouldn’t make sense.  So instead, what we tried to do was create an adventure where you could logically think about where clues might be hidden within the room.  If you put yourself in the mind of our teenage girl, you will probably find yourself in the right place.  When you solve a puzzle, it will make sense that the character would have a lock with that particular answer in the space where you find that lock.  Obviously we are not perfect with this, and there will always be a suspension of disbelief to some extent, but we’ve tried to bring a truly unique escape room experience to Hamilton.

So as we ramp up to open in the near future, we hope you’re with us.  We hope that Hamilton is ready to experience not just an escape room, but also an escape room experience that is unique to Ontario.  We would also love to hear your feedback on the topic.  If there’s something we’re missing that you would love to see, give us a shout!

…and if you’re reading this from Toronto or elsewhere in the world, you’re welcome to make a trip and try out something that is hopefully unique.

-Mike