Escape Room Design: Step One, Research

“I’ve never played any other escape games before, all of the ideas in my game are totally original!”

Most of the worst escape games I’ve encountered were designed by people who proudly proclaimed some version of that statement.

If you want to design a room escape, the first thing you need to do is go out and play a bunch of them. Play some good ones, play some bad ones, and play the great many that live somewhere in between amazing and wretched.

The fast lane to a crappy experience

Book Safe

Imagine someone handing you a novel and saying, “Buy my book, it’s only $28… It’s totally original because I’ve never read any books before I wrote it.”

If you’re designing an escape game without having played one before, you’re asking people to part with (roughly) $28 per person for an experience… And you don’t even know how to gauge if it’s good.

Is your experience hollow?
Is your experience hollow?

Do your damn research

I don’t just mean reading our room design tips. We offer tips to room escape designers based on our experiences playing these games, but nothing is going to serve as a substitute for the real thing.

Escape games are not a new thing anymore; they are scattered across the globe. If you’re in the United States, there are new ones popping up on a weekly basis (maintaining our map/list has become a part-time job); don’t even get me started on Ontario, Canada.

The presence of all of these companies means there’s a lot of opportunity for market research. It also means that there’s a ton of competition.

A lot of these escape game companies are going to fail because they have

  • boring/ cliche games
  • puzzles that are too easy
  • puzzles that are too hard
  • poor/ aggressive/ mean customer service
  • a terrible website
  • a horrible location
  • no concept of how to run a business (escape game or otherwise)

Get out there and see what’s working. I don’t enjoy writing negative reviews. If you don’t produce a bad experience, then I won’t have to.

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