Lisa and I played Mission Escape Games’ Nemesis earlier in the Fall, and we liked it quite a bit.
So when our friends, the extraordinarily brilliant room escapers Amanda, Drew, and Thea came to town and told us they were playing Nemesis, we reached out to the folks from Mission Escape Games and asked if we could play at being puzzle masters for an hour. They graciously accepted to put up with us.
These are a few of our observations from the experience.
We knew our way around the room because we had already played it. However, looking at it through half a dozen cameras positioned above eye level is strangely disorienting.
The cameras had blindspots. It took some practice to get used to how the players flowed from view to view.
This disorientation was compounded by improvements that Mission made to Nemesis after we played and reviewed it. It’s now a more streamlined experience, but the differences made it challenging for us to follow the team’s progression.
The audio was downright crappy.
As a player I’ve often found myself frustrated when gamemasters don’t hear us asking for clues or know what we are up to. Some of that is probably attributable to a lack of attention, but it also stems from how difficult it is to hear the players.
Between the three players and the background music, it was surprisingly tough to hear what was being said and done. I imagine this must get exponentially worse with larger teams.
It was painful to watch a team come up with the right answer and then disregard it or fail to input it.
It was also interesting to watch a group of smart people bypass the correct answer and subsequently wander down a series of incorrect paths.
Having been the guy who chased a bad idea down a deep hole, I had a hard time watching it happen in front of me.
Amanda, Drew, and Thea have played something like 300 room escapes among the three of them… So they’re really strong players.
With the exception of their one screwup, they didn’t need a hint. When you’ve played as many rooms as they have, you aren’t quick to ask for help.
Lisa and I desperately wanted to participate. After about 10 minutes we popped some text up on the screen begging them to ask us for a hint.
How did they do?
As we expected, they rocked.
Having used only one hint, they escaped with 12:24 remaining.
Players can do some terrible things
A team that played after our friends wasn’t so great at solving puzzles… So they thought it reasonable to break and steal things.
Key takeaways as a player
- Don’t assume that the gamemaster can hear you
- Don’t assume that the gamemaster can see what you’re doing
- Recognize when your wheels are spinning without any traction and ask for a damn hint
Key takeaways for designers
- Mic your room well
- Blanket your room in cameras
- Have one puzzle master for each active game; it’s hard enough to follow one room.
- Give bad actors the boot
Going in, we expected that we wouldn’t want to do this again. We assumed that gamemastering a room would be slow and tedious, especially if you do it regularly.
The experience didn’t change our minds. However, we both felt like this would have been a perfect job for us back in college.
I’m really glad that I got to do this, but I don’t really think I’d do it many more times…
That being said, I am kind of curious to watch a team of strangers completely melt down. That might be more interesting than watching my friends kill it.