A small but interesting subset of room escape games includes live actors who interact with the players.
Some companies have their gamemasters give an in-character introduction, but not enter the room with you. This is cool, but it’s not what I’m talking about.
An escape room becomes a fundamentally different experience when there is an actor physically in the gamespace with you, interacting with you, triggering events, and encouraging or obstructing your team.
These are the rules that you absolutely must follow when playing an escape room with an actor:
1 – Be respectful of the actor
The game setting does not suspend the laws of society or general human decency.
This should go without saying: If you assault, harass, grope, belittle, or otherwise harm or endanger an actor in an escape room, the company is well within its rights to eject you from the game without a refund. Depending upon your actions, they may also call the police.
On the less extreme side, you should be kind to your actor. This person has to play the same game over and over with new teams, improvising to deal with each group’s idiosyncrasies. Acting in an escape room is not an easy job and I guarantee that being overpaid for their work isn’t on the list of problems in your actor’s life.
2 – Listen to the actor
If an escape room company has gone to extraordinary lengths to work a live actor into your game, then you can be damn certain that the actor will be relevant to the overall game.
Listen to every word they speak. They are either advancing the narrative or providing clues. Either way, you should be mentally present.
If you don’t listen to your actor, then you will likely miss something critical. If your actor notices that you’re disregarding them, they may disengage, which will diminish your experience and lower your odds of victory.
3 – Watch the actor
Your actor is intimately familiar with the game you’re playing. Be mindful of where they are standing, what they are facing, and what they are looking at. These things could easily be hints.
Don’t announce that you’re doing this or make it obvious. If your actor becomes aware of you reading their body language, they will change it to throw you off. (I’m speaking from experience here.)
4 – Have fun with the actor
The more fun your actor is having, the more they will give you. Be fun characters for them to play off of. When you make the game interesting for them, they’ll make it more fun for you.
When your actor asks you to do something, do it with enthusiasm. Play along. It will elevate the experience.
5 – The actor may have to trigger specific events
The actor’s presence enables the designer to build interactions that are triggered by the actor.
You may have to say something to your actor, give them an object, or follow a specific instruction to make something happen. Remember that when there is an actor in the room, you are not just playing against puzzles, locks, and sensors. There is a human dynamic and you may have to say some magic words.
6 – Your good time is resting in your actor’s hands
When you’re playing a game with an actor, your experience is ultimately going to play out on their terms.
If your actor wants to make your game into an unwinnable nightmare, that is almost certainly within their power.
So be good to your actor, pay attention to them, and interact with them… and don’t be a jerk.
I laughed when I read the hint on listening to your actor! I made the mistake of thinking our actor was just being conversational and completely overlooked the fact that he was pointing me to the next clue. I felt pretty stupid after the fourth time he mentioned the same topic.
Can you write a similar article about how escape room actors should act? It’d be appreciated after an especially tough weekend of escapes.
Yup. It’s in the works.
We did a zombie themed escape room which had a live actor. It seemed his only purpose was to make us lose. He stole props and vital clues when needed in the game and would set himself in front of needed pieces. Hated the whole experience.