Online avatar games are a form of escape room offering that has emerged since the start of the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns. Players connect remotely via video conferencing, such as Zoom, and direct a camera-equipped game host throughout a real-life, physical escape room. In some cases, an inventory system provides players close-ups of and/or allows interaction with objects found in the room. During the pandemic, escape room operators who adapted their real-life games for the avatar format were able to continue hosting games while their physical locations were closed.
As a player, I want to start by saying thank you for offering remote avatar games. Thank you for the effort you put in to make escape rooms available to players in quarantine! I’ve loved being able to play at so many different places all over the world from the safety and comfort of my couch.
As we move forward, companies have to make decisions about what to do with their avatar product offerings. The key to a smooth transition back to real-life escape rooms is clear communication. As a player, I appreciate the clarity.
Share Your Plans
Escape room operators have to make business decisions that make sense for their own situations. For many, avatar rooms may no longer be cost effective to run. It may be too hard to toggle back and forth between in-person and online. When players arrive at your website looking for your online offerings, let them know the status of your avatar games, whatever that is.
Already Closed Avatar Game
Let your visitors know that they came to the right place, but the offering has been closed. If you offer other play-at-home options, like boxed games, digital games, or print-and-play games, you can still use this landing page to guide your visitors to these options.
Planning to Close Down Avatar Game
Let your visitors know when the game is expected to close in order to convert any holdouts to bookings. Mention if you are offering any kind of “last hurrah” promotions.
Offering Avatar Game Indefinitely
If your avatar game is staying on, as a normal booking or on a limited basis, tell your visitors that this is something you’re continuing to offer. If you’ve chosen to limit availability to certain days/ times, make that clear as well, to help minimize confusion if players are looking at the wrong days. Remember, of course, to let your visitors know what time zone you’re in and language(s) you support!
May Run Avatar Game By Request
Let your website visitors know that you can still run an avatar game, perhaps by special arrangement, if they contact you. Make it clear what the process is for special bookings and if there are any considerations or limitations (i.e. certain days or time slots, advanced notice, minimum number, cost).
Where Avatar Rooms Still Make Sense
It’s unclear what the long-term demand will be for avatar escape games. Many will close down as companies transition back to in-person games, and many players are eager to get back to in-person play. However, there are still several cases where avatar escape rooms may continue to be a valuable product offering, if it makes business sense for you.
- Extend the reach of your room outside your geographic area: online offerings allow you to reach players unlikely to travel to your area.
- Offer an experience for players to have fun with remote friends and family: you can enable your players to have a fun get-together, even with those they can’t be with due to distance and schedules.
- Provide a solution for businesses looking for team-bonding activities for distributed/ remote teams: business travel is expensive, and companies are often looking for ways to improve team morale with geographically diverse teams.
- Enable access for players with physical limitations who may find the avatar format more accessible.
- Accommodate people still nervous about in-person activities, or who have ongoing health concerns.
Escape room companies can also consider the online avatar option for filling empty slots, especially if staffing and toggling between modes of play is cost effective:
- Weather cancellations or travel disruptions may be able to convert to remote bookings, provided you can still staff the game safely.
- Non-peak time slots for your area may be just the right time for someone in another part of the world. During the pandemic, some companies shifted their booking hours to accommodate demand from other time zones.
Maintain Your Webpages
As entertainment reopens, you are probably focused on transitioning back to your normal in-person escape room offerings. The online offering may have been just a stopgap, but there is value in maintaining the landing pages on your website for your past or current online offerings. Players are likely to find links to your avatar offering from listing sites, online reviews, social media, or other sources. They will want to know if it’s still being offered, and are confused if they can’t find information about it.
Preserving the links to your online offering also makes good sense for your search engine presence. If you delete the pages being linked to by external parties, you risk lowering your SEO score. Even if you’ve discontinued your offering, you can still welcome visitors, assure them that they’ve found the right site, and guide them to other options.
You’ve spent time and effort over the pandemic learning and developing a product offering. You should make sure that you capitalize on that by maintaining information about your online offerings and by keeping your visitors informed, even if you’re no longer offering avatar games.
It’s worth mentioning yet another time when Avatar-games make sense: when the creators have found interesting ways to engage players that would not be possible in person! Without spoiling anything, Omescape’s “Pursuit of the Assassin Artist” (for which there is a photo in this article) does exactly this.
I’m looking forward to how the real creative types come up with essentially Avatar-only gameplay ideas, stories, and styles in the future. Now that everyone understands Zoom (to some extent), how can we leverage it?