Escape rooms are less of an exact science and more of an art form, but even Da Vinci had to erase every once-in-a-while! It would be easy and convenient if an escape room was in perfect shape the second the props and puzzles were in place, but this is rarely the case, even after long hours of design and preparation. In order to improve your escape game, especially when it's already in place and running, you have to adopt an essay model of design.
Remember back in high school when you had to write those 5 paragraph essays on To Kill A Mockingbird or some other book? You'd start with your first draft, then edit the paper, revise your writing, and finally submit it for a grade. Oftentimes the people who had the highest scores were the ones who edited and revised their work more than once - this is the approach you need to take when running your escape room.
It's easy to edit and revise when you break it into chunks. After you've "settled" on your final design, and are running your game, you should stop after every 100th run and reassess what you've made. Do the clues still make sense now that you're seeing it with fresh eyes? Is the decoration underwhelming? Should I add or remove more puzzles? It often helps to have other people look at your work: everyone from the game-master, the managers, and if you franchise, even the owners.
Our escape game before and after a few hundred games and a few dozen revisions
Our own Corporate Rage escape game in Ann Arbor has gone through this process. The original design was functional - you understood it was an office themed escape game when you stepped in, but it wasn't immersive. By pacing how often we made changes to every nth game, we sanded down the rough edges and over time ended up with a polished product.
You'd be surprised what little things will add to the experience. What boss' office doesn't have a ficus in the corner? Who on earth uses wood paneling anymore? Each issue didn't seem like a big deal at first, just like a comma splice or poorly worded sentence doesn't break an essay, but when looking at the room as something greater than the sum of its parts, little things can quickly detract from the experience.
The important part of this process is that it keeps you actively involved with the rooms you've built and allows you to avoid mistakes in the future. Just like writing, building an escape room takes practice. Constant revision over the lifetime
After a few hundred escapes and a couple serious revisions you will have a dialed-in product that you can be proud of, and one that people will love to recommend to their friends. Don't be the C or B student - turn in that A+ escape room!
If you're just starting out or looking to freshen up your escape room business, but don't have the time or energy to go through the essay model, you can purchase a room that's already been through the revision process several times and has been an enormous return on investment. If you want to know more, give Larry a call at: 734-368-3643.