I’m working on a multi-room experience, a lot like an escape room, but with a linking narrative. I’ve played an experience like this previously at a Con (and it was great). Now I’m learning the form for myself, figuring out what the rules are. I plan to have hints but it’s still difficult to figure out the right level of difficulty. I know from playing escape rooms that people really love a challenge.
I’m also trying to figure out how to control what headspace people are in, left-brain vs right-brain. I don’t want them to be totally in left-brain ‘logical’ mode, in fact I’m not sure I want them to be in that mode at all. I’d far rather they have a dreamy, atmospheric, immersed experience.
I’m going to be able to partially induce that with sound, lighting and set, but I think the puzzles/challenges will need to be right-brain too. The fact that the experience is about mood and atmosphere means the challenges will need to be metaphorically connected with the story I’m telling. If they’re about metaphor, then they’re about understanding the relationships of things to each other. About understanding the difference between order and disorder, in this world. And about understanding ‘what needs to happen’ metaphorically.
I think this means NOT making challenges that are mathematical or logic puzzles, as that will pull people out of . I think the challenges will need to be about:
• Finding objects,
• Figuring out which objects are important/carry hidden messages,
• Figuring out how objects go together,
• Finding secret things (sometimes through putting other clues together to unlock other things).
Why do I feel confident that this show can work? Because, when I played the game at the Con, I found it really exhilarating. Because it was exciting to be in an atmospheric theatricalised space, and to be a free agent within it. So I know the form works. I just have to make a show that's a competent example of the form.
Of course, I’m not fully confident about doing that! I’m planning numerous playtests. Which are a necessary part of building games, but part of me still shudders at the idea of inviting people to tell me all the ways my show doesn’t work.