The ins and outs

of designing an escape room



  • Games Designer
  • 10 years experience
  • Worked on
    • Teaching Games
    • Alternative Reality
    • Punchdrunk
  • Currently working on
    • Escape the room games
    • Spark resistance (2014)
    • Escape New Pelagia
      • Brixton
      • Kickstarter Project
      • Open for 6 months


Making an Escape Room

What you need:

  • Room
  • Puzzles
  • Stuff
  • Timer
  • Theme


Things to think about

  • People bring in their own ideas
  • You have to stick to real physics 😉
  • Normally have a secret room
  • Involves a lot of physical making
  • Various body shapes and abilities
    • Interacting with each other
    • Puzzle of communication
  • Considering accessibility
  • People like to destroy things:
    • Electronic stuff is breakable
    • Furniture is breakable
  • Physical magic is very impressive
  • Timer is a pressure inducing restraint
    • Ticking
    • Sand
    • Room shrinking
  • Players vs the human
    • Not players vs computer
    • Working with your friends is a key mechanic
    • Your friends are your story engine
    • People are more important that the polish of the game
  • Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics – assessing games (white paper)


The start of the Escape Rooms

  • Doors containing things
  • Paper clipboard
  • Thinking using hands and bodies
  • Detarou
    • Digital escape the room games
  • Mateusz Skutnik
    • Daymare Town
    • Submacine
  • The Room
    • ioS game
    • haptic design
  • The Hitchhikers guid to the galaxy
    • Text based
    • Parser games
  • Lucas Arts game with the weird scientist
    • Bad UX design was part of the puzzle
  • Crystal Maze
    • 90’s TV show
  • The adventure game
    • 80’s TV show
    • Really hard puzzles
    • Puzzles are being set up
    • Then kids have to play through the puzzles
  • Myst
    • Almost 3d environments
    • Walking simulator
    • Solve Islands problems
  • Papers, Please
    • Moral Choices
  • Space Team
    • Split Information
  • Bonus Look
    • Split Information
  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
    • VR game


Story telling in an escape room

  • Not mandatory
  • Puzzles are abstract
    • and sometimes do not lend themselves towards a narrative.
  • Walls of text are bad
  • To incorporate a story you have to put it into the environment
  • Using sound in the world
    • Diegetic sound
    • Rather than sound over the top of a game
  • You can have diegetic narrative
  • Proving that you belong to the world and then allowing the player to progress
  • The design of everyday things
    • 99percentageinvisible.org
    • How to design things that are instinctive
    • Forming a physic connecting with an object.
  • Things should look right – UX design
  • I know there is an answer, I just don’t know what it is yet
  • Designing the space
  • Stories inhabiting a space
    • Punchdrunk
      • Soundscape
      • Dim lighting
      • No face – Anynymising the crowd through use of masks
  • Where is the boundary between game and reality
  • Using space as a timer to map a narrative
  • Tools are important to make you feel important
  • Hurt Vohneguts story graphs



City Games

  • City Dash
    • Fire Hazard
    • City Game
  • Agent November
    • Set in a park
  • 2.8 Hours Later
    • Stories told after






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