Exploring Escape Rooms: The Generation Game…

Nice to see you…. to see you…. NICE.

Oh. Wait… wrong generation game!

So, it’s come to this… talking about the much discussed, maligned and debatable topic of escape room generations.

Amy, (I hear you ask) what ARE generations and why should I be bothered?

To explore the “gens” further we have to understand them, the phrase was coined in an interview that Room Escape Artist published here. Where the owner of an escape room tries to classify the different types of games he has designed and brought to life.
What started as an innocuous comment, and something pertaining to Shawn’s personal journey caught on, and now people are derisive over what “gen” the games they play are!

Gen 1-
Padlock heavy
Paper Text
Simple mechanisms
Player led tech

Gen 2-
Some lighting and Sound
Puzzle led clues

Gen 3-
Integrated technology (Smart room….where the room knows where the player is up to)
Uses more computer technology to run the room

Gen 4-
Entirely automated room

Should you be bothered… in a nutshell, NO!
I honestly feel that this is utter, complete BS.
Fair play to Shawn for creating his own terminology (which is pertinent to HIS BRAND)  but why can’t a room be considered a mix of all the above.
Lighting, & Sound… surely that is just good immersion and consideration for theming… just because a room has some nice sound/lighting doesn’t make it better than a room with better puzzles without?
Puzzle-led clues…. this is just fancy fluff, what is a key component of escape rooms is that link with a real human who is watching you, cheering you on behind the scenes (and possibly giggling at your foibles) THAT is a magical ingredient in the escape room stew.

We are in an industry in its formative years, barley 5 years old (in the UK at least..) and we’re on “Generation FOUR” all ready… it’s utterly ludicrous to consider these generations a thing when the industry is only just forming and 90% of the general public don’t even know what an escape room is!

At the heart of the matter is the GAME PLAY. The puzzles.
Take for an example Escape Quest, and its fantastic game “The 13th Element” – this is a room FULL of padlocks, and each padlock needs a puzzle to open it, the room is jam packed full of creativity, fun and humour. Each puzzle is carefully thought out and created that you have to use your brain to achieve the end goal. The puzzles are the star, the reward is the padlock popping open and reaffirming that you’re correct… that buzz, (what is actually a type of classical conditioning through positive reinforcement) is what drives padlock based games.

On the other end of the scale you have games which are automated, jazzy, mag-lock full… but LACK the puzzles, riddles and brain power of a more involved game. Sure it’s keeping to theme, and looks impressive… but how much fun is putting stuff in places to make a mag-lock open (the answer is not very when you have done the same thing 4 times already ala iLocked Mummy ) and then there’s the game which forgoes all logic & reason just to have the entire game use mag-locks that open in various ways.

So, it all boils down to puzzles and game play. If you’re gonna use tech, use it seamlessly, with a good, logical, brain busting puzzle to go with it (I’m looking at you Time Run)
If you’re gonna use padlocks, then do it with excellent puzzles and game flow.

I can’t stress this enough, that game-flow and puzzle design are the bare bones of an escape room. Without this critical element, there is no point in the game!

So, forget about generations, forget about “technology” forget about “padlocks” and make a room that is filled to the brim with puzzles, character and style…. then and ONLY THEN worry about how the answer to the puzzle is going to be “served”

What do you think? Do you use the “Gen” terminology… I for certain do not, and will not! Of course a game is a combination of so many factors but it’s puzzles and game play that win for me every, single, time.


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