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According to the latest data, despite the predictions about the recession, the escape room industry continues to grow in 2019. Rooms are getting bigger. To stay afloat, interest and attract more players, owners of escape rooms must think ahead, look for new innovative approaches that will help either reduce costs or attract many players, even if the costs are high. And also to offer new types of escape games that have no alternatives to competitors.
In this article, I will talk about the most unusual trends in the escape room industry in 2019. Some of them appeared a long time ago but began to gain momentum in the escape room business only recently.
AR escape games and puzzles
When virtual reality technologies first appeared, there was a boom in their market caused by mass demand and interest in new, promising technology. At the moment, in entertainment business, this boom has declined. Some escape rooms now use virtual reality puzzles, but on the whole, the use of VR technologies is difficult, as the equipment is rather expensive for it, besides, virtual reality often deprives the players of what rooms generally come to escape in - team.
At the same time, AR technologies, best known to everyone by the game Pokemon Go, continues to gain popularity. Promoted their spread the fact that the creation of such games does not require a significant investment, as in the case of VR. In addition, the game walkthrough requires no special equipment, but an ordinary smartphone with a camera.
Of course, the escape room industry could not circumvent this kind of technology. Based on it the owners had the opportunity to create interesting puzzles with special effects, which practically requiring no maintenance funds. Now AR technologies are gaining popularity among owners of the escape room. This is not surprising: for the owner, a good AR-puzzle is an unbreakable spectacular puzzle, an impressive absolute majority of players.
For some city escape games, AR has become an indispensable way to create a cool story with puzzles that are much more interesting than “find the key to unlock”. At the same time, AR-technology doesn't require large investments and costs for its maintenance.
Nevertheless, it is important to use such riddles relevant to an escape game. If players run with smartphones and look for ghosts with their phones, this can be justified in terms of the game story. But in an escape game about pirates of the 17th century, smartphones will look ridiculous and inappropriate.
This is the AR-cube I use in my portable game “Hackers attack”. It is entertaining and quite corresponds to the game plot. So this puzzle is very popular with players.
Immersive escape games
Sufficiently complex in the creation and very different from traditional escape rooms, immersive escape games resemble a mixture of an escape room with a role-playing computer game and a theater.
The player is offered a completely non-linear walkthrough, almost complete freedom of choice, as in real life, and ... solving the consequences of his choice.
For immersive games, a whole group of professional actors are usually involved, who encourage players to perform some actions, direct them to puzzles and help them to solve. Naturally, the actors do it all in such a way that the player does not notice that someone is directing his actions.
Immersive escape games usually use a fairly large space, which, together with the actor's group, makes the content of the game quite expensive for the owner. Nevertheless, such games can work for a long time and successfully. The secret, as always, is simple: a thoughtful story with a fascinating plot that allows the player to be so impressed with what is happening that all he can say after the game walkthrough is: "Wow! I will come again." By the way, yes, because of the non-linear plot, players can play an immersive escape game many times, obtaining very different, sometimes completely unexpected, results.
In order to have a better understanding of what an immersive escape room is, I recommend watching the “Westworld” TV series. In essence, what it shows - a giant amusement park with robots, actors and playing tasks - this is an exaggerated example of an immersive escape room.
Gamification and integration of games in learning processes
Escape games for education and training, appeared almost immediately when the escape rooms began to gain momentum in popularity. But if earlier a training escape games met as a rare, episodic phenomenon, then by 2019 educational games became almost universal. There is a logical explanation for this.
All people, not only children, take knowledge much easier not by listening to lectures, but by learning by experience. Any learning information is much easier to remember if it causes emotions, especially if it is “I could, I won!” emotions. So boring reading of a text in a classroom will never be able to compete and will not give such an educational effect as high-quality gamification of study.
Escape rooms for study do their job so well that, as a rule, even students with poor grades, who are not too interested in the school curriculum, integrate into the learning process, begin to learn the material and grow in their academic performance. This is a real victory for students, teachers, and escape games. Gamification of study making escape games in a real educational tool.
In addition to schools, training escape games began to be massively used in the development of practical skills, knowledge and team building of personnel where well-coordinated teamwork is required. A good example is the escape rooms for medical students, such as the “Healthcare Escape Room Design Guidebooks” of the University of Minnesota. The players are told the legend of the patient and are given certain riddles that need to be solved in order to help the patient and his family. By playing these situations in a gamified environment, students become more competent and more willing to work together. In the future, this will affect better service for real patients.
Study escape games are also good for excursions to museums, libraries, even for walking around the city. The key point here is gamification and interactivity. After all, players become not just passive observers, but full participants in the story.
Portable escape games
If you want to open your escape room, but you understand that the level of the initial investment is too big for you, I strongly advise you to consider such a growing trend as portable (also known as a pop-up) escape games.
The advantages of portable games:
No need to buy or rent a room;
No need to do repairs - the games are carried out at the customer’s premises (in the house, apartment or office);
The initial investment is at least 2 times less than in the cheapest stationary escape room. At the moment, to open the escape room requires an investment of approximately $ 10,000. This will be the easiest version of the game without or almost without electronics, you will need to make repairs and create puzzles by yourself. The cost of a portable game varies around $ 4000-5000. But this is a complete, ready-to-work game with puzzles and electronics. You will not need to buy anything extra - everything that players need is included in the set;
Customers will not give up your game because they have to go far. You yourself can bring the game to them. For example, the riddles in my pop-up escape game “Attack of hackers” is very compact and easy. For transportation and carrying out the game you need a regular passenger car, one person and a couple of boxes;
Competent game design and thoughtful plot allow players to keep the feeling of immersion in the game, even if they play in a usual office.
If at first, this type of escape game was rather unusual, now portable escape games are increasingly being used at events and holidays where the hosts of the celebration want to entertain guests with something more interesting than food and conversation.
This is also an interesting team building option for corporate events.
Mobile escape rooms in buses
Mobile escape rooms are not a new phenomenon and, I think, many are familiar with them in practice. But such mobile games remain a relative rarity in comparison with stationary escape rooms. Therefore, I just can not fail to mention them as an unusual trend of 2019, which has great potential for growth.
Some games in buses assume to stand in one place, but this is rather a rarity. As a rule, the plot of the game on the bus is built in such a way that players are transported somewhere. For example, the plot may be built around the fact that the players are prisoners, and the escape from the bus is their chance for freedom. Or the players are transported by the ghost bus - they need to escape before the time runs out, otherwise, they will disappear forever.
Mobile games on buses are not too common. This is due to the need for costly investment in the purchase of a bus. Even if you buy a used bus, it will be quite expensive. And you still need to maintain and repair it.
Nevertheless, the real transportation of players on the bus, the feeling by players movement of transport, gives an amazing immersion into the game atmosphere. If you competently plan the design and story, you get a truly hit game.
Escape game with eyes closed
This may seem complicated and strange, but there are such escape rooms and they work quite successfully. Escape game with closed eyes is an unusual experience even for the most avid players.
In short, the process of the game is as follows.
You come to the escape room, where they put a bandage on you, through which nothing is visible. The actor takes you by the hand and leads to the game room. Then you will be told in stages a story in the course of which you will have to make choices that influence the further development of the plot. Since your eyes are closed, the rest of the senses are used to the maximum. The actor says that the car left - you hear the squeal of the wheels. You are told that you are in the forest - you smell the needles and dampness. According to the plot, the maniac swung his ax and drops of blood are splashed - and you feel that something was running down on your arm ...
The game format is really very unusual. And it proving that stunning design and immersion are not necessarily worth millions of dollars. Sometimes it is enough to change the interaction with the player and use his imagination as a game props and design.
Action games or sports escape rooms
The sports escape room does not mean that players are given dumbbells or a jump rope at the entrance and were forced to do the exercises. A classic example of such an escape room is the once-popular “Fort Boyard” show, where players were required to show all their stamina and preparation in order to reach the end and get a treasure.
That is, sports escape rooms, just like the rest of escape games, necessarily imply the existence of a plot, which players follow, and not just a mechanical performance of some kind of exercise.
Competent puzzles for sports escape rooms include not only physical but also relevant intellectual tasks. After all, in the course of the game, people get tired of moving a lot, but at the same time, players shouldn't be bored.
By the way, in the classic escape games in the plot, the opposite mistake is often made when people are overloaded with intellectual puzzles. After an hour, usually, even the most avid lover of logic puzzles starts to get bored and feel tired. Therefore, as a designer of escape rooms, I advise even games with a popular science storyline to dilute with some physical activity, especially at the end.
With respect, Vladimir Kalugin.