Are Escape Games a Genre...Yet?
Game genres are no built whole cloth out of nothing. They frequently first appear the with the game mechanics of other games, and only later do they start to morph into something that looks like its own genre.
For instance, PC strategy games. Take Civilization, one of the bestselling PC games of all time. The initial Civ looks like a board game, not a digital game. As other strategy games (and even other Civ sequels) came out, they would strip away many of the features that gave it a board game feel, and now strategy games don’t always involve board game throwbacks like tiles, turns, units, and the like.
Escape Rooms have not yet fully become a genre, in my opinion. The mechanics of Escape Rooms borrows heavily from other games and puzzles. For instance, because the main gate or input mechanism for almost all Escape Rooms is a lock that requires a key or code, almost all the puzzles are designed to generate a key or code. There is nothing inherent about this. It is this way strictly because it is much easier for a puzzle designer to design a puzzle that feeds into a lock or safe than it is something else.
In addition, the puzzles themselves frequently look like puzzles out of puzzle books. Crossword, Suduko, as well as simple puzzles out of puzzle books are frequently found in Escape Rooms. Due to the three-dimensional nature of Escape Rooms, as well as them being played in teams, puzzles can take forms that would be impossible in a puzzle book.
The next crop of Escape Rooms is likely to utilize different technologies. At Enigma HQ, we use cue technology which isn’t something we’ve seen at other Escape Rooms. Many Escape Rooms are experimenting with microcontrollers, or small computers, which enable puzzles with different gates or input mechanisms. Some Rooms feature actors which can also provide a different way to do a puzzle. We are incorporating these features into our next set of rooms.
As Escape Rooms evolve, I expect the genre will eventually morph into something different than we see today. It won’t look like a series of locks and safes, and the designers of the future will feel more comfortable using different technologies or techniques to generate puzzles.
What do you think the next generation of Escape Rooms will be?