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Is your Escape Room tired and odorous? Keeping it fresh to the last! GM Diaries #8

Article by Bill Parslow

“Freshness!” It’s far more than air fresheners and holding a lot of people in a confined space and whether you go for the fresh scented bouquet of a just washed urinal or let the natural odours of all mingle and ferment together. Room hygiene? Well yes that’s certainly important too.

It’s that sense of doing some new and different, the psychological equivalent of the scent of ozone in the air as you approach the sea. It’s something to be sought for and manufactured as best you can in any escape room worth its salt

It’s where the room decor, the introduction, the narrative, the welcome area, the finishing flourishes can all contribute towards the player having a unique experience rather than just solving a load of puzzles. Of course the puzzles have to be good, that goes without saying, but it’s the story the players hear in their heads as they go about constructing their solutions to your room.

It’s a difficult thing to manage at times, because occasionally it does descend to the air freshener level (let’s face it Escape Rooms can be small and are not always renowned for their ventilation)- or if not quite that basic, then the look and feel of the props - are they damaged, chipped and scratched?

But once that basic housekeeping is sorted, the air of freshness in a room is often correlated with the fact that everything should count towards the theme. Often bad or indifferent reviews from the ubiquitous TripAdvisor focus around one of two things - the lack of involvement of the GM or the feeling that the puzzles are disconnected, that they don’t really hang together.

The thing is though is it is the overall feel, the way it all hangs together that makes an escape room really thrum with excitement for the player. A room might have humour, frights and thrills, amazing decor but they should all work within a common theme, as opposed to a horror based room that has lots of scary moments but they are dislocated from one another and don’t really cohere.

The narrative doesn’t have to just be in the room - it’s great to make all, your emails and booking admin reflect the theme - with the added bonus that if you add a bit of story and humour people might actually read it. I often text groups the hour before they arrive - here’s one example:

“My dear seeker, The time is nearly at hand! My companion, Gabriel, he of the bowler hat and waistcoat, will at the back of the pub to meet you soon.

Please wait there, in a well - behaved and attentive manner looking eager and intelligent at least 5 mins in advance of your time. (These are qualities that you need for the event, so best practice them a little now don't you think?)

You will be joined by others - just as well as there is safety (limited) in numbers. Any problem phone or text on this number. Latecomers however are NOT TOLERATED and will be left to the WOLVES. Please do NOT use carrier pigeons here the seagulls eat them. I remain your most superior and attentive friend, Lady Chastity”

The text gets across the importance of punctuality but in a jovial don't you forget sort of way!

And getting that fresh air feel and smell is important too, and if you don’t have air conditioning it’s all a bit difficult. We’ve just had a hot spell and on the hottest day I unlocked the room to find that the fans had been left on all night since the previous day. Not something we would normally do or recommend, but just that once I was heartily grateful for it. Sometimes though I just wish for some air conditioning...

Bill Parslow

Author photo for Bill Parslow

Bill Parslow is an escape room GM, writer and storyteller. Being a game master/game show host ticked a number of his boxes and he still rather enjoys it.

Bill is Tom's dad (the Founder of Buzzshot) and it was his experience working in a local Escape Room that led to Tom developing the Buzzshot software.

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