Escape Rooms Breakages - What to do?!?
Article by Bill Parslow
Yep, those heavy handed over-enthusiastic “over-stimulated” players that smash and crash and clatter around. Until surprise, surprise, something breaks. So what do you do? Here’s my take on it - it is something that every escape room owner should plan for. Right from the design of the room to the everyday management of players in the game.
Make things robust and strong!
It sounds obvious but I’m sure everyone has done this - found a nifty very clever little prop or puzzle that just didn’t survive everyday use from heavy handed questors!
Even, it must be said, when a prop is clearly glued to the wall and clearly doesn’t have something behind it over enthusiastic accidents happen- “I thought there was a clue underneath the picture and it seemed to come up at the edge, so I…” Yes, yes you ripped it off the wall, with a certain amount of plaster and wallpaper.
But I digress into past bitterness. Because, no, you can't stop the odd accident - but you can plan in advance how to deal with it. Always have back-up props, always have a dustpan and brush!
Control the hype!
What does this have to do with breakages you ask? Well it's all about respect - the respect you give your players when you make sure they are welcomed into a clean and tidy environment, and the respect they will have for a well looked after area where nothing is broken or half fixed.
In fact, sigh, it happened just the other day.
Maybe it serves us right for having anything made of glass in the room, but plastic wine bottles just don’t have the same cachet and realism, so we do. And if the truth be told I was having a quiet moment, stuffing a special recipe sandwich from Pret A
Manger, with a just poured cup of green tea. So the sound of splintering glass was not welcome.
Now these things happen to the best and quietest of players, don’t get me wrong. We don’t penalise people for breaking something by accident (more on penalising later), we take it on the chin and soldier on.
And there we go - the wine bottles are easily replaced, the shards of glass can be swept up and hoovered away, all is sorted. But sometimes I wish people would be a bit more careful - but what I wanted to get onto was some posting in some Escape Room pages where an escape room owner was talking about charging groups for breakages.
Make ‘em pay??
There was quite a lot of discussion that split into two opposing opinions - one that players sign a contract to make good anything they break when they sign the waiver and the other view that this means very little and the sheer bad press you get from enforcing people to pay for breakages makes it not worth it.
I have to say I’ve never seen any bad press resulting from players complaining about being charged, but it’s always on the cards that if you upset your customers they will leave a bad review somewhere.
But there is something not quite right to me if you are charging your customers for accidental damage even when it is the result of slightly more boisterous activity than you would like. You want people to be excited in your room, you may even let people in who are a few sails to the wind* - you are in some part responsible for the atmosphere of the room. So if it is highly charged and excited, things do get a little rough and loud.
I think that even when handles are wrenched off drawers, pictures ripped from walls, things that are meant to stay stuck together are prised apart, this is part of the rich tapestry of the lively experience you are selling.
It’s essential to build for robustness and to take the occasional over excited destruction in good part - even though it is your prized baby that is being attacked with a vigour that you would not use! Accidental breakage is accidental, and it is your responsibility to give players a safe environment.
*English euphemism for slightly drunk. See here Drunks! Handle Them! for dealing with those who are many sails to the wind**
**English euphemism for very drunk.