Training Game Masters for your Escape Room
Article by Bill Parslow
Obviously when you recruit a GM you’re looking for someone personable, adaptable, able to think in the moment and improvise and so on - essentially the qualities needed to run a large company with the acting and improvisational skills of the combined cast of Who’s Line Is It Anyway and the technical ability of a Formula One mechanic. But sometimes we have to settle for a little less than the optimum - or maybe that is the wrong way to put it. Because even the most highly skilled and qualified GM will need some training.
Too often GMs are thrown in at the deep end after a cursory induction where they might do the game, shadow a current GM and be given a large GM manual of things that a GM needs to do. Sometimes the manual doesn’t exist, but even when it does I can guarantee it will always be out of date. “Oh no we had to change that lock, the combination is now…” You get the picture.
What goes wrong with all GM training is that it is carried out by those who know the game backwards. What’s wrong with that you say? You have to have people who know the game backwards to teach it! The problem is that people who know the game backwards generally have lots of what I would call “compiled knowledge” - knowledge that is second nature to them, knowledge that is ingrained so deep in their brain that they don’t have access to it to pass it on - they just assume it.
Let me give you a trivial example. The wifi password for whatever bit of kit you might use. You hardly ever need it and it is written in biro in the back of the GM manual. But of course, the GM manual is out of date - we had to change the wifi six months ago, and… But more than that it’s the polished ease with which an experienced GM hosts the game. For a new GM everything is new and confusing.
This is where a slow thorough training in the easiest and most obvious bits of the GM role is needed. The GM trainer has to unpick every small last piece of what they do, go through it in slow motion, probably more than once - and it’s essential. Without it your new GM is bound to screw up a few games, and if that happens you might be unlucky and get one of those bad reviews.
The more I think about what are the best ways to manage Escape Rooms the more I come to the conclusion that we do have to pay close attention to the way we manage change, the way we write manuals, the way we recruit, the way we keep people fresh, the way we make customer care the centre of the GM role - so I’ll be tackling these issues one by one over the next few weeks.
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