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Escape Rooms Need Closure Too

Updated: Nov 13, 2018

How did you feel the last time you left an escape room?  I hope that if you won, you felt triumphant, like you really accomplished something.  I hope that if you lost, you felt like you had a fighting chance, not like you were tricked.  But mostly, I hope that you got to experience a story that comes with a satisfying conclusion (win or lose).

I’ve played lots of games that end with finding a key/code that opens a final door. Obviously.  It is an “escape” room after all.  As a player, though, I’ve lately been questioning if that’s how the experience should end.


The problem that occurs in that type of situation is that the player is ejected from the game world back into the real world almost instantaneously.  The narrative hasn’t been allowed to come to a satisfying ending.  A good story doesn’t end with “And then I walked back into a bland hallway in a repurposed office suite.” No, it ties up all the loose ends and leaves you with a sense of closure.



This type of ending is something we’ve seen a lot, but as the novelty of escape rooms wear off, players are learning to expect more from the experience as a whole. Designers should dedicate just as much time to thinking about how players feel after an escape as they do the puzzles that happen during.  Are they going to feel like the main character at the end of a epic story, or are they going to feel like they just paid $30 for the privilege of searching a room for combinations to locks?


So, how can we improve the ending of an escape room?


1) Leave some time for exposition. The game doesn’t have to end at the conclusion of the last puzzle.  Find a way to give your players a chance to FEEL the resolution of the story.  (But you probably don’t want to leave the game clock running during this time).


2) Let characters tell the story.  People are hopefully connecting with the characters in the room, so the characters should get a last chance to speak, where they can make it clear that the game is over.


3) Consider skipping letting players open the final door.  Yes, that’s an option, but ask yourself what purpose that serves.  There are games where the ending really is “I need to get out of this door!” But before a designer uses that as a final step, they should ask how that fits into the story, because it might not.


4) Make it clear that the game is over.  If a player opens the final door without being sure that the game is over, something is probably wrong.


It’s not easy to end on a high note, so I wanted to highlight a few games that are doing everything correct at the end:


LOCAL ESCAPE:

Mystery at the Lost Point Lodge, Brainy Actz, Mesa, AZ

This room was a little unusual in that my favorite part is actually the ending sequence of the game.  We arrived at the ending not knowing what to expect, and we were totally shocked.  Brainy Actz pulls out all the stops in an effects-ending that’s going to get more than its share of screams.  I wish I could tell you about how cool it was, but all I can say is that this is one you should go experience for yourself.  The ending will leave you satisfied and exhilarated at the same time.

Our tickets were comped for this game.


ONE FOR THE ROAD:

Operation Longbow, Labyrinth Escape Games, Nampa, ID

The ending of Operation Longbow is pretty much perfect.  It made us absolutely frantic as we rushed to stop a devastating missile launch.  It was filled with visual and audio effects that let us forget that we were actually in a game.  And when we finally managed to initiate the “abort”, we were allowed a brief second to catch our breath while the system confirmed that the mission was successful.  Only then did the Game Master enter the room to congratulate us on saving the world. Seriously epic.

Our tickets were comped for this game.


We’d love to hear what you think about endings.  Is a simple door back into the real world enough?  Are there any games that you’ve played where the ending made (or wrecked) the game?  Tell us about it on our Facebook page!