• Ace

That'll Be The Door...

Updated: Sep 19, 2018

Team Bluefish recently played “The Secret of Dragon’s Spire” at one of our favorite venues Escape Games at the River, in Rancho Mirage, CA (near Palm Springs). The game was challenging and immersive (more on that below), but I was struck by how easily the room captured my imagination and threw me into the game.

Taken by Ace at Escape Games at the River

That is the door where the players enter the game. The rest of the lobby is pretty standard. It’s modern-looking; very clean and very comfortable. It’s a little difficult to feel it from the picture, but that door immediately grabs your eye when you walk into the business. As for me, I was practically drooling, and all I could do was point and say “I want to go in there!”

Before the clock even started, the game had me in its grasp. I get to walk through a portal in an unassuming lobby and end up in a castle where you can practically feel the presence of an angry dragon?!? Yes, please!

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this door was so special to me because it’s the exception rather than the rule. We’ve been to so many escape rooms where the game starts by opening an everyday office door while the game master tells me that some fantastical world is on the other side.

In the brief period of seconds before a player is allowed to enter a room, they’ve already subconsciously formed thousands of impressions of the business, of the story that’s unfolding, and of the game they’re about to enter. That is just a simple truth of the human brain; we’ve trained ourselves to process information as quickly as possible. Later, if we have more data, we’ll consider adjusting our world-view, but those first few impressions are incredibly tenacious.

What this means is that owners, operators, and game masters need to take special pains to examine the beginning of the experience through the eyes of the player. It’s easy to forget that the entrance to an escape room is going to be the first thing that a player sees, but wow-ing the players immediately is going to throw the players imagination into the game and encourage them to be not just in the experience, but a part of it.

The last thing I want to say about all this is that it comes with one big caveat: an escape room needs to deliver on the promise that the entryway delivers. We all know that it is expensive and time-consuming to build a really great set, and not everyone has the budget to do that. When building a room, it’s important to leave some room in the budget for the entrance, but it’s equally important that you don’t have the opposite problem where you’ve got an amazing entrance that leads to… some leased office space with a blacklight.

Back to my favorite door. I walked into the business ready to play an escape room. I saw the door that couldn’t possibly be anything else except the portal to our game, and I got excited. I walked into the room and turned my excitement up to 11 just looking around the set. Escape Games at the River has a really great escape room. It has solid puzzles, an interesting theme, and a good set. What separates it from other rooms is that I was ready to believe that it was a really great escape room before we even started, and it’s so much easier to have a awesome experience when you buy into it from the beginning.

How about you? Have you even been sold on the quality of an escape room before walking in? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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