The End Matters

So what happens at the end of a game? I recently played a game where there were a number of rooms to get through (not always through a door), and we had just solved an enormous puzzle that took ages to decode even once you’d cracked it.  It took the whole team to do it together. Then we raced to the next door, tapped in the code, and found ourselves . . . in the corridor, out of the room, and out of the game. It was a real let-down.  And that was when we had succeeded!

In all previous escape games I’d participated in, it had been very clear what you have to do to win, and in particular what action marked the end of the game.  In Paris we had to diffuse a bomb, then escape via a clearly marked door.  In Rhodes we had to find the crystal, and leave through the entrance with it.  Both superb games, with high production values, and a very clear goal that helped build the tension as you raced to achieve it.

In my seven-year long live role-play campaign “Forgotten Sorrows”, we worked hard to make sure if the players lost, then they lost well.  Most famously when the players failed to stop an ancient evil being resurrected around year five, the whole tone of the games changed into one of occupation and resistance, and the reverberations of failure were perhaps more satisfying plot-wise than success would have been – resulting as it would in simply status-quo.

In Escape Games you need to consider the same issues. Especially as the Exit Puzzle is the final and some would say lasting memory of your game.

As Adam Clare writes on his blog “Reality is a Game”:

” Make the ending rewarding!  No matter how the players escape be sure to make the ending rewarding.  Even if the players lose make sure that the conclusion is also an interesting experience.  Answer the question: what happens if the players don’t escape?”

I think you also need to ask what happens if they do?  How will the players foresee the ending?  How will they know whether they have succeeded or failed?And how will each be marked and celebrated?

What’s the best ending you’ve experienced?

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2 comments to “The End Matters”

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  1. I enjoyed the cheesy cheering sound recording when I got out of a room once. The most memorable for a good reason was diffusing the bomb in Enigma in LA because I was jumping up and down and yelling at my husband that I trusted him to make the right decision and he did. The most memorable bad ending was not escaping a game with live actors and saying well I guess we’ll have to come back and play again to try to get out and having the actor reply sharply “you can’t, you’re dead”.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christine, that actor must have been having a bad day – and obviously hadn’t been briefed on how to encourage returners! The cheesy cheering is very simple to do though, so it should be the minimum really.

      Love your best moment, because this is what I love about Escape Games, the chance to shine and to see others shine in an unfamiliar environment – and then have memories that last a lot longer than 60 minutes.

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