Escape rooms have come a long way since the first one appeared in the early 2000s. The earliest escape rooms relied on office furniture and hardware store locks to create the world from which players would escape. Now, escape room facilities are building bigger, more impressive sets and developing new technologies to create complete immersion. But one thing is often overlooked when discussing the development of escape rooms: the evolution of hints.
At Escape Games, we’ve always believed in giving a group as much help as they want. It’s your game, so if you want to ask us for an extra boost, why not? When we opened, we used to hand out walkie-talkies and ask groups to communicate by saying the name of the game they were playing. This allowed us to send a Game Master into their game to help them out. Walkie-talkies were a straightforward way to communicate, but they weren’t without their problems. Crossed channels and mixed signals from nearby traffic created confusion, and we quickly realized we needed another way to communicate.
Hint buttons were the next step in the evolution. These little buttons mounted to the wall by the game’s entrance worked to summon staff to any game where players had a question. Once a player pushed the button, the staff were alerted to which room wanted to speak to us and could make their way over. This method of hinting was so effective that we’ve kept the buttons around in case a group wants to call our staff for any reason.
As Escape Games has developed incredible new ways to play, we’ve also found innovative new ways to incorporate hints into our games. It’s become our mission to incorporate our hint systems into our game mechanics so they don’t break immersion. For example, if you’re playing Pathogen and you’re hacking the computer, then you can access your hints through that computer’s Support system. As we design new games, we spend time thinking about the theme and the practicality of how someone might find information in the story. It’s a small detail, but one that we firmly believe improves the overall game experience.