My friends and I have been enjoying playing the Escape the Room games in NYC. Costing around $30 per person, you need to book well in advance, and (pending the specific game) need anywhere from 6-12 people to play. On a previous outing, we played the James Bond themed “The Agency” game (that we did not win), and more recently we (successfully) completed the Sherlock Holmes-themed “The Home.” The only game left at the Midtown location for us is “The Office.” There are two more games located at their downtown location (“Theater” and “Apartment”) we’ve yet to play. Similar games have been springing up, such as a pop-up Attack on Titan game that was held at Yankee Stadium!
Having studied game design back in undergrad as an interactive multimedia student (and a tiny bit in grad school too), I enjoy experiencing these “big games” on a very meta level. Both the experience of playing–the exhilaration, the teamwork and communication needed to beat the clock, the puzzles (and the puzzles within puzzles)–and the experience of being cognitively aware that I am going through these pre-determined motions and interactions, is quite a rush. The thought that I am actively playing a game someone else meticulously designed, game terminology floating around my head all the while, that was specifically designed for this space, is pretty fantastic. That’s what I love about big games: they are, by definition, inherently specific to the surrounding environment. A good example and chance to play some big games is the Come Out & Play festival, which (in this year’s case) takes over Governors Island and DUMBO Brooklyn for a weekend (July 17-18th) of site-specific fun.
In one of my undergrad game design classes, we were tasked with designing a big game that made use of our college campus. It was very fun to playtest the various teams’ games and see where they took us on the campus, and how they made use of the space. But Escape the Room is great as the space it occupies was built for the game, rather than it just being a variable the designers had to factor in. (Obviously, the designers had to factor in certain things about the space before designing the game though, but more basic things such as cubic meters, ceiling height, etc.–things you can’t actually legally change when renting a space in NYC.
Being able to deconstruct the game as both a player and a designer, allows one to use these angles to help progress the story along, and give you an idea of what to expect. As all of my friends who I attended with are gamers (video games, board games, card games, casual games, you name it)(oh, and avid Sherlock-watchers!), I felt pretty confident. The fact that we had already played one before as well added to the knowledge and experience we collectively pooled. We sort of knew, not what to expect, but how to manage our expectations and the nature of the unknown factors we’d face. I feel like I talked about the same thing over and over but with different wording each time…I just really enjoy this type of thing. 🙂
If you are ever in NYC, I highly recommend giving one of these a whirl. I loved “being” in 221B Baker Street and rummaging about, with a certain theme song on loop in my head the whole time. And as I mentioned before, if you’re interested in experiencing other types of “big games” yourself, consider Come Out & Play in July.
The game is on