Building immersive escape rooms 2
Updated: Feb 20
In part one of this series I wrote about how important story and narrative are to the
sense of immersion and gave examples of how we use film and drama to intensify the feeling prior to starting the escape game.
"The attention to detail and care in the room design is impeccable and creates an amazing atmosphere. " Trip Advisor
In this article we look at the physical appearance and aesthetics of the room and how creating an authentic environment or set can keep the players immersed in the game.
The story behind the game will have a big influence on what the escape room looks like. Are the players in a medieval castle, a laboratory, bank or train and what period the experience is set in will further influence the look and feel of the rooms.
At The Escape Key we put a lot of emphasis and effort into the set decoration as we really want the players to feel they have entered another world. The entrance door is key ... pardon the pun ... it is something the players may have been looking at during the introduction so it is important that if fits the game they're about to play. A well made door can increase the level of anticipation and excitement.
"The rooms themselves have been hand crafted to a very artistic and high degree of detail." Trip Advisor
Once across the threshold the players begin to explore their new surroundings and by explore I mean not just looking. As human beings we have a natural instinct to touch things ... it's how we understand the properties of our surroundings and our finger tips are packed with nerve endings for this very reason. Wood, stone, metal and brick are recognisable not only by sight but also through the texture that we feel when we touch them.
Our aim is to create authentic looking spaces so using or creating authentic sets means going way beyond brick patterned wallpapers and stone effect floor coverings. It does take longer to construct and in most cases will cost more money but we believe it is this attention to detail that has helped make us stand out from other escape rooms.
Our Witch room is set partly in a 17th century prison next to the city's perimeter wall. The challenge was to make the walls of the escape room look and feel like that of the city's wall still visible from The Escape Key's windows.
"The game itself was amazingly written and put together. The overall aesthetics of the room were breathtaking and extremely well designed." Trip Advisor
Newcastle was the first city to be lit by electricity and our latest room, Electric City takes players back to the late Victorian age when local inventor Joseph Swan was about to unveil a working electric light for the very first time. The players begin at a tram stop on a street close to Swan's offices in Newcastle.
Some quick research on nearby streets showed that rectangular cobbles of various shades were used in the city's streets. ... but how to create a street inside an escape room? Sourcing real cobbles is not easy and the weight of 600 of them on a ceiling made using them unwise. I uncovered an interesting fact about Victorian cobbles in city.
Outside public buildings such as theatres, wooden cobbles were laid as these deadened the sound of the horse and carts pulling up outside with fashionably late guests thus minimising any disturbance to the performance. Building escape rooms inevitably produces lots of wood off-cuts so I decided to use these to create the cobbles. The video below is not an instructional video but rather shows the stages in the production.
Each cobble took around 5 minutes to make, the street itself contains 600 and while it did become a labour of love, the result is amazing and the reaction of our customers has made it worthwhile!
Other than the walls and floors, escape rooms feature various puzzles as well as fixtures and fittings. Puzzles will be covered in a future article so I'll consider other non functional decorative elements in this section.
Era appropriate objects are a must and promote authenticity and hence immersion. Combination padlocks would be believable on a security guard's locker in a 1980s bunker but would spoil the authenticity of a medieval jail. Similarly a torch would help the players open the combination lock whereas a rope hung LED lantern would be much more fitting in the jail. For technological items eBay, vintage markets and to a lesser extent car boot sales are where an old cassette recorder, Victorian coins and CRT computer monitors can be sourced.
Many of our puzzles are electrical and run on mains or low voltage. Leaving aside the potential danger of a young curious player pushing something into a socket, the sight of a three pin plug hanging from a white plastic socket in a historically themed escape room is something we'd avoid like the Plague!
If you would like to come and discover the detail in our escape rooms please book now!