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The Life of a Gamesmaster?

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Here at The Escape Key we believe our staff our crucial to ensuring our customers have the best possible experience whether they are first time players or veteran escapees. Even with the most amazing escape rooms (incidentally, ours are really amazing) without our friendly and dedicated staff the experience just wouldn’t be the same. So what’s it like being a gamesmaster at The Escape Key? I asked Nikitta, one of our longest serving gamesmasters for some personal reflections.

Being a Gamesmaster (GM) is a funny job really. Literally. There’s so much more to being a GM than customers see. We’re responsible for welcoming guests, running games, resetting the rooms, fixing things which get broken, searching high and low for keys and padlocks that are never where they should be, dealing with a range of customers, having secure knowledge on the games and history of the games and the most important aspect which I can’t stress enough... drinking endless amounts of tea and coffee and staff nights out. So that’s why I’m here, to fill you in on all the backstage drama that happens while working at the Escape Key, Newcastle. And you never know, after this short read, you might think you’d be up for this role and fancy a job with us. Find out how to apply at the end.

Think about this, you’ve got 10 minutes until the next customers are due in (obviously they’ll be early), you’re about to reset the room -which takes approximately 8 minutes- and you’ve just realised that an item is broken. Clearly the spare's broken too. So, you’ve got 10 minutes to reset the room, fix the prop, and make yourself look presentable after running up and down the stairs. I think I’ve painted the picture well. Chaos.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very organised chaos. Like you’ll be 99% sure the one screwdriver that you need is in the kitchen sink, but at least you know where it is! Being a GM means having the ability to think outside of the box and think of ways to fix things or find alternatives if that can’t be done. Especially under pressure. You must just learn to be a quick thinker. It’s even better if you naturally are one. You can get away with just knowing how to use a screwdriver in the beginning but after working as a GM you’ll come out of the job knowing what a bodkin is, and most importantly, how to use one.

I love my job though. I don’t think there’s any staff here who don’t. Here in Newcastle, the owners pride themselves on running a family friendly business. The staff all feel like family, and we treat the customers like family too. We pride ourselves on having outstanding customer service and a smile. Don’t believe me? Check out our 5* Trip Advisor ratings to see for yourself. There’s nothing better than receiving recognition for a job well done. Or alternatively come play one of our rooms and you’ll soon see.

Working at the Escape Key, it’s important to be adaptable as each day brings new customers and new challenges - from that group of wildly excited 8 year olds, to 20 slightly tipsy hens in full regalia or some reluctant colleagues on an enforced team building session. Our job is to provide a warm welcome and an entertaining introduction to the escape game. Once the game starts we settle into the control room to monitor the game on the CCTV screens.

It’s great getting to watch so many different people and see how their brains work. The staff and I voted on our most memorable quotes/phrases used by customers.

“That square looks far too rectangular.”

● How do you spell in Roman numerals?”

● “Do you know, my dad paid for me to come here as a birthday present because he can’t lock me in any other room, for legal reasons.”

● “HELP ME! I’m dyslexic and colour blind.”

● Being called God by children.

(If you are the proud owner or parent of an owner of one of these quotes, please note that we all very much enjoyed them and would love to have you back!)

Some of our staff would definitely say that it’s quotes like this that keep them in the job. We love players who laugh at themselves (allowing us to laugh with them), when things may not go to plan, or they come out with some cracking lines like the ones above. But our favourite customers are definitely the ones who are enthusiastic about the game, and especially winning it. It makes our job great and so much more exciting.

So a quick tip if you're playing soon, be happy and enthusiastic and you will be guaranteed a 5 star experience.

A new gamesmaster learning how to run a game
Gamesmaster training

One of the hardest parts of the job is learning the games, and the way each puzzle works and how to fix them. It starts with playing the games. Generally, the staff are lucky enough to get to play the games before learning them. We then shadow another GM running the game and learn to reset it. It’s so important to be methodical and accurate. In the beginning, we follow checklists to ensure everything’s there, but after a few games it’s committed to muscle memory. I could run the games in my sleep. On average, the rooms take between 5-10 minutes to reset, providing there aren’t any damaged items. Although some games take longer to reset than others.

If we could change one thing about the escape key, and believe me, there’s only one, it would be to put hidden methods of getting out of each of the rooms. 90% of the staff members have locked themselves in one of the rooms at least once. This is no joke. So, if you’ve reset the room, and have no phone, the options are:

Bang on the door loud enough someone hears you Set off the fire alarm (opens all the doors but is a huge inconvenience) Smile and wave at the cameras like a penguin from Madagascar Undo all the puzzles you’ve just reset in order to play the game and win it.

I once locked myself in a small passage in Electric City. The owners decided it would be more beneficial to take a picture of me locked in first before letting me out! Martin once locked himself (without a phone) in Armageddon when there was no-one else in the building. He had to open the window and shout down to the lady working in the shop over the road to come up and set him free. (If that lady was you, thank you very much!) And Grace was locked in the witch room for 45 minutes. I know you’re probably thinking, well it’s an escape room. The whole point is to be locked in. But when you’re genuinely locked in, with no simple ways out, its really not great at the time. However, we do get a good laugh out of it afterwards!

So, I’ll summarise - in order to work here, you need to be adaptable, quick thinking, confident with great customer service, and the ability to not lock yourself in one of our 4 escape rooms. You need to be able to make coffee and tea with one hand and fix an endoscope with another. It’s definitely not the same thing day in day out- you must be prepared for anything and everything.

Do you think you’ve got what it takes and fancy joining our team at the Escape Key? Send in your CV to

Alternatively, if you want to try one of our escape rooms, book here!

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