Escape Game – Transfer into Museums

So now we know what an escape game is – can we build one for a museum?

The big question is whether you want to lift a traditional escape room (i.e. 2-6 players locked into a single space for an hour) straight into your museum and charge players £20 a go.

Venues are looking at ways to attract more visitors from more diverse groups, to engage more in their galleries and to increase visitor expenditure.  Locked rooms can potentially assist in all of these aspects.

Where could they fit?

  • Included in the standard ticket price? (Note: In the UK most museums are free whereas some Science Centres charge)
  • An add-on experience that the visitor pays extra for?
  • For special occasions (event based – e.g. ‘Museums at Night’?)
  • A layered experience that runs on top of the existing galleries

 

Most of these options suggest putting aside space to run the Locked Room in – focusing on the traditional model of locking people into a physical space.  This might be something that plays into the hands of the venue – museums are typically in heritage buildings (sometime even castles).  This means that it is easy to theme the game to the environment – and offers something that most locked-room experiences can’t match – who has ready access to a castle on their high street?

So while allocating space for a traditional Escape Room is possible for some larger venues I’d suggest that you partner with an existing Escape Room company, buy a turnkey system or email me 🙂

This tutorial series is about creating your own DIY Escape Room-inspired experience on a tiny budget.  The experience I’m suggesting uses an existing space – such as a museum gallery and builds similar puzzles to those found in an Escape Room into it.  We’re not going to reach the incredible levels of immersion available but then we don’t have the big budgets that these businesses have.

The problems with a traditional Escape Room in a museum venue are:

  • Allocation of a suitable space
  • Very low through-put of participants (typically a 60 minute game has set-up time around it – so a limit of maybe 5 games per day for a maximum of 6 players each game.  So just 30 participants per day.
  • Full-time staff to game-host.  The hosts welcome the players, instigate the game (probably in character), provide hints during the game, carry out the game de-brief / photo and then set-up for the next team.
  • These games are most popular evenings and weekends which may be times that your museum is already closed.

So what is it?

What I am suggesting is a gallery-wide experience that sits somewhere between treasure trails and Escape Rooms.  We use physical puzzles and technology to create engaging complex narrative-driven experiences for small collaborative teams.

This could be based in a single gallery or (depending on your size) it could be across multiple galleries / your entire museum.  Players register to play at a reception desk in groups of 2-4 players.  Teams are given their starter pack and the game begins.

At the low-end this could be a sheet of paper (like a treasure trail) and off they go to solve puzzles.  At the high-end it could use a digital app (and possibly a timer).

Teams then go off to solve a variety of puzzles, e.g. code-breaking, using UV torches, maps etc.  At the low-end they might return to reception with a single code that allows them to unlock a box with a combination padlock.  At the high-end there could be numerous boxes with padlocks and tools that are spread around the entire museum.

I don’t have a fantastic video that explains this concept I’m afraid so you need to use your imagination.  There is a video of a project that I worked on with Ben Neal on behalf of Birmingham Open Media to teach students from Warwickshire College how to make real-world games for Market Hall Museum in Warwick.  This covers the project as a whole but you also get a flavour of the games that the students made.  I’m due to explain this better when I get around to writing that project up as a blog post so until then here’s the video for you to enjoy!

What Next?

We now have an idea of the kinds of Escape Games that could work in museums on DIY budgets – so now we need to know how to build one.