What it's like being an Escape Room Games Master

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AKA: What it’s like having the best job ever!

The work of a Games Master (GM) is very mysterious; it’s a job that not many people know about. You often have to explain that even though you lock people up in rooms and watch them try to get out, you are not a creep and you have a perfectly legal job. It’s even a mysterious position for people who have played escape rooms before: there is so much going on behind the scenes that you may not know about. So if you’ve ever been curious about this job and want to discover all our secrets, keep reading.

… Okay, maybe not all our secrets. This is a spoiler-free zone for our escape rooms!

A day in the life of a Can You Escape? Games Master 🔐

The day begins and first things first, we need to make sure everything is set up and ready to go for our teams. This involves checking all of our padlocks, powering up any electronics the game uses, and making sure everything is working and ready to go.

As soon as the team knocks on the door, their experience has already started. First impressions really do count, on both sides! This is the moment we get a feel for our team: if they are experienced or not, learning what kind of players they might be, and what level of interaction they might need. It’s also the moment we begin one of the most challenging parts of our work: conveying boring but vital safety rules in as fun a way as possible to keep our team engaged and excited to play!

Then it’s time to brief them on their mission. Anyone who has played at Can You Escape? will know that we like to do this in-character to make the experience more immersive and fun for the players, although it’s super fun for us too! We can and are encouraged to add our personal flavour to the character and briefing - no two GMs are the same.

Staff lunch for Agents Gloo, Holmes & Samurai // Agent Engel hard at work!

Staff lunch for Agents Gloo, Holmes & Samurai // Agent Engel hard at work!

Let the games begin! 🔐

Once our team enters the room, we enter our sanctuary: The GM Control Room. This is where the magic happens! We check on the teams’ progress, watch how they move through the puzzles and how they’re finding it, and you need to be attentive to everything. Making sure that everyone is engaged, giving clues at the right time, triggering certain things at the right moment, and encouraging teams as needed are vital to the job. Sometimes a player gets frustrated or a team stops working together. What is their body language telling you? Do they need encouragement? Are they too excited, to the point of breaking stuff without meaning to? These are all things to think about and take action on if necessary. We’re a bit like psychologists, when you think about it!

This is not a role you learn and perform the same way over and over; the experience needs to be tailored to each group because no two teams are the same. Some will enjoy lots of interaction and laugh along with you, while some like peace and quiet to think about the puzzles by themselves. The most important part of this job is to understand the players’ needs and provide them with what they want. Knowing the game you’re running inside out is also crucial, learning not only the puzzles but also how they work, the room’s quirks, workarounds, and how to fix stuff. Escape rooms are a live performance; players are solving puzzles and if something doesn’t go as planned or accidentally breaks (which can happen!), we need to be able to think and act fast so players either don’t notice or it doesn’t disturb their experience.

Once teams complete the final puzzle or run out of time, we get to debrief them on the experience. Usually teams finish the game with a real adrenaline rush, so it’s important for us to be very excited too! Can you imagine getting out of an hour of fun to a dead-pan person debriefing you? Then it’s time to reset the room and do it all over again!

There’s more to it at Can You Escape?… 🔐

When GMs are on shift, occasionally you’ll find yourself with an unbooked game session; you need to be ready to be productive and get some other tasks done. This can be general venue cleaning, blog writing, repainting props, or even puzzle designs; we encourage creativity at Can You Escape? and want to hear your ideas! It’s rewarding but hard work: you need to stay on your toes, get creative, and engage our customers - and seeing your teams experiencing those all important “a-ha!” moments makes it all worth it!

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