I saw a comment recently about how escape room players are bored of common themes like “jail break” and “Sherlock Holmes.” I have to respectfully disagree on two counts.
For one, as an enthusiast, I have never, ever steered clear of a business because I thought the room’s concept sounded boring. And for the other, I don’t think 99.99% of prospective players have done enough rooms to be sick of certain concepts.
At the risk of sounding contradictory, I really do appreciate when an escape room shoots for a unique concept. For example, the recent Alice’s Tee Time game I played in Tampa, which is the fusion of an Alice in Wonderland escape room and a nine hole mini golf course, or a 90 minute escape room in Ontario in which you also have a video game version of the room to work with alongside the real room. When it’s clear the owner had a specific vision and executed on it, the payoff is tremendous.
But I’ve also seen many, many, MANY examples where owners have taken themes that don’t sound original and spun them into something brilliant and unique. When I think of jailbreak rooms, there are a few that stand out among my most memorable experiences. Also, jailbreak rooms tend to be more likely than the average room to split the party into different physical locations at the start of the game, which is an element I really like for how it forces the group to exercise communication skills.
So what themes do I avoid? Short answer: none. Long answer: I tend to be concerned that serial killer rooms might be darker and grimier than I’d like. Spaceship rooms tend not to be tactile enough to suit my or Christina’s liking. And for some reason, most Egyptian rooms want to give players a book containing half the puzzles that explains what to look at in which order, which takes away some of the wonder of exploring the space. But none of these things would make me ever avoid any of these themes, because every puzzle designer is different and I don’t want to miss out on a great experience because of my own biases or assumptions.
Not that I speak for all enthusiasts, or any non-enthusiasts, but I’d really hate for someone to be discouraged from building a room design that captured his or her imagination out of fear the puzzling populous will reject it on concept alone. If a designer dreams of a cool way to make a common theme memorable, it’s much, much better than putting uninspired puzzles into a one-of-a-kind theme.