Escape rooms… Love them or hate them, they would be nothing without games masters keeping things running smoothly. Just imagine turning up at a venue with no games master! Who would compliment you on all you’ve achieved throughout your experience? Who would chat to you about other escape rooms you might enjoy? Who’d give you clues when you felt a little stumped? Who would even let you into the building in the first place? …Come to think of it I probably should have led with that question. There you are, out on the street, eager to suspend your disbelief for an hour or so while you solve puzzles and track down clues in a desert oasis, filled with authentic golden sand straight from the exotic dunes of B&Q. But, alas, there’s no one inside to open the door, greet you with a warm smile, and point out where the toilets are. You’re stranded on the high street in the unrelenting British weather, cursed forever to wander the globe not knowing where King Tut buried his treasures.
Games masters are the glue that holds the experience together. Not only do they tell you the story and, should you need it, nudge you in the right direction along the way, but if ever an accident befalls a prop or piece of tech, they take the time to make sure the escape room is properly mended and in perfect working order for the next team. So, if I may rephrase: they are the glue, who carries the superglue, that holds the escape room together. A typical day in the life of your friendly neighbourhood clue-giver is one fraught with danger, excitement, mystery and snacks. Mainly snacks. I shall do my best in the coming paragraphs to illustrate the daily goings on in the rooms that you can never unlock, just on the other side of those little cameras you may spot in the corners of 17th century London, or deep in the mind of Lewis Carroll.
Here at TimeTrap each day begins at 11am. We gather together in our control room – our main office – and lay out the day’s plan of action before getting to work. It’s not all running games… there are new puzzles to be built, sets to be touched-up and props to be propped-up. We do all within our power to keep this place in tip-top condition, with experiences that are as fresh as the day we first opened them. I’m sure you would agree, there’s nothing worse, when you’re going back a few hundred years, than arriving to find the place looking tired, worn out and…badly-aged. So every now and then a bolt will need to be tightened or a layer of varnish reapplied to keep those all important puzzle pieces looking genuine and as beautiful as they would have been centuries ago.
The most important job however, is, of course, seeing in the people who have come to travel back through the ages. Before they even arrive the games must be set-up and brought to life out of the pitch-black darkness. And believe me dear reader, there are a lot of elements to be fired up. Miss just one and the result could be disastrous! There is no greater dread than that of a game master, watching as their team progresses through their adventure and wondering “Am I certain I flipped the switch that makes that thing do the thing it’s supposed to do?”. The answer is almost always, “Yes”, but the fear never really goes away.
Assuming you have a punctual group, the team then arrives (unless they don’t – no shows do happen every now and then. We always wonder why). We greet them and show them to a very cosy gallery here in our Museum of Time Travel, filled with all sorts of unique artefacts we have curated from history. If you ever get a chance do drop in, it’s worth it just to see Cilla Black’s cough sweets – a fan favourite, on display exclusively at TimeTrap. Then it’s time to brief our intrepid explorers. We have to explain to them exactly where, when and why we’re sending them off into the distant past, before racing back into our control room to follow them on their journey. From time to time we chime in with a helpful word or two. Then when the team has found the solution to all the puzzles or when the clock strikes the hour (we always hope for the former over the latter) we burst in though the time portal to congratulate them on their hard-fought efforts and escort them back to the present day with a smile on their face.
Next on the day’s cycle is the reset. We know every game back to front and inside out. We have all inadvertently logged every single padlock combination and prop rearrangement somewhere in the dark recesses of our brains, never to be forgotten. I couldn’t tell you how old my own niece is, or when my parents’ anniversary might be, but without a second’s hesitation I can easily run you through the solution to a puzzle we don’t have any more, in a game which we closed over a year ago. Priorities.
So that’s the long and short of it. Set-up, play through, re-set. Repeat this process six times, then go home. Simple and easy, right? But doesn’t it get repetitive? Does boredom ever creep in? Absolutely not!
We are a tight-knit group of oddballs so keeping ourselves entertained throughout the day is easier done than said! At some point, without warning, somebody will quietly start humming a line from a popular musical. “…Do you hear the people sing….dee-dee-dee da dee-da dee-da….” The rest of us hear it. We might not register it on a conscious level, but we definitely heard it because it’s now in all our heads. One by one we’re all joining in. Before long the whole of the control room is performing an improvised routine to no audience other than ourselves. We sing, we dance, we fly the Tricolore, (well, it’s a jacket on a stick, but come on, use your imagination). Jean Valjean is abruptly shushing us because his team have come up against a particularly tricky puzzle and he has to turn on his microphone to give them a clue, but the second he’s done, we’re into the finale.
At the end of each day, when the final team has gone, we put everything back exactly as it was; every puzzle locked up, every door sealed as though it had never been open. We go back through the secret hatches to flip the switches and plunge 1942, 1871 and 1666 into darkness once again. Then we lock the door and sneak away as though we were never here, ready to return tomorrow and do it all again.
Want to learn a little more about what being an Experience Maker at TimeTrap entails? Have a read of our other blogs, ‘My first six months at TimeTrap’, ‘Two year’s on – Rachel’s blog’ and ‘Experience Maker: What’s in a name?’
Want to be part of the TimeTrap team? We’ll soon be hiring for an Experience Maker – get your application in early here.