You and your teams sign up for a mysterious Nameless theme. It’s lack of a name is inspired by The Unknown, from Escape Games. However, in this case, the lack of a name plays a role in the game. Players are told that there is a theme to the game, but that it’s a mystery they must solve in order to win the game.
When I picked the Betrayal theme, I didn’t really have a game mechanic in mind. I’m a fan of social deduction games, but I couldn’t think of an eloquent way to put in a betrayal mechanic. In a lot of would-be cool ideas, I thought the game would be too difficult with a potential sabotage component thrown in. There is the semblance of narrative to the game, but none that is available in writing or outright shown to players. I’ll get into that later. The decor will be dark and grimy, and if possible, evoking the atmosphere of a dystopian future. The puzzles will appear to be themeless.
However, these seemingly random puzzles will in actuality be themed! And that theme is friendship and trust! Players begin the game seperated into four rooms and will in actuality never be reunited until the end of the game. Players won’t be able to communicate with each other, but may be able to transfer items to one other player. Each room will have a screen and a video camera. The game will start with each player solving an identical puzzle alone. Every puzzle past that will require teamwork. It’ll start with just two players requiring each other’s help. As the game goes on, it’ll require everyone working together. The video cameras and screens will also be used in the same way. You might see that you have information in you room (Prisoner A’s room) that Prisoner C might need, but you can only send things to Prisoner B. Prisoner B would have access to Prisoner C, but how do you get that information across?
I think something that might be interesting would be to give a Prisoner (for example Prsoner D) an assymetric setup where he can see the other players, but have no way of accessing any of them. Instead, he can turn a light on and off in each of their rooms. How this player would choose to communicate with the rest of his team this way is up to them.
When the screens aren’t being used as part of puzzles, it will display disparaging anti-friendship anti-individuality slogans. Think 1984 Big Brother quotes – “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength”.
The final ‘puzzle’ players have to beat will be a prisoner’s dilemma situation. A countdown will start. Each player is told that only one of them can win the game. They will be allowed to escape, but that if they do, everyone else will be stuck. If no one leaves, they all lose. The last line, of course, is a lie. If they all stay in the room by the end of the countdown, they all get to leave. Hopefully by the time they get to the last puzzle, players have been primed to work together.
So what exactly am I trying to do here? Well, I was recently talking to a friend about ballet. I’ve never been. I love stories of all kind, and the idea of there being a medium where there’s a story to be told without words sounded neat. I wanted to see if something like that could be done in an escape room. I wondered if you could tell a story in a more subtle way than the ‘journal entry’ style that some escape rooms have. I think the whole dystopian motif seems like an appropriate setting of being anti-friendship, anti-individuality.