A session in the life of a games master

Something many players are curious about is what it’s like to be a games master. What happens behind that mysterious desk, and how does it all work? Are we sitting there with a bag of popcorn and watching in amusement as hapless players bumble through the puzzles?

We thought we’d give you a glimpse of what happens on the other side of the camera, and what we really get up to while you’re in that room. It’s nothing like Saw, we promise.

Before session: Check the rooms and confirm everything is locked, and that any combination locks are set back to 0 (we won’t be giving you any clues there!). Make sure everything is where it should be so the players don’t find things out of order, and that the room is well stocked with paper. Pray that I haven’t forgotten anything.

Anywhere between 30 mins before to 10 mins after session start time: Wait. Sometimes panic because the group arrived super early, or seem to have disappeared and can’t be contacted.

Start of session: Waivers, briefing, all the usual goodness you get before a game. You know the drill as well as I do! But I also use this time to determine the overall mood of the group – do you seem reserved, excitable, serious, competitive, playful…? Are you happy to be nudged when you spend too long off-track, or are you allergic to all hints? I’ll adjust the in-game briefing and interactions accordingly.

5 minutes into game: I’m watching closely to see how you’ve started. Are you hopelessly lost with no clue of what you got yourself into? Are you making initial connections between objects in the room? Very importantly, do you look like you’re going to break anything? (This is actually rather terrifying.)

15 minutes into game: I’m still watching and listening closely! How are you reasoning things out? Which parts of the puzzles have you stumped? Are you on-track for time, or still stuck on the initial puzzles? For the groups that don’t mind nudges and are still stuck on the initial puzzle, this is also a very delicate tightrope where I need to decide if it looks like you’ll make the relevant connections soon, or if you’re on such a different tangent that you need to be reminded of items you’ve already found but haven’t used.

I may also interact with you at this point, not to give clues, but to gauge your reactions to general interaction during the game. If you seem to be the kind of group who enjoys the ongoing dialogue, I’ll interact more – otherwise, you’ll be left to your own devices for the most part. If voices are raised and it looks like the beginnings of Fight Club? I’m nope-ing right outta there.

20 minutes into game: You should have progressed into at least one room by now, and be well into the puzzles. I’m looking to see if you’ve found (or are likely to find) everything you need, and if your train of thought on the puzzle is on the right track. There may be some popcorn/potato chip munching going on here. Also, if your group’s split off to work on different puzzles in different rooms, I’m constantly flipping my attention between groups.

21 minutes into game: Okay, who brute-forced that combination lock while I wasn’t looking? And how on earth did you do it in the ten seconds when I was focusing on the other group?

21.5 minutes into game: You really don’t have to use the object you found right now. Really. It won’t break the game, but it will make the latter half hella confusing. Please?

23 minutes into game:  Did I manage to talk you down? Yes, I talked you down. Thank you for putting everything back and re-locking the object so you don’t get confused about what to do with the combination you find three puzzles later.

30 minutes into game: That prop really wasn’t meant to be used that way. It’s super creative, and I wish I’d seen how exactly you pulled that off, but I was busy watching the other two groups who splintered off. Really though, doing that thing with the prop won’t get you anywhere. Promise.

30 minutes into the game: Were you asking a question while I was explaining how the prop shouldn’t be used? You were? Sorry, could you repeat that?

30 minutes into the game: The two of you over there were asking a question as well? About whether you could rip something off?

30 minutes into the game: 1. Please don’t rip that off.  PLEASE.  2. Yes you’re on the right track.   3. You know how I said the prop shouldn’t be used in that way? It shouldn’t be used in this brilliant new way you’ve come up with either.   *takes deep breath after rattling everything out*  And oh hey, someone opened another door while all that was happening – quick, trigger the sound cue!

32 minutes into the game: Whoa, you guys SMASHED that puzzle. Impressive. This is what games masters live for! *munches more popcorn*

[Note: in our rooms, there are two additional objectives if the group manages to get to the escape with time left on the clock!]

38 minutes into the game: Yes! You made the escape! I’m pumping my fist out here! Also, don’t actually escape yet, there’s two more objectives you can work on!

45 minutes into the game: There’s still something else you need to find – but because you haven’t, everyone is crowded around one single puzzle. Depending on how restless some of you are getting, I’ll either wait for you to finish the puzzle and keep searching, or nudge the more restless members into searching a bit more.

46 minutes into the game: Oh yeah, that means everyone’s split up. Time to divide my attention between the different sub-groups once more!

48 minutes into the game: Insert a hopefully witty and amusing comment here about what someone in the group is up to. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

54 minutes into the game: You in the corner, yes, you, the quiet one. I see you staring at that very crucial clue and puzzling through it. At least I think you’re puzzling through it because you’ve been staring silently at it for the last five minutes. I have no idea how you’re reasoning it out or whether you’re on the right track. I can only hope.

60 minutes into the game: Hey, you got it! And to think I almost missed it because I was keeping an eye on another duo, who are making decent headway into solving a puzzle they don’t have all the information for yet. I’m debating whether or not to hint that there’s still more to be found, or let them be and hope the two of you don’t get frustrated at the puzzle – or put it down, walk away, and forget about it.

62 minutes into the game: You walked away. Damn. At least you dove straight into another puzzle!

65 minutes into the game: Woohoo! One of your splinter groups completed one of the additional objectives! This is one of the best parts, the reveal and reactions are always great to watch.

70 minutes into the game: I’m mentally estimating how much longer it’ll take you to complete the second objective, here… there’s only 5 minutes left but you’re SO CLOSE.

71 minutes into the game: Why are you wandering around? One of your group members already used that item. They solved the puzzle. Don’t waste your time on it! Go back to the puzzle you put down earlier! Oh wait, you forgot about it. Should I remind you? Or will you get to it given enough time… of which you have very little left.

72 minutes into the game: I caved. You were getting frustrated, and I was getting antsy watching those seconds tick away. Though if you seemed to be the type of group that hated hints, I’d grit my teeth and root for you silently.

73 minutes into the game: YES YOU FOUND THE MISSING PART! But there’s only two minutes left…

73.5 minutes into the game: You’re going down the wrong track, but I don’t want to keep interjecting as I only just gave you a hint a minute and a half ago…

74 minutes into the game: You asked for a hint, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Impeccable sense of timing. And with the smallest of nudges, you’re racing down the right track but there’s only a minute to go!

74.5 minutes into the game: You got the solution but now you need to enter it! Hurry!

74.7 minutes into the game: Noooooo not a typo! My heart’s pounding. I’m worried you can hear it from inside the room, but it’s probably drowned out by the sound of your own!

74.8 minutes into the game: You’re almost there, steady hands now, don’t mess it up…

74.9 minutes into the game: JUST PRESS ENTER AND THEN ESCAPE!

74 minutes and 59 seconds: You escaped! YOU ESCAPED! I’m as excited as you are, but I’m keeping my calm and professional face here so you can celebrate as a group.

Post-game: I always love chatting puzzles and feedback with everyone, and getting your thoughts on the room. Adulation’s awesome, and constructive feedback is priceless. 😉   And if you haven’t found the easter eggs, that’s always fun. Also: photo times! Which I must remember to do, and not get too caught up in our conversation. (Yes, this has happened, and I blame all of you for being such fascinating conversationalists.)

Post-post-game: Time to reset the room for the next group, and go again!

So there you have it. A peek into the world of the games master, and everything that happens on the outside as you’re puzzling your way through the worlds we’ve created. We love watching you solve the puzzles we create just as much as you enjoy playing them! Have you ever wanted to be on the other side of the desk? If you’ve played our rooms, you’re more than welcome to sit in on a session for your friends or family, and perhaps do a little games mastering yourself – just let us know!

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