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School is in Session

… And you thought doing homework was a thing of the past! Ha!

Today we’re taking a look at another of the steps we use at SideQuests to bring our rooms to life: Doing Your Homework. Last month, after a brief overview of all six steps, we took a look at the joys (and possible challenges) of choosing a theme. Unfortunately, the obligation that comes with choosing a theme is coming up with a way to enact it. Thus… research. Research, research, and more research. If you don’t do your homework, you run the risk of creating an escape room with a theme no one can believe. The last thing you want is for the players to enter your escape room only to get the eerie feeling that they’ve stepped into an episode of the Twilight Zone simply because nothing feels right. Unless your theme is actually “Twilight Zone,” in which case that feeling is exactly what you were gunning for.

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Research is important, much like Waddles here, voiced by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Research is important, much like Waddles here, voiced by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

So when I say ‘research,’ do I literally mean ‘research?’ In some cases, yes. Judiciously browse the internet, watch movies, or get a library card (seriously, get a library card. They’re free at the Edmonton Public Library, and they’re good for something like eighty or ninety years. Crazy, right?). Basically the challenge is to become an expert in your chosen theme. Anything you can learn about it, you probably should learn about it.

Planning a room about the Three Musketeers? Probably should know what style of furniture was used in France in that era, because it probably wasn’t IKEA-brand.

Planning a room featuring cavemen? Probably should know what they used to paint cave drawings with, because it probably wasn’t sharpie.

Planning a room set on a historic polar expedition? Probably should know what they used as light sources, because it probably wasn’t fluorescent ceiling lights.

It might sound melodramatic of me to go on like this, insisting that detail matters. Maybe it is. It’s probably very true that the extra little details you put into a room to make it that tiny bit more authentic will go unnoticed by the vast majority of your visitors. However, I can very confidently say that the converse is also true. The little details that don’t belong in the room and break the immersion that tiny bit more will be noticed by more of your visitors than you’d expect. Neon green duct tape on the walls of a medieval throne room? Weird. Power outlets on the pillars of Stonehenge? Strange. Electronic safe behind the painting in the classic Sherlock Holmes’ study? Bizarre. If you really want your room’s theme to be immersive, a glaring oversight in the design or décor can be a fatal blow.

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Don't be like Batman. Do your planning.
Don’t be like Batman. Do your planning.

On a side note: don’t expect to be able to skip this step if you decided on a theme of your own creation! You’re still responsible for faithfulness and accuracy to the theme even if it’s a product of your own imagination! Just like any filmmaker or author, if you create a theme of your own, you have to hash out the details. Decide on your who, what, when, where, why, and hows, and then do yourself a favour by setting some rules to create a structure to work within. It’s very easy for a self-created theme to snowball out of control, and that’s something you really don’t want. Players can easily ‘get’ a theme that follows an existing historic event or location, or a particular clichéd storyline; it’s less easy for them to ‘get’ a completely new one (say, a room set on another planet), especially if there’s no consistency.

In the end, all I can recommend is spending as much time as needed on this particular step in your room design, if for no other reason than saving yourself some backtracking later on in the process. While the choice is yours as to how authentic you want your theme to be, you should also bear in mind that ultimately when you submit your completed escape room homework assignment, it’s the players who will be grading it. An A+ room might need an A+ level of attentiveness to detail!

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Planning can prevent that.
Planning can prevent that.

Completing these first two steps gives you the heart of your escape room – a solid, implementable theme. Join me next time as we talk about the backbone of your room – the puzzles!

Did you enjoy this week’s content? Have a theme in mind you want to see in an escape room? Let us know in the comments below![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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