Virtual Escape Rooms

Posted: Wednesday, May 27 2020

Driven by new social distancing guidelines, virtual escape rooms are exploding. Brick & Mortar concepts are taking their games online as a way to run their businesses during the pandemic and people are playing because they need fun and unique ways to connect with friends, family, and co-workers when they aren’t physically together. While this article was written during the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect the category to continue growing after things return to normal. The Escape Game is planning to offer virtual experiences forever.

There are many Virtual and Online Escape Rooms being offered right now and it can be a little confusing as there are several different concepts within that one larger category. To simplify things, we are breaking virtual escape rooms into 4 main categories.

Couple of things to note before we dive in:

  1. Concepts vary from single-player games (perfect for any puzzle fan looking for a personal challenge) to more interactive experiences best played as a group (think digital date nights, birthday parties, virtual team building, etc.).

  2. Quality of experience varies widely among offerings in each category.

The Four Main Virtual Escape Room Categories

1. Point-And-Click Escape Games
Point-and-click escape games existed before physical escape rooms and were the inspiration for their brick & mortar counterparts. Crimson Room is credited as one of the first. In point-and-click games, the concept is simple: players must escape a room. Players click and drag a POV camera around the space, collecting items and noting clues. Uncovered items and solved puzzles lead to keys and combinations to locks and doors that ultimately lead to escape. Sound familiar?

Point-and-click games are typically single-player games played at the leisure of the player – there’s no time limit or live, real-time guide delivering the experience. You can download many point and click games in the App store or on many popular, free gaming websites.

2. Audio/Narrated Escape Rooms
Think of a choose-your-own-adventure radio show that requires deductive reasoning and real-time problem solving. In audio-only digital escape rooms, a Game Guide introduces a story line and players progress by asking questions and solving puzzles. Most audio/narrated games also include images, maps, and puzzles that fill in some of the gaps. Players are typically encouraged to have pen and paper handy to jot notes and work through puzzles. Most audio narrated games are for 2-8 players and require interaction from the team. Games are often hosted on Zoom, Google Hangouts, Discord, or a similar platform.

3. Live-Camera Escape Rooms
Live-Camera Escape Rooms exploded out of the necessity as COVID-19 closed the doors to brick & mortar businesses around the world, causing escape room companies to scramble for a new way to engage their audience and keep their businesses running. In live-camera escape games, players (usually 2-8) must follow clues and solve puzzles to complete a mission in real time by observing a physical environment via an in-game camera. These games are very similar to in-store escape room experiences, but played entirely online. In most cases, players team up over Zoom or a similar video conferencing platform to progress through the game.

In The Escape Game’s Remote Adventures (our version of a live-camera escape room), players interact with a “Host” at The Escape Game. Think of the host as an MC who joins the team. In addition to that, players view the world through a camera worn by a Game Guide. The Game Guide serves as the team’s eyes, ears, hands, and feet. Items found in the room appear in a themed digital dashboard that maintains your inventory, progress, and 360 scans of each room that’s unlocked. In our games, players can download themed custom Zoom backgrounds and get to watch all of the media/videos that play in the actual game.

Here’s a quote from our Sr. Director of Marketing & Brand following the launch of Remote Adventures:

Remote Adventures are an awesome choice for team building for remote teams and large teams. Hundreds of players can experience a game at the same time and compete. Remote Adventures are a perfect idea for not only team building and digital conferences/events, but also virtual game night, online birthday parties, digital date night, and a lot of other events.

4. Online Mystery Games
These games least resemble traditional escape rooms. Instead of escaping a room, players solve a mystery or assume a role in an adventure. Typically, evidence is provided in a digital folder or “dossier” that’s used in addition to internet exploration to advance through the game.

The Escape Game Unlocked is a great example of an online mystery game. Players log into a digital dashboard where the mission is assigned. In TEG Unlocked: The Heist | Volume 1, the mission is delivered in a video by the character, Intel. Intel is the archetypal tech-savvy member of any cover operation.

Players navigate the dashboard and use clues found on the web and in videos to track down an infamous art thief. Players can save their progress and play over multiple sessions. There’s no time limit and players can log into the dashboard whenever they want.

While these games are often played single-player, others team up to play with friends using video conferencing. Some companies are also using multiplayer applications of online mystery games (specifically, Unlocked) to engage their large or remote teams.

Virtual Escape Rooms continue to evolve, with rapid upgrades during COVID-19. We expect this category to continue to evolve and expand in the future as companies continue to innovate and expand their offerings.