Escape Room Hints – An Escape Room Games Host Perspective

What are escape room hints?

Escape room hints or clues are available in the majority of escape rooms. These can sometimes be delivered via a screen in the room, over a radio or any other ingenious method. They will provide players with a prompt to help them overcome a puzzle and progress the story!

What part does a Games Host play?

A Games Host or Games Master is a staff member who handles the group’s visit. They will provide a safety brief in advance of the game start and then oversee (Often via CCTV) the group’s time in a room. At Prodigy we have a dedicated game host that covers all interactions to build rapport with the group throughout. At other venues, you may have separate people covering these roles.

What does the Games Host hope to achieve?

The Games Host aims to make your visit as enjoyable as possible. They want to make sure that you’re able to get through the room. They are there to offer support and explanation to anything in the room that players may struggle with. Groups have wildly varying levels of experience. A Games Host will aim to provide the best experience regardless of if the group is new to escape rooms or seasoned pros. At Prodigy our objective is to create a sense of achievement so that groups can experience a genuine feeling of success. To achieve this our hosts will always strive to let the groups complete the puzzle

A dedicated games host enables us to keep pace with the group. We can listen to what has been discussed and tried. If a hint is required we can ask questions based on things the group may have discussed to elaborate on a train of thought.

Is failing a room an option

There is always the risk of failing a room but this has a massive risk. Escape rooms are a new concept for many. Despite starting several years after multiple escape rooms had operated in the city we were surprised by how few escape rooms people have completed. 40% of our visitors are trying an escape room for the first time. 45% have done less than 5 escape rooms before. We have found that the main factor in succeeding at an escape room comes largely down to experience.

As a new industry, there is a risk that players may not return if their first experience is negative. I have met so many people who tried an escape room only to feel silly if didn’t complete it. Escape rooms are not a test of academic ability. They are a form of entertainment and immersive storytelling. As Escape room operators we have a responsibility to foster intuitive and fun experiences rather than convoluted nonsense.

Arriving at an answer

If we were to just convey the answer we deprive the group of the feeling of success. A bad escape room would typically provide the answer immediately or simply instruct the group on what they need to do. Whilst this can sometimes need to occur to allow a group to complete on time it should only ever be used as a last resort.

Soft Hints or Hard Hints

As a Games Host, we can personalise the hints that we provide. This will be taking into account things that would have been discussed or tried in the room. We have found this is only possible by having a Games Host dedicated to the game.

A soft hint would be a gentle prompt to focus the group in a particular direction. If the group is still unable to complete the puzzle they may have to elaborate further with a hard hint. They may even try to instruct a group on how to achieve something directly. If a Hard hint is unsuccessful the Games Host may consider whether to enter the room to provide visual instruction. While this approach sadly does break immersion it does allow groups to understand the puzzle. We would prefer for the group to achieve the puzzle rather than fail over a single puzzle which is misunderstood.

The downside to providing a solution without understanding the puzzle gives the impression that the puzzle is not fair or achievable. In our view this is a far worse outcome. This would only be considered as a last resort.

Timing is everything

As a Games Host we have conflicting time pressures. There is how long a group has spent on a particular puzzle. Raised voices, sighs and general frustration are signs that a group is not enjoying themselves. This can be a prompt that it is time to progress from that puzzle. The second time pressure is keeping pace with the game. Whilst a group will be encountering a room for the first time the Games Host is familiar with running that room. The Games Host may have hundreds and maybe thousands of games experience. They will have an awareness of how long each puzzle is likely to take. They will also have an understanding of how your group is finding different type of puzzles. Because of this, they may provide hints earlier or later depending on your experience progression.

With groups paying for an hour in the room, the Games Host will be aiming to provide good value to the group. They will be calling on their experience to try and aim for groups to complete between the 55-59 minute mark. At Prodigy we log all puzzle completion times. This allows the host to see details of the fastest, slowest and average time taken for each puzzle depending on the team size and type. This enables us to best understand how a group is progressing. If a group is ahead of time then the games host will not proactively provide hints unless the group is showing visible signs of frustration.

There is also the element of pacing. Taking too long to provide a hint earlier in the game could cause the group to fall behind. This will lead to less available time to work on future puzzles. Because of this, the Games Host may have to decide to use hard hints rather than soft hints sooner. This can be avoided by hinting at appropriate times earlier in the game.

Let the Games Host use their experience

As a Games Host few encounters are more frustrating than a group who asks for no hints. Whilst we can understand that there may have been bad experiences we believe that venues should be judged based on their ability to run games. Few things are harder to experience than a group getting frustrated & falling behind time without being able to do anything about it.

Give Feedback

Don’t be afraid to talk about hints with your games host. A Games Host should always be receptive to getting feedback or provide an explanation to their decision if it was felt a hint was given too early or lacked any information. They’d far rather discuss something with you rather than left with anything unresolved.

Escape rook hints
Games Hosts know a thing or two about escape room hints

Read more about our escape room adventures here.