With anxious, bated breath while the clock ticks on, you enter the final inputs, carefully calculated by your colleague. Then, with a celebratory chime and a flash of light, you're rewarded with a display of fireworks that reinforces your team's pride—your mission is complete. You've made it out of the escape room!

Few things are like these final moments and the exhilaration of finding the last piece of the puzzle with your teammates.

Although escape rooms have always been a compelling flavor of team building, the pandemic made them inaccessible for quite some time. Leaders and creators in this medium needed to figure out how to transform their experiences so players could enjoy them in a world of social distancing and remote working.

As an escape room creator of four years (and a video game player for dozens), I felt it necessary to crack that code. I needed to pivot—not just to keep my creations alive—but to help provide that valuable collaborative connection we all needed more than ever during the pandemic.

Designing a digital escape room

Just as with in-person games, when designing for engaging online play, thinking about the player experience was a top priority. However, certain givens in a physical game aren't as immediately accessible in virtual event production. So I felt it key to go the extra mile to simulate or improve on that.

Players could no longer walk through the physical space of the room, so giving a comprehensive view of the game environment was essential. We achieved this by using functions like 360-degree photos and close-up images of key props, locks, and items.

We knew experienced teams typically assembled available props or works-in-progress in a central location. Therefore, we needed to build an inventory screen that amassed everything being collected by the group.

Some puzzles or set elements couldn't be easily adapted for the virtual space (gravity doesn't work too well on pixels on a screen!). So occasionally, even core game elements needed changing.

The response to virtual escape rooms

It's heartwarming to hear how something you've created can bring joy and connection to people. This testimonial says it all:

"This was a wonderful event for our employees. We rarely have an opportunity these days to spend time outside of our normal duties to interact. Often, we don't know about the hidden talents the person in the cubicle next to us may have. By collaborating in this way, we got to know each other better, share in the excitement, and create an opportunity for continued fellowship."

Tips for your first virtual escape room

Man smiling at computer during digital escape room

Here are a few tips for any teams, businesses, friends, or families exploring a digital escape room for the first time:

  1. Keep your mic on and talk about what you're finding, working on, or looking for. Escape rooms are about exercising communication and teamwork to solve challenges. Someone may very well come upon the key to someone else's lock, but that doesn't help if they aren't sharing the information.
  2. Stay organized and make each other aware of what's been solved. You don't want to re-use old clues, so letting your team know what was used can help people refocus on what's still left. In my virtual escape rooms, I provide players with a lock list and an inventory that's updated in real-time. That's not something you get in a physical room!
  3. Ask for clues if you feel like your team's walking around in circles. Game creators want you to see and enjoy the full game experience, so it's better to get the help you need so you can move onto the next exciting puzzle or challenge. In my experience, asking for one clue equals roughly 3-5 minutes of thinking time, so don't be afraid to ask and save yourself time.

Who are virtual escape rooms good for?

Coworkers talking together on Zoom

Virtual escape rooms are great for getting teams to work together in a fun environment and are the very behaviors that encourage collaborative relationships in the workplace and at home.

You can choose from several virtual escape room options through Yaymaker, among many other activities that serve groups across all time zones and geographies.

Get ready to unlock your virtual escape room adventure with Yaymaker today!

Written by Yaymaker Host & Escape Room Creator, Jayson Mamaclay