There may be less distinguishing the world of escape rooms from the world of coin-operated arcade games than appears at first glance, at least if you can stretch to accepting partial manual operation of the games, and if you can consider notes to be fungible to lots and lots of coins. (Isn’t there at least one game that claims to be completely free of manual operation? The line there must surely be less distinct still.) It’s almost an application of the reverse of “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic“. This thought was inspired by Tim Hunkin on running an amusement arcade, albeit one like no other.
Part of the reason that I feel happier blogging at Ex Exit Games than at Exit Games UK is that the number of UK games has gone remarkably quickly from 50 to 80 to 109 to a-hundred-and-I-dread-to-think. As it has done so, I feel less and less comfortable with any sort of viewpoint that could be taken as a recommendation without increasing – and already considerable – amounts of qualification that people plan to try to make their living from the industry. People still can, and still will, beat the odds, but the odds are increasingly not in your favour. (Seattle’s Puzzle Break‘s Nate Martin has a really good – and nuanced – take on the effect of competition between sites.) Every game that starts, struggles and folds is a disappointment from the player’s perspective, but a tragedy from the proprietor’s perspective.
About six months ago, I heard a cracking quote that has stuck with me. Naomi Alderman quoted her Mum on the excellent The Cultures podcast (episode 126-ish) saying words to the effect of “Almost nobody can make a full living just from making and selling their art, but almost anyone who wants to can make a life in and around the art form that they love.”
Can escape rooms be art? Can escape rooms, like coin-operated games, be considered more-effectively-monetised-than-most forms of art? I’ll leave the distinction between art and craft, and where escape rooms might fit into the spectrum, to people who have a clue what the hell they’re on about concerning the topic. Not me!
Nevertheless, I wonder if there’s merit in considering creating and operating your own escape room to be, first and foremost, an artistic job? (The second half of the quote might refer to working on someone else’s escape room… or whatever escape-room-like game business might come to follow in the years to come.) What sorts of artistic jobs that have existed for decades, or longer, might offer lessons to proprietors of escape rooms?