(pictured above: Game Masters Kayla & Lacie, two of the best we've ever had!)
Have you ever wondered what it’s like working at an escape room? Or, maybe you’re a fellow escape room owner trying to figure out how to hire the best staff. Perhaps you noticed the twinkle in your game master’s eye when he was placing you in handcuffs and thought he might be a little bit sadistic? Either way, read on to discover the traits that make up our best and brightest stars. (Exit Game is the biggest and one of the very first escape rooms to open in Los Angeles; our second location just opened in San Diego.)
Gaming today is no joke. Some of us may remember a time when parents would have scoffed at a kid who dreamed of a career in video games. Or maybe they still do? A strong indicator that games are to be taken seriously is that distinguished universities, such as nearby USC, now offer degree programs in game design and development. It may also come as no surprise that those who love gaming also make the best game masters. If you love playing games, you might also enjoy watching others play games. As an escape room employee, you are tasked with introducing newbies to the exciting new world of escape rooms. If you’re passionate about gaming in general, then it’s a very easy sell for you to talk about what you naturally love. Being surrounded by games all day, sometimes it’s hard to imagine that you’re actually at work!
You like to Cosplay/Act & Entertain People
Escape rooms are in the entertainment business. An integral part of entertaining people in escape rooms involves getting into character so that your customers feel immersed in the experience. Disneyland wouldn’t be the same if Mickey Mouse never appeared. Similarly, escape rooms wouldn’t be as much fun without an enthusiastic game master leading you into the game. It is the immersive aspect that separates an escape room from a ride at Disneyland. Every single rider will make it to the end of Space Mountain-- though not all players will finish An Hour to Kill! A skilled game master will set the mood and make the players feel like they are the characters inside the game. If wearing a robe and pretending you’re a wizard sounds like fun, then this might be the perfect job for you. Actors and actresses tend to fit in really well.
Detail Oriented with a Good Memory
Thought it was all fun and games? Well, for the most part, it is. But, working at an escape room involves more than just playing games all day. Game masters who perform best are perfectionists when it comes down to details. And, while a good memory can serve you well for most jobs out there, it is a necessity for an escape room employee. In particular, you’ll need a good memory when it comes to “resetting” a room-- that’s what happens after customers have finished playing. The game master will go into the room that was just played and reset all the clues, hide all the keys, and lock all the locks. Perfectionists are preferred for this position because if anything is out of place, then it could negatively impact the next customer’s experience, and we wouldn’t want that to happen!
In a perfect world, there would be one person to handle each task. That’s the essence of specialization. However, escape rooms don’t operate in a perfect world. At some points in the day it may be super busy, or sometimes it can be slow. This means each game master needs to be prepared for the rush. Some, or all of the following tasks may need to be performed at the same time: picking up the phone, handling a walk-in booking, checking-in customers ready to play, leading-out customers who have finished playing, monitoring customers inside of an existing game, giving hints, and resetting rooms. Each member of our staff is trained to do everything. Those who can multitask will thrive in this environment. Consequently, those who do poorly at multitasking will probably fail.
Good with Computers, Apps, and Technology
You don’t need to be an expert, but familiarity with “the cloud” and programs like Google Drive and Google Docs is a plus, because we use those at Exit Game. You’ll be using iPads and laptops and a cloud-based booking system (Bookeo). While these are easy to learn, your training will go much faster if you are already tech-savvy. The majority of our escape room games are run by computers, and, we also have two VR stations in the lobby which use PC’s to run the games. Operating these games will require some working knowledge of Windows-based systems. You don’t need to be a software developer, but quick learners are preferred.
Excellent Customer Service Skills
Although we’d like to believe that empathy can be taught, it seems more likely that in the real world, people either have it or they don’t. And, empathy is what it takes to be great at customer service. It helps you speak with more tact, especially when you have to deliver bad news. For example, we are very strict on our starting time policy, which is why we advise all customers to show up at least 10 to 15 minutes early. Your game time starts when it is supposed to start whether or not you arrive on time or 10 minutes behind. So if you do happen to be 10 minutes late, then you’ll only have 50 minutes to play. Unfortunately for game masters, sometimes it is their job to deliver this bad news. It is very similar to a movie-- where if you show up late, they’re not going to rewind the movie just so those who arrived late can see the beginning. There’s also people waiting in line to “see the next show,” so to speak. The better you are at explaining this, the more likely you are to retain a happy (or at least understanding) customer. The last thing you want to do is piss someone off because of the way you deliver bad news. Speaking with a smile on your face can go a long way!
Loves to Smile
It might seem obvious, but for any customer-facing business, it really helps to smile. Numerous studies have shown that smiling is contagious. Psychology Today also suggests that “smiling makes you seem courteous, likable, and competent.” Since we are in the business of entertaining people, we like all of those things. We knew there was a good reason that Disneyland paints a permanent “smile” on Mickey’s face!
Can you tell when players are completely lost and will waste too much of their precious time before asking for a hint? Can you judge if it is a good idea to go in and help the customer even if they haven’t asked for a hint yet? Sometimes stubborn customers may get mad because they didn’t ask for help… however, some lost souls will be very grateful. A strong intuition will improve your ability to manage their game experience and ensure that they have a great time.
Sometimes (more often than we would like), things get misplaced. Let’s be honest-- sometimes customers take keys home with them. It may take us a while to figure out that the key (or prop) is not only missing, but nowhere to be found in the room. And, to make matters worse, there is another party lined up waiting to play that same game in a few minutes. With an integral part of the game missing, what do you do? Fortunately, we have solutions to the most common problems that might arise. The first step is to STAY CALM. Sometimes this is difficult when you’ve just frantically searched a room up and down only to find out that a key is completely missing. But, being an escape room, we always have extra keys and locks in storage. You just have to act quickly and efficiently to switch both the lock AND the key that is missing, otherwise the game will not function properly going forward. You should also inform your team members and manager, so that the new key can be copied (for spares) and your coworkers will know that a new key/lock combo is being utilized for that particular game. Easier said than done when it’s a super busy Saturday afternoon and the phone is ringing off the hook too!
As a game master, one of the areas where you can let your creativity shine is when you give hints to customers. Inevitably, most players will require one or more hints to escape the room in under one hour. However, people have more fun when they figure stuff out on their own. Let’s say, for example, there is a key under a rock (we have no keys under rocks FYI) but the players have not yet found it, and they hit the hint button to ask for help. You’re the game master, and you know the key is under the rock. Instead of saying, “hey, the key is under the rock,” you might say something like “have you picked up everything in the room?” This way you give a more subtle hint that helps the players progress, but they still get the satisfaction of having solved the puzzle on their own. The more creative you are in giving hints, the more fun your customers will have.
Enjoy having an easy & flexible job
Game masters with most of the qualities listed above tend to think working at an escape room is a very easy job. Resetting a room actually becomes easier and easier with repetition. Within a couple months, you will have the rooms memorized so resetting all the clues become second nature. It’s sort of like the multiplication table-- where it first seemed really daunting, but now you don’t really have to think twice when someone asks you 5x5. Escape rooms are busiest on nights and weekends, so the job tends to attract a lot of students looking for part time jobs. It works well for them because they can start their shift after class on the weekdays, or on the weekends when they don’t have class. The game master position is also good for people looking to make some extra money just on the weekends.
We hope this article enlightens you about the escape room industry! If you feel like the game master position is perfect for you (or someone you know), please send us a message through our contact page, or share this article!