The Supreme GM Speaks: Game Master Characterization
It’s fair to say that the Atlanta area does not suffer from a lack of escape rooms. That means that in order to really stand out among the crowd, one must offer something unique. For The Escapery, it’s more than just designing original rooms and building incredible props. Our Game Masters (GMs for short) provide the special sauce that helps make playing an Escapery escape game an immersive experience. Not that the idea of a GM is itself unique - if you play an escape game anywhere, there will be a Game Master watching. But rather, how we as Escapery GMs present the players with an individualized character.
This may not seem like much, but we like presenting the premise and rules of our games in person rather than using a video. This means that, when you play one of our games, you aren’t just getting a rote list of do’s and don’ts. You’re MEETING A CHARACTER that has been crafted personally by the Game Master and is now standing before you. We spend time and effort giving you more than just a name - there are personalities and even backstories to these GM characters.
The Ultimate Balancing Act
Now, this is actually a careful balancing act for us. On the one hand, we are not intended to be the stars of the escape rooms. People do not play our rooms only to see how we’re going to interact with them.
On the other hand, it is undeniable that our personal touch on running the games is a major factor in their popularity. We know this not only because our most popular game - Ripper - is also the one with the most GM interaction, but also because people tell us how much they loved our roles in the game. It’s left on reviews and sometimes even told to our faces. So, we must be engaging and memorable while also knowing when it’s time to get out of the way.
The NPC of Escape Rooms
There is a very common acronym in the gaming world: NPC. It stands for “Non Player Character”. It refers to characters in video games or tabletop role-playing games who are not controlled by the person(s) playing the game, but rather by AI or a Game Master. At The Escapery, we recognize and embrace our place as NPCs, so that you can enjoy your role as the protagonist of your game.
We don’t do this because it’s a mandate from the owners. We do this because we love making your experience as fun for YOU as it is for us. And it is fun for us! In many ways, being a Game Master is like improvisational acting. Well, improv acting with a bit more preparation. We do have the luxury of knowing the answers to all the puzzles, but figuring out how to deliver clues to you, the players, must go through a lens of the character we are playing.
This is actually the introduction to a series I will be writing about how we develop our characters at The Escapery, using my own characters and creative processes to demonstrate how much goes into something that rarely gets noticed. It’s my hope that by the end of the series, you will understand the work that happens behind the scenes to provide you with that fun, immersive experience that makes The Escapery special... and maybe get a few laughs along the way at me being a tremendous nerd.
Why Ando? Why his characters?
As the Supreme Game Master, it is part of my job to train our game masters on the finer points of getting into character. As I have been working here since July of 2016, I have seen most of Destiny’s lifespan, and all of our other rooms from infancy. Ever since the design of Silo, I have also had direct input into the development of the framework for the GM characters. Basically, I help develop the template of the character (“Undercover CIA Special Agent”, for example), and then each Game Master individually comes up with a name and more specific background details, accents, quirks, and so on.
I enjoy helping craft the seed of the character, because I have always loved creative writing; I also enjoy setting the early examples of playing the character, because I have always loved acting, and am not at all above being goofy for the sake of a good laugh. I pour myself into my roles with gusto, and probably have spent more time thinking about the origin stories of fictional characters - stories that I never assumed anyone would hear - than you would expect. That blend of acting and role-playing gaming is my comfort zone.
So, join me as I pull back the curtain a bit on what goes on here when you’re not around. We will be exploring the process of creating memorable characters, and how each new room presents a challenge we must grow to meet.
And if you have ever played a game with me as your Game Master, you might just learn a bit more about the character I played.