Supreme GM Speaks: Accents, When Your Voice is All You Have
Whether you're confused by your game master's sudden change of voice and tone or impressed by their skillful use of a specific dialect, this blog post is for you! Accents are an important part of game master characterization, especially when their communication with you is limited to a voice-only medium.
All stories must have a beginning, and for both The Escapery and my path as Supreme Game Master, that beginning was Destiny. Destiny was the first escape game designed by Escapery owner Marc Simmons, and even now, two years later, it remains a solid and beloved part of our company. Built when the employees numbered in the single digits, the game is largely mechanical and analog in style. It is also the foundation upon which our unique style of being a Game Master has been built.
The game's story revolves around a relic known as the Spear of Destiny - the spear mentioned in the Bible that pierced the side of the crucified Jesus. This relic is said to possess a unique power to grant victory in combat to whoever holds it. The KGB believe they have the legendary Spear, but are frustrated by their inability to open its containing box. They have hired Dr. Pierre Freeman - a brilliant archaeologist with questionable scruples - to open the box and unleash the coveted artifact.
Enter Dr. Illinois Smith. Dr. Smith, a former student of Dr. Freeman's turned righteous nemesis, has hired a small team of operatives to break into the evil professor’s office and steal the Spear of Destiny. In Destiny, participants play as that small team, using Dr. Smith’s distraction to buy them an hour of time to retrieve the Spear. The Game Master's character is a special agent (possibly MI6, possibly some other agency) hired by Dr. Smith to assist the team by hacking into a closed-circuit camera system in Dr. Freeman’s office and providing guidance on the obstacles they may face.
For our first year of business, Destiny was our only room, and I was only the fifth Game Master to be hired. Training to run Destiny was mostly about memorizing padlock combinations and riddle solutions and observing my predecessors. There were code names: Agent Periwinkle, Agent Emerald, Agent Topaz, etc :but for the most part it was just a name, no further character development. There was only one exception.
One Game Master portrayed his Destiny character, Agent Periwinkle, as having a British accent. Throughout the game, David Ian (playing as "Agent Periwinkle") would offer hints through the lens of having researched Dr. Freeman’s life and career. I thought this was amazing, and that it really lent authenticity to the game. Rather than just being an all-seeing, all-knowing disembodied voice, Agent Periwinkle was an actual person on the other end of a radio. Genius!
A fundamental building block for my own character, Agent Amethyst, has always been the accent. While perhaps not the most challenging to pull off, a convincing British accent does take a bit of finesse. For one, even the term “British accent” (or “English accent”) is misleading. Consider the USA! Within our borders, English speakers boast everything from a deep Southern drawl to casual California surfer speak and New England cabbie to Midwestern soccer mom, "Don’tcha know?!" In much the same way, depending on geographical region and even social standing, there are different “dialects” to the British accent, and while the average American may not notice, your Escapery Game Masters are out to impress even our guests from the UK (And we've had many!)
In my own case, the life-saver here was Monty Python. In what should probably be a shock to absolutely no one, this geek has been a life-long Monty Python fan, and learning to quote many of their skits verbatim has given me plenty of practice with various accents. Selecting a fairly subtle, average cockney accent that wouldn’t stand out too much, I formed the voice of Agent Amethyst.
When Voice Is All You've Got
Crafting a character for Destiny really ends at your voice. Since players never directly interact with their game master (only communicating over radio), we must play a believable character using only our voices. Since I took the reins of training, I have placed a bit more emphasis on developing characters, and all of our subsequent rooms have also been designed with more character interaction built in.
Between the accent and the implication of years of research on the story's villain, our Destiny characters are just as important to flesh out as any of the others. So, to this day, Escapery Game Masters look at Destiny as an exercise in putting on a fun voice and pretending to be someone else for a while. It’s even more fun when our guests get caught up in the game and play along.
So whether it’s Agent Amethyst, Agent Jade, Agent Emerald, or any of the other colorful characters we’ve created, we try our hardest to make sure we are more than just a voice on the other end of the walkie-talkie. If you haven’t yet played Destiny, I encourage you to give it a shot; when you do, let yourself get lost in the story a bit, and don’t be shy about bantering with your Game Master, especially if you're clever enough to call us by our agent names.
Agent Amethyst out.