Jamming the odds and ends in

Jars of jam

Right behind these lovely-looking jars of jam is a jar of game jam. (Maybe it’s more of a preserve.) Specifically, it’s the Escape Room Game Jam held at MIT, probably the world’s coolest university, in the Boston area this weekend. It’s organised by the MIT Game Lab in affiliation with Red Bull; the link is clearer when it becomes available that teams will be creating escape room content “escape room based around a moment in a upcoming film”, with the film being DxM, the “second project from Red Bull Media House’s recently launched feature film division CineMater“. The boffo Variety magazine calls the film a “high-octane thriller based around the possibilities of quantum mechanics“. Sounds cool, though it’s not possible to measure precisely how cool without changing how cool it is.

This whole Game Jam is really exciting, not least because of the articles it has already generated. One of the co-writers and producer of the film, Joanne Reay, writes that “the next generation of Escape Room will offer a compelling narrative in which an understanding of the story-world delivers an added advantage and insight into the solving of the clues“. Quite possibly so; this site doesn’t believe there is a single future for exit games, but this definitely sounds like part of the future and one that a great many players would surely appreciate in their games. If it’s an aspect that is to be emphasised in this particular Game Jam then the results will be enticing indeed.

Additionally – and this is particularly interesting – Konstantin Mitgutsch, Affiliate Researcher at the MIT Game Lab, writes, advancing the state of the art, on the topic of turning escaping from exit games into a competitive sport. There’s definitely scope for expansion in at least a couple of ways here: first, how might these general principles be applied to other sorts of puzzle-based live adventures; second, how might Escape Room Malaysia’s Escape Run 2014 event compare in practice to the theory? (Are there any other events that might be compared? This site can’t think of any, but you may well know better…) Certainly if you were an operator thinking of running something yourself in the future, there’s the theory to consider.

The speakers at the Game Jam have remarkable sets of qualifications; the same page suggests that the event is set to be filmed. The designs produced are set to be released under a Creative Commons licence; hopefully, the filming will extend to the speakers and their talks will be released as well. If the content released does go on to be used in a pop-up game supporting DxM, then Red Bull will have probably done quite well in terms of getting considerable development expertise at the cost of enabling a single Game Jam – but the Game Jam material’s release will mean that the world at large will have done well from it too, and gratitude should be given to Red Bull and the MIT Game Lab for that.

A couple of other odds and ends outstanding: thank you to everybody who made a submission to the site survey released to celebrate its first birthday. There were more than twice as many responses as there were for the previous such survey (after a hundred posts) and it represents greater commitment to go and fill in a survey on another site, so this does represent progress. Particular thanks to those who offered additional commentary in the text box section, which will not be addressed here, but the responses were very much appreciated.

  • About a quarter of respondents are in the exit game business and another quarter have their own blog on the topic, so the proportion of “pure players” is just under a half. The suggests that no matter how many people visit the site just for the big map at the top and to find a site location, it takes quite a degree of commitment to scroll further down and read the blog articles, let alone respond to the poll.
  • Nearly 60% are more interested in exit game posts than anything else, nearly 30% are more interested in puzzle hunt posts than anything else, with some clicking both and some neither, which is fine; plenty of reason to keep things varied, but good to get such a clear indication of what you think the main attraction is.
  • The geographic questions were not so well-designed on this site’s part, but it looks like nearly a quarter of respondents are from Greater London, nearly a quarter from the North-West of England, just under 20% from the UK or Ireland but outside both hubs and just over a third from outside the UK and Ireland.

Finally, this site has captured a second quarterly set of live price data towards producing an estimated exit game inflation rate, and with rather a better idea than it had three months ago about what should be in the basket. Still far too early to attempt to quote a meaningful inflation rate, though, but the general trends based on very few data points are that London launch prices are varying at both the high and low ends compared to prior practice, and provincial launch prices are trending slightly lower.

Introducing the Exit Games UK inflation rate

Inflation rate graphIt is unclear whether increased competition is dragging the price of playing exit games down, or whether exit game suppliers are facing higher charges and being required to pass them on to consumers in turn. Somebody should track this, and this site doesn’t see anybody else doing so.

The principle behind the tracker aims to emulate the calculation processes behind the actual inflation calculation process. This site will establish a basket of exit game prices, then measure this basket periodically to establish whether there has been a trend in price changes. It may well be that there is no change for a period of several months, so do not expect especially frequent updates. As a policy decision, this basket will consider only UK prices, though will attempt to represent prices from all over the UK; a separate Irish basket may follow in time. (More specific baskets could also be possible – perhaps a Scottish basket or a London basket. These will not be considered in the first instance.)

Now individual exit games do come and will eventually go – hopefully, very, very eventually. Accordingly, it may not be the most appropriate measure to strictly define the basket in terms of specific games that are set in stone forever; a more specific example of a basket item might be “a 4-player game at an established popular site in London, during the afternoon at a weekend, booked 2-3 weeks in advance, not taking advantage of offers”. The identity of the site this refers to will be consistent as far as possible but is not necessarily set in stone forever – indeed, some basket items will deliberately change relatively frequently. For instance, some players delight in trying the latest new site, and this aspect of the experience should be considered, but new sites do not remain new forever! You will forgive this site for not identifying the specific games used.

There are many ways in which exit games and the prices they charge can be categorised: the game might be popular or less popular, the game might be in specific cities (or a generic provincial city, or a generic provincial town), the game might be established or new, the price might refer to a weekday or a weekend, the price might differ if it applies to evening play or afternoon play, the price might differ if it is booked in advance, the price might differ if an offer is used, and the most notable way in which a price will vary depends on the number of players in the team.

Accordingly, the basket considers a variety of team sizes, and uses data from photos of teams posted online (making the reasonable-seeming assumption that they are adequately representative…) to reasonably properly weight different team sizes according to how frequent they seem to be in real life, bearing in mind that some sites cater for larger teams than others – and, indeed, some sites have rooms that deliberately cater for teams of different sizes. Similarly, the basket attempts to reflect the perceived relative popularity of the various options in each categorisation.

This can only be an introduction to the principle, as this site has captured its first average price of basket items. There is no inflation rate to announce as there is no previous data to compare against. However, the next time this site captures the average price, an extremely preliminary inflation rate estimate would be possible.