Why I don’t like the title of Game Master

I would be lying if I were to say that this is the first Americanism that I have rejected. Another red line in my lexical ledger so to speak. We’ll simply add it to the pile of redacted words– alongside ‘sidewalk,’ eye glasses,’ and ‘color.’ Throughout one’s day-to-day working escapade in an escape room, you may be bestowed with this honourary ‘Game Master’ title by the occassional customer. Alternatives include:

  • Clue Master
  • Escape Master
  • The High Lord Commander of Clues (probably)

But here, at Paradox Parlours, I am a Games Host. A bellboy of brainteasers, a concierge of conundrums, an envoy of escapism. In short, our job title does not exude the same authoritative twang as ‘Game Master.’ The latter implies that we (the hosts) revel in a regimented control over our players and games, that we are in some way capricious spindlers of a fateful game that customers attempt at their own risk. In truth, the job really is the opposite. Whether it be a birthday, a hen party, or a we-just-wanted-to-try-something-new-and-get-out-of-the-house-party, the Games Host must make that occassion a special one.

From the first greeting of prospective players to the congratulatory debrief on an successful escape, the Host channels a unique enthusiasm. Upon entry, the Host relaxes the incoming team with ice-breaking conversation that chips away at any lingering first-game nerves. What follows, the top tips on how one approaches an escape room, carries a familiar warmth. Explaining the theme or STORY of the room, whether it be a case to find a missing gun or resetting a rogue A.I trying to overthrow humanity, is the customer’s first immersion in the game. Emphasising the mission (should they choose to accept it) adds to the excitement. If a Games Host were to especially higlight the guests’ roles in the story, say as a detective or engineer, such boosts a player’s stake and investment in play– that collective winning mentality.

You have the story and the escape room, yet the Games Host ensures that neither is fixed and non-changing. Customising the experience to suit the customer is the trait of the Host, whilst a stern rigidity is the tool of the Master. Perhaps you have greeted the first half of a hen party that have double booked two rooms. The Games Host provides the tips, gives the story, yet will also offer to keep the cake in the staff fridge, or secretly hide the hen party t-shirts amongst other items in the escape room. The Games Host will lead the team up to the room, and successfully clue throughout the game, yet they may also sneak in a personalised birthday message or refer to the player by name during the experience.

To be the Games Host is to consider the above and make a truly one-of-a-kind experience. A 5-star experience does not start when the 60 minute timer begins, but every moment before and after. I am not a Game Master, nor will I claim mastery over my players and their experience. I am the humble host to my guests of escape artistry.