For the first time ever I think I’ve got a genuine Mechanics Monday (based on the original definition)! But I’ll let you be the judge.
All escape games include both a clock and a hint system of some kind (sometimes one and the same). The way it is implemented varies from operator to operator, and includes VDUs, walkie-talkies, notes being slid under the door, and the grossly unpopular ‘invite the gamemaster into the room to help you’. The common factor in all these systems is that they’re seen as part of the facility, not part of the room. My question is why aren’t they built into the theme and/or story of each individual game?
Let’s think about theme first. If you’re in a top secret research centre or on a spaceship (futuristic zone) it would make sense to have computer screens that could relay the information without breaking the mood. But if you’re in a castle (medieval) or pharaoh’s tomb (aztec) then computers haven’t been invented yet, so your time should be kept by an hourglass, and maybe hints are given on paper (or audibly, by ‘the gods’). If you’re a police detective obviously you’d have been given a walkie-talkie that might have a clock on it (or there could be a normal clock (as opposed to a timer) conveniently in the room). If you’re a spy presumably you’d have some sort of secret in-ear device (or the hygienic version thereof) and your gadget-watch. The point is there’s no anachronisms or solecisms that break the beautiful aesthetic of your room.
Story is a bit more challenging, but I think still possible. If you’re a spy then some new intel can come to light which your handler is relaying. If you’re a detective the Chief or colleague can pass on their recent discovery. If you’re locked in a room by a rogue AI someone may be trying to ‘hack in’ to provide you with guidance (with appropriate static/disturbance to boot). If you’re a prisoner the wily old inmate can be looking out for you and passing notes.
And of course there’s no reason it couldn’t be both.
As with most things, there’s slightly more onus on the gamemaster to play in character, but surely nothing more challenging than being nice to a customer you don’t like. And I think the added immersion would be more than worth it.
Would you like to see the clock and hint system built into the theme, or are you happy with them as a reminder of the outside world?