What makes a Game Master a true master?
A game master is a person who organizes and oversees a role-playing game, in particular by narrating the details of the story that are not controlled by the players. (Google’s English dictionary)
It is also crucial for a game master to maintain a positive atmosphere, which at the same time corresponds with the theme of the game, throughout the whole process – from the moment the learners (also participants) enter the Escape Room until they leave. Language, voice, intonation, and humor are used as tools to maintain the appropriate atmosphere and level of interest during the game.
Being a good game master is a challenge akin to being a good teacher or corporate trainer. The best teachers allow students to engage with problems, explore, discover, and learn by themselves, and intervene only when it is necessary, to avoid students becoming overly frustrated. It is an important skill to be able to assess the situation and know when to intervene, and when not to. In the case of educational Escape Rooms, the game master usually is a teacher who knows their students, learning goals and is better aware of the situation.
When it comes to running an Escape Room, for example, attentiveness and flexibility are key. A good game master needs to understand when players need a hint and when they need to be left alone to continue to work, as it is very frustrating for players to be on the cusp of a breakthrough and then to have that moment taken away by a poorly-timed hint.
The methods for distributing hints vary widely most of the time, this is because the game masters are monitoring the players and will offer suggestions when the game master deems it appropriate. The most common hint strategy is that players request hints as they need them. This may be done with a buzzer or a knock to request the game master to come into the room, could be done through a walkie-talkie or microphones in the room, or could be done digitally via a computer. For more information on the hints-see grain 20.
The game master’s job is to:
Present the game and brief the participants regarding the theme, idea, rules, contents, and possible outcomes of the game. Escape rooms put participants under some degree of pressure, which is why a game master is so important when it comes to preparing the participants for the game, organizing, monitoring, and directing. A game master is also responsible for answering participants questions thoroughly.
Instruct the players about safety instructions; It is a game master’s responsibility to know the safety protocols and provide a health and safety briefing for the participants before the game, to ensure that all participants are aware of possible hazards, risks, – and the conditions of the game-environment.
Explain or provide a quick overview of how locks and ciphers used in the game work. This must be done without revealing solutions for escaping the game room.
Introduce monitoring and discuss giving hints; A game master should explain the manner in which the participants are monitored during the game, as well as what kind of hints they will be able to receive, in what situations, and through which channels they will receive them.
Ensure that all players have a fair experience; A game master must manage the game in a way that is as fair, reasonable and inclusive towards all participants as much as possible – everybody should have a fair chance at solving the game puzzles and winning the game.
Ensure that the physical puzzles function as planned; It is a game master’s responsibility to check, double-check and make sure that all the physical pieces, props and puzzles are functional and without defects that can cause a breakdown in the game. A thorough check should be done before each game session.
Provide help to the players when they are stuck or frustrated. An educational Escape Room game master has to ensure that all the students have a good experience while they’re in the room, therefore the game master must be oriented towards providing an enjoyable, fair, and smooth experience for all participants. This should be done by monitoring and assessing the situation, understanding when to intervene and give hints, and when not to do so.
Make sure the players do not damage the room, equipment, puzzles, and other players. This is either done through monitoring the players via video and/or being in the room to with the players. The game master must have a contingency plan in case of an emergency during the game. Example: When an educational Escape Room was designed in the Fire Department to teach students how to deal with a fire, a game master dressed in a firefighter protective suit stayed in the room as a live statue to monitor the game among expensive equipment of the department!
To conclude, the most significant role of the game master is loving and caring for the Escape Room, showing excitement about this creation to all the participants and taking them along to experience that exciting, pleasant, memorable and meaningful learning. Being a game master in an educational Escape Room very often means being an educator who created the game, so the most important task of the game master is easily manageable.