Back in June
2021, I played an online room with some escape room enthusiast friends of mine
from Australia and New Zealand. This was a first for me - it was an audio
escape room experience. The "room" is called Commune with
Nature and it was designed by Scott Weiss, a puzzle enthusiast, Jeopardy winner
and an Associate Professor of Computer Science based in Maryland, USA. It was my 188th escape room experience.
For those of you who aren't aware of audio escape rooms, they reminded me of a text adventure game from the 1990s (only in audio format). For those of you old enough to remember, text based adventure games had no graphics - they simply explained the scene to players wholly by text (something like "you have walked into a large cave, with doors to the left and right, a large chest in the middle of the floor and a lamp on the chest". It was then a matter for the player to decide what to do, which they did by typing in "open the door on the left", etc. It was all pretty primitive, but strangely immersive and addictive.
Audio escape rooms have a similar sense of immersion (and addictiveness), but the main parallel with text-based adventure games is that there are no visuals (other than from time to time some visual aids). So much is left to the player's imagination. Many of you will have heard of Escape This Podcast, which is ran by Dani Siller and Bill Sunderland. Dani and Bill have been designing audio escape rooms for some time and are now in their 10th season. You can listen to their podcast where they take players through their audio escape rooms and you can even download the notes and visual aids from each room and host you rown audio escape room with your friends. You can (and really should!) check them out here. https://www.escapethispodcast.com/
At the time that I played Commune with Nature, I had never tried an audio escape room. So I really didn't know what to expect. Scott, our host, begins by explaining the room layout and various things in the room that we might want to investigate further. He was live hosting on zoom (or Google Hangouts, I'm not sure) and at different times he would provide us with visual aids for the room layout or for different puzzles.
The experience was incredibly fun. It's really interesting how room flow and puzzles can be designed with little or no visual aids. We found it helpful (or at least I did) to sketch the room layout and label different things as we were playing. As with any escape room experience, there were tricky puzzles to be solved and some hunt and seek fun as well.
I have since listened to Scott and his daughter host The Escape This Podcast crew through Commune with Nature, which was fun to listen to.
I really enjoyed Commune with Nature. So much so that after playing online, I then printed everything out for my team and one night I hosted them through their first audio escape room. I think they enjoyed the experience (and I'm hoping to try some more out with my team soon).
For anyone interested in trying out an audio escape room, you can contact Scott Weiss here to play one of his rooms (he is an excellent game master and the price is only $15USD), or you can check out the many different audio escape rooms at Escape This Podcast here.