Two weekends ago Dyson held their Smart Rooms challenge, an escape room that was streamed online via Twitch.
After watching teams play over two days, this blog covers some key points that organisers need to be aware of when streaming an escape room competition online.*
(*Especially as the Red Bull Escape Room World Finals in March will be available to watch online and as more escape room competitions are streamed to an online audience over time).
Put lapel microphones on all the players in the escape room
There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to hear clear audio from the players in an escape room. The viewer’s experience is diminished and viewers will not stay around to watch if they can’t hear what’s going. Please don’t make people turn up their computer volume to 93/100 at midnight on a Sunday. *cough*
Ensure the escape room has good lighting and keep dark areas to a minimum
Dyson’s escape room required a semi-dark room to execute its escape room concept – the walls could reassemble between games to represent different areas of a house. Despite this challenge, enough light sources were placed around the room to ensure the players could be seen as they moved around.
Have multiple camera angles in an escape room and avoid #CrotchCam moments
There were about three to four cameras in the Smart Rooms challenge which covered different areas of the room. Hilariously (and unfortunately) there was one camera that was situated at waist height and players who wandered too close to one of the walls gave the camera a certain eyeful. The chat quickly dubbed this #CrotchCam as a consequence.
In terms of video quality, the Twitch stream was good – Intervirals didn’t catch any moments where the video stream suddenly stopped while a team was playing. There were some technical hiccups before some teams started but this was smoothed over with a “We’ll be back soon” loading screen and attentive moderators in the chat.
Watching good teams in an escape room was awesome, bad teams not really
It was surprising to learn that watching an escape room competition online was … really fun. It was similar to watching a movie and seeing the protagonists work through challenges to progress through the story. Conversely watching a not so great team – ie. those who stood around, arms crossed and who were not actively engaging with the room (searching, trying to solve a puzzle) – wasn’t great.
Later starting teams may have more advantages
In the Smart Rooms chat it became known some teams that were scheduled on the second day of competition were able to view the Twitch stream the day before. These teams gained a knowledge advantage over their competitors and may have outperformed other teams on the day.
Also related to this point, if the same escape room is used by multiple teams – it must be reset properly to ensure later teams don’t get an additional advantage eg. number locks or letter locks.
Encourage engagement (like, share, hashtag) on social media
If there’s an official hashtag – get the word out! The experience becomes more engaging for viewers and in-person participants who may get to see other parts of the escape room event they might have missed.
These three following observations were unique features of the Smart Rooms competition so they are side notes to the main points above.
Online viewers get to influence the escape room game
What made the Smart Rooms challenge stand out was that it valued having an online audience. For example, viewers in the chat room could participate in polls or give their opinion on what the team in the escape room should do next. The participants in the chat room could see that regardless of where they were, they could have an impact on the escape room game. 10/10.
The moderators on the Twitch stream were on point – when bad comments appeared, they were quick to respond. Another time, chat discussion turned to what countries everyone was from and the Smart Room moderators jumped in – mentioning Dyson was a global company that could be found in plenty of countries around the world. And they also ran with the chat’s jokes on Cactus Sam, Jerry and Jeff. (There was a cactus in one of the Smart Rooms and it became an ongoing joke).
1000/10 would recommend. Take note – good moderators in an online chat can make the viewer experience.
Mail in the Oven moments (or things get lost in translation over the internet)
One of the best moments from the Dyson’s Smart Rooms challenge came when a team was solving a puzzle in the Kitchen room. As the challenge progressed, it was interrupted by the day’s mail delivery and the team in the room received a new item – mail.
It was a humorous moment to then watch the team … put the mail into the oven. As a moderator kindly pointed out, the mail was delivering a component for the oven and that was the reason the mail ended up in the oven.
Accept that some puzzle design elements of the escape room will be lost on an online audience. 😀
TL;DR: If you’re streaming an escape room competition online, remember: clear audio and video, good lighting and multiple camera angles of the escape room.