Scott Nicholson

#224 Scott Nicholson Talks Escape Rooms

Designing Thematic Games

Series


Dirk and David discuss escape room design with Scott Nicholson, a game designer and professor who has studied escape rooms extensively. Scott talks about the predecessors to escape rooms, the thematic threat of ludonarrative dissonance, and the importance of asking “why?” with every component of a game’s design.

Episode Outline

00:58 A succinct definition of what an escape room is

01:38 The precursors to the modern escape room, and what’s allowed them to become so popular?

07:01 Some differences in LARP and escape room culture in Europe vs North America

09:00 How Scott became interested in studying and designing escape rooms

14:33 Discussion on how Scott designs escape rooms, starting with the initial concept

18:01 Scott talks about ludonarrative dissonance—the mismatch between theme and game mechanics

19:13 How “ask why” design helps every component of an escape room support the game’s narrative

23:19 Examples of escape rooms and puzzles that have used mechanics to cleverly support theme

26:50 How do escape rooms help stuck groups and prevent “drop dead points?”

32:57 Challenges Scott has faced when designing escape rooms

36:52 Further examples of how escape rooms can create an immersive experience

41:23 Why history makes an interesting setting for many escape rooms, and what the future for escape rooms might be

44:37 Talking about the “affordances” of a setting and the possible players and non-players in that setting

53:48 Putting Scott on the spot (sort of), and asking him how he’d approach a Mars Colony escape room

57:56 Advice for designers who want to try their hand in the escape room space.

In this Episode

Scott Nicholson - @snicholson, scottnicholson.com
David V. Heron - @davidvheron
Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer

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