The origins

Originally, the term escape game refers to a subgenre of a point-and-click adventure video game, where the player is immersed in a universe and must interact with the objects in his environment and solve riddles to get ahead and finish the game.

Since 2004, we talk about an escape room, with the release of the video game “Crimson Room”, developed by Toshimitsu Takagi. Players must solve puzzles by interacting with their entourage in order to get out of a room and move on to the next level.

In 2007, a company called SCRAP wanted to create a live experience for players and created a live escape room. It was in 2011, in Budapest, that the live escape room arrived in Europe thanks to a company called Parapark that wanted to do team building. But it was thanks to the Hint Hunt franchise created in Hungary in 2012 that the live escape room was finally exported across Europe.

What is an escape?

The basic principle is as follows: there are several of you, locked in a room and you have one hour to solve a series of riddles that allow you to move forward and find a way out of the room.

Once the basic rules of the game have been established, the only thing that limits the level of enjoyment is the creators’ imagination (and sometimes the budget too…). The number of players can go from 3 to 100, the duration of the game can be less than or greater than 60 minutes, the puzzles can be with or without a search (e.g. finding hidden marbles all over the room), with or without a mechanism (e.g. a door that opens after moving a book on a shelf); an investigation element can be added to the main mission (seeking to exit), secondary missions can allow adding or removing time, etc.

While gameplay – meaning, the mechanics of the game – is important, for a successful game experience, immersion is important too. It is about immersing the player in the heart of a story, a universe that makes him totally forget reality, that makes him feel emotions. All this depends on the quality of the sets, the ambient music, the starting scenario, but above all on the consistency between the elements.  If you are told that you are an investigator entering the mayor’s house of an 18th century London countryside village, you would not understand if a digital clock was present in the room. Similarly, if you are told that you are investigating murders for which the mayor may be responsible and that he may return at any time, you would be distracted by circus music.

It is thanks to this consistency that the game experience is guaranteed, that one becomes addicted to this type of game. The escape game is so popular that it is becoming some sort of new mass media. Football club PSG offered a virtual escape game to discover the backstage of their stadium, the Parc des Princes; the Opéra Garnier in Paris has its escape game to allow players to take an original stroll through the place; French railway company SNCF also organized an escape game during a Lille-Paris trip for 280 players.

So, if the mechanisms of the escape game allow people to communicate, why shouldn’t they also make it possible to recruit?

Escape and recruitment

Well, that’s the big trend. With the arrival of generations Y and Z on the labor market, recruitment processes are changing. Social networks are used as a recruitment platform and video resumes are no longer only the prerogative of artists. Everyone is committed to their singularity and the trend is to highlight its uniqueness.

If candidates innovate, why aren’t recruiters? This is where the escape game comes into play (pun intended). Indeed, when faced with a playful experience, people become natural again and reveal their true personality because it is impossible to play a role for 1 hour. What matters to a recruiter is not the success (escaping the room) but the behavior of the candidates/players within the group. And believe me when I say that it is only once you are immersed in the world of the game and locked in the room, that the real leaders reveal themselves (often those who were the most discreet during the initial briefing).

But the escape game is not only about assessing a candidate’s/player’s ability to lead a group. The keys to success are above all communication, teamwork, listening skills, reactivity, hindsight and the ability to stay focused despite the pressure. And every player can demonstrate these things, whether they are a leader or not.

Moreover, the scenarios are so vast that it is possible for an escape game to adapt to a particular skill.

Obviously, although it can be of great interest, an escape game is not intended to replace a traditional interview. Rather, it is a complementary tool that serves as a basis for a more formal exchange between recruiter and candidate.

And what about training?

If the escape game makes it possible to recruit, why shouldn’t it also be used for training?

So-called Serious Games have already proven their worth for a long time. They are based on a constructivist model and reinforce memorization and learning. The playful aspect of a serious game reinforces motivation, player/learner involvement and therefore also promotes learning.

As we have seen, the escape game is a playful medium. It can, therefore, be used for training just like the serious game. It also has the advantage of being cheaper, as serious games are often video games, whereas for an escape game, simple sheets of paper or elements gathered from board games may suffice.

Moreover, when immersed in the heart of a story with the objective of getting out, the player/learner is no longer afraid of making mistakes. He, therefore, dares to try, make mistakes, start again, find the solution. We thus discover the virtuous loop of games that push us all to continue, to persist, to go further: the OCR for Obstacle, Challenge, Reward.

Cognitive science has repeatedly proven that this virtuous loop facilitates the acquisition of new knowledge and skills because what motivates the human being is the challenge, what facilitates memorization is to bypass an obstacle yourself and what consolidates learning are rewards and recognition, the pride in having achieved something.

The escape game also allows you to work on group dynamics. It can be enough to simply compose teams allowing those people who usually tend to stay in the background to reveal themselves, to regain self-confidence, and to the people most present to erase themselves a little to the benefit of the group.

As for recruitment, the escape game is only an additional tool, a complementary support to enrich and improve employee training.

Ludically yours.

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