Immersive puzzle games are on the rise and creative puzzle makers and story tellers are getting in on the action. We’ve got subscription boxes, books, at home escape rooms, stand-alone boxes with real items you can touch and feel. One thing that can get a little stagnant though are the themes. Anybody that’s played a few of these games will start to realize that murder mysteries dominate the market. I’m not saying to stop with the murder mysteries, because nothing makes a good story quite like a murder. However, there are plenty of other themes and ideas that creators can work with. By their nature, escape-room-based games have a wide variety of themes and so this list doesn’t necessarily apply to them. Here is my list of themes that consumers would like to see more of.
This theme is the most obvious on this list and has been used a few times already. One thing that could be explored is diverging from the pirate treasure story line. There is so much treasure throughout history and pirates didn’t have their grimy hands, or hooks, on all of them. There’s the confederate gold from the US Civil War, Montezuma’s gold hidden from the conquistadors, Pancho Villa’s gold, although he’s kind of a land pirate. There are treasures like Alexander’s lost library, the city of Atlantis or any other equally exciting lost civilization. Stories of lost treasure are probably as old as human history itself. It’s a known fact that language was invented so a caveman could ask another caveman where the shiny rocks are. You won’t even have to invent your own, I guarantee there’s hundreds of stories that almost nobody else has ever heard of just waiting to be unburied.
This theme has also been touched on by a few games but there is so much more to bring to the light. We are already being swamped with horror inspired by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. The horror genre is so vast in content that we shouldn’t be limiting ourselves here. We may have seen a cabin in the woods movie several times before, but have we ever been the ones locked in a cabin? If your little sister got possessed by an evil demon, would you be able to unlock the clues and codes to figure out its name to do an exorcism. If you were an evil devious puzzle maker in real-life, would you stop when you found yourself dead and haunting a castle. I personally think everything is better with little pinch of horror in it. I guess murder isn’t horror enough for me though.
Whether you believe in him or not, hunting for the big foot is something everyone loves and jokes about. In the US alone we have the sasquatch, the Mothman, the Jersey Devil, wendigos, skinwalkers, thunderbirds, the goat man, the dog man, living dinosaurs, chupacabras, and rabbits with horns on their freaking heads called Jackalopes. We have so many shows, movies, and books covering people’s encounters with these creatures and how they escaped. People go out looking hunting for mythical beasts all the time either trying to debunk them or catch them on camera. Combine this with a Scooby-Doo type of plot and you’ve got yourself a mystery to solve.
Surprisingly this has not been covered nearly as much as you would expect. You could create a game where the player is a spy trying to complete a mission and get out before time runs out. You could have the players be spy hunters and uncovering a widespread network of notorious baddies trying to create chaos and mayhem. Combine this with a historical element and you might create something truly unique. Some of the best cryptography techniques were invented during wars. I don’t know if Caesar invented the Caesar cipher, but maybe there was a Roman spy network. The Revolutionary War was full of spy rings and encrypted messages on both sides. Don’t get too crazy though, even the best cryptogram enthusiast might balk at trying to solve the Enigma Box from World War II by hand. Unless someone out there wants to make a replica enigma box for a game. (OMG DO IT!!!!)
This one is the most untapped mystery that should happen. Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. Everyone has a good conspiracy theory. You would think there would be a bunch of games where you get the bottom of what really happened as Roswell and Area 51. Did NASA really go to the moon or will we be caught in a massive web of lies that goes all the way to the top, the President of the United States. Is the Bermuda Triangle really a triangle? The Freemasons, Illuminati, Men in Black, and New World Order are all mysteriously missing from any mystery box I have ever seen. Maybe there’s something to this and soon you will see my blog mysteriously vanish.
These are just a few mystery ideas that I would like to see come up in the future. Is there a theme I’ve missed or something you would like to see in a game? Feel free to comment and let creators know. And creators, keep doing all the awesome work that we love. Never leave a mystery uncreative!
-J.C. Mystery Detective