When I am escaping from rooms, I sometimes stop and wonder, “Who’s room is this anyway?” Who am “I” in this game and who does this room belong to? Am I an intruder? Is this my own room but I need to escape for some reason?
Some games provide narrative context to answers these questions but the overwhelming majority do not. I believe that in the absence of a protagonist character, one can assume that the player herself is escaping. There is no mitigating avatar or personality. You, in real life — whoever you are and whatever you’re like — are the game’s protagonist. It makes sense then that any flesh and blood person may want to flee from a locked room. Human nature contains an instinct to explore and captivity is that instinct’s anathema.
But there’s still more to consider here. From a design standpoint, who’s room is this? What inspired the creators to include a diorama of the forest, a creepy mannequin, or a shelf full of dolls? Do they know people who decorate this way?
In our modern era, we praise capitalistic individualism, expressing our preferences, tastes, and “selves” through purchases of material objects. Decoration choices are tantamount to spiritualism and this, in turn, funds the incalculable profits of so many companies which specialize in the sale of home design and domestic objects. In the pursuit of making the sale, though, how many rooms have been created, furnished, decorated, imbued with a human presence, and presented as “for purchase” when those rooms are actually quite devoid of an occupant? Every home magazine trades in these images: the empty vessel. The platonic room, conceived and decorated for your viewing pleasure but lacking an actual human connection. What is a room without a human at its center? Just clutter Could it be nature?
What if every room in the universe of “escape the room games” did have an occupant? Can you imagine? Sort of like a Cabin in the Woods scenario with a thousand strange people and creatures who are being held against their will away from their domiciles. Or maybe they’re all just at a party together?