Here’s the thing…. I’m a stickler for items within the room fitting in with theme and being congruent to the storyline. That’s probably just a minimum level of expectation for entering an Escape Room. We want things to make sense, and to keep us absorbed in the purpose of the room and its storyline.
So, how many storylines really fit in with the presence of a walkie talkie? I’ve been pondering on it. Perhaps a police case, or if we were up a mountain rescuing someone, or we’re the security guards in the shopping mall. But for the most part, they are not something that generally fits in to a vast array of themes that are out there.
Invented in the late 1930’s, they were originally developed during World War II for the US infantry. The fact that they still survive and get used so much, certainly shows they have some worth. But in an escape room? Every time, at the intro, we have the game master wanting to allocate the damn walkie talkie, and all of us keep our hands down. None of us want the contraption….. because we know it is going to torment. And one thing we know for sure… if we have to ask for a clue, every single one of us has to be silent and listen carefully so that we can all contribute to the translation of whatever message is projected over that radio. Game master… you know the difficulty you have working out what we’re asking for over the walkie talkie even though you might have an inkling of where we’re at? Well double that up for us trying to hear a clear answer from you!
Our first experience of them was a pure delight. Right in the centre of Birmingham, the walkie talkies were set to the same frequency band as the local taxi drivers. Unaware of this, we genuinely thought the bits of intermittent conversation we were hearing was part of the game and clues for us to find certain locations on the maps on the walls. Not so…. it was indeed just the taxi drivers stating their movements. We laughed that off – even with the game master who knew about the interference! Until it happened again in another location.
Put simply, they’re not fit for purpose in an escape room game. And game masters…. you know that….. because of the depth of explanation you have to go to every time you brief another player on how to use it! They have become now, without doubt, my absolute pet hate – even above red-herrings, and above excessively loud ‘background’ music! Oh hold on….. we did one with a walkie talkie and excessively loud music – there was absolutely no way we were going to get that clue!
I know owners are often asking about the use of walkie talkies, and they generally sense they’re not popular. But we have been to some rooms that are fairly newly opened, and these radios are still part of the set up. So, perhaps the message isn’t really being heard (pun intended)! It is, without doubt, the budget option. I’m actually thinking I might start asking a room when booking whether they use them or not. And if they do, I’m booking elsewhere, because we don’t need the hassle, the frustration, the time it takes to decipher what was said, or the jolt out of the flow of the game. The squawky dorky can go walkie walkies!