August 17, 2020
The Art of Cursing a Dollhouse
The Art of Cursing a Dollhouse
What sends shivers down your spine, makes the hair stand on the back of your neck, and keeps you up at night? We had to ask ourselves these very questions as we prepared to make the most challenging and immersive escape room game ever.
ThinkFun’s previous escape room games are Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor and Escape the Room: Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat. Both are entry-level games that can be enjoyed during a fun family game night, as each puzzle must be worked on one at a time, collaboratively. We wanted Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse to be significantly more challenging for the most experienced puzzlers and as creepy as possible. This led us to create a game where several puzzles are presented at once, allowing multiple players to work on a variety of puzzles simultaneously. Additionally, we selected a theme that exploits pediophobia – the fear of dolls.
Often trigged by popular culture, horror movies or a traumatic event related to dolls, pediophobia is described as the intense irrational fear of dolls, which pose no actual threat. The uneasy feeling of being around dolls is a fairly common one, with some people being uncomfortable around all dolls and others only being fearful of specific types of dolls. To make sure the game creeped out as many people as possible, we included a handful of different types of dolls.
In addition to plenty of scary dolls, we wanted to make sure players could really interact with the game components as much as possible. Creating a game box that also served as the escape room itself was no easy feat. We had to think about how many rooms and floors it would have, and how to hide the puzzles within the rooms so players would not notice them while putting the house together. Lastly, we wanted to include 3-dimensional furniture to really make this game a standout among the competition.
Perhaps the most critical part of developing an escape room game is making sure all of its components work together seamlessly. The only way to ensure this is through a lot of playtesting. We reached out to some of the most experienced tabletop escape room players to test our most challenging puzzles. Through our observation and research during these playtests, we developed a new hint system for those who may need assistance solving a challenge – different from our previous escape room games – that helps reveal key information more gradually so players can still experience “aha” moments.
Creating the most immersive, tactile, and interactive escape room game ever required a lot of collaboration to ensure that everything from the product’s storyline to its puzzles coincided perfectly. We are so thankful to its inventors, Nicholas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleau, and give special thanks to Mark Engelberg for additional puzzle concepts, Derek Hutchins for flexible story crafting, and intern Iris Tilton.
Did you know…
That in the story booklet, the photo used as a break between chapters was a contender for the game box art? It was important to us to make the box cover as spooky as possible, so we polled people internally and externally to find out which image scared people more. The result is the final box art you see today.