THE GAME MASTER’S WORK
A job that makes some dream, and others marvel. It’s a mysterious term, a term that is becoming more and more part of everyday language. Thefore in Real Life Gaming, the Game Master’s work is an essential role in the world of games.
First of all, what is a Game Master?
A Game Master is a person whose job is to lead and guide players during a game; escape games, life-size games, or board games. That’s the Wikipedia definition, which we’ll look into in more detail.
Above all, its role is working in human interaction and each GM masters it in their very own way. As every GM is different, each player will get a unique and different gaming experience depending on their Game Master.
In order to go further, we asked three of our Game Masters to share their feelings and experiences. Three different personalities, three experiences and three ways of approaching the game: Sarah, Jean-Baptiste and Virginie.
What we agree on
First of all, the Game Master’s work is the smooth functioning of the game. From welcoming the players to preparing a new session, they master everything at their fingertips. The GM is the first point of contact for the players. The atmosphere of the game starts with them, from as soon as they welcome the participants. Finally, they guide them, accompany them and ensure the safety of the players, as well as keeping check that all equipment is in good condition.
Moreover, he adapts according to each game. Their tasks will differ if they lead an escape game, to a large-scale criminal quest investigation, or a board game.
The players often think that the Game Master is simply welcoming them, but behind the scene, the GM is doing so much more.
The work of the Game Master
The Game Master’s job in an escape game is to pick his players up at the entrance of the escape room. He gives a briefing, explains the safety instructions and the rules to players whilst immersing them in the scenario of the game, then disappears. But is always present. Game space designers are always more inventive when integrating the Game Masters into the game. The GM becomes a kind of extra player outside the escape room. He will participate by giving the game rhythm and guiding the players from where he’s stationed. He has different ways of interacting with players: first of all, he’s able to see and hear them.
Secondly, the rooms, being equipped with a monitor on which the Game Masters can send clues, or interact via screen. Also via telephones or walkie-talkies which could suddenly start ringing, vocal messages could also be transmitted into the room via speakers. If ever a technical problem occurs, it’s back to basic methods, back to clues slipped underneath doors or whispered through walls. Well… that’s what you’re led to believe, but it could all be scripted!
And after having been your close ally during the game, he opens the door to freedom and reveals the answers to all questions. Then it’s time for the debriefing, a crucial step that must always be integrated into the game’s storyline. Until the last second, the game master stays in character, you may never see him part from his role.
The interaction with the players stops here, but the Game Master’s work does not. It’s time to put the room back in order, and to place the clues where they need to be for the next investigation. That’s how new players will feel as though they’re the first of the day to play the game, with no trace of those who played beforehand.
Game Masters profiles
Our GM have many different professional profiles, including actors and performers. Stagecraft that they do not hesitate to put at the service of the game. At Arcane, Sarah is an actress and masters our immersive games, like Mafia Denfert. She tells us that her work as an actress helps her a lot in immersing herself into the game. When Sarah comes to lead a game session, she is not Sarah the GM. She takes on the role of a character to guide the game and immerse the players. “Playing as a character allows me to focus the player and to create an atmosphere.” The immersion is immediate and total. Moreover, the players are also encouraged to imagine being a character within the story.
For Sarah, her work as an actress also helps her manage the large groups she may encounter.
Then, the second profile of Game Master is one who does not have any acting training, a game master who likes group entertainment. It’s a profile that is more commonly found in escape room gaming.
Although these Game Masters are not actors, they know exactly how to immerse the players into the imaginary situation.
Our Game Masters listed the different types of players they met during their sessions.
He takes charge and distributes tasks. We distinguish the good from the bad leader, the one who listens and the one who doesn’t. But still wants to control the situation and guide his team on the wrong tracks.
There are also those who follow and let themselves be carried along by the leaders. Some of them can become distanced at times. The GM can then intervene to solicit the player personally and include him in the game. As mentioned before the Game Master’s job is to observe the game in progress. He will identify the place each player takes and react accordingly.
Most importantly, Virginie tells us that what she likes about her job is being able to laugh with the players and hear their wild rationalizations. She tells us: “My oldest player was 90 years old. He didn’t fully understand what was going on around him, but he had some very good intuitions that helped others.”
Another type of player: The Wrecker. He is a person who will actively spoil the game for his team or other players. Jean-Baptiste masters an escape game room, Sarah masters giant Criminal Quest investigations, and they’ve both had a run-in with a Wrecker or two in their time! They share the same opinion: a Wrecker (whether aware of their behavior or not) will spoil the atmosphere during the game for everybody.
First of all, the Wrecker has to be identified. According to our Game Masters, a Wrecker is noticeable because he will take the game lightly, speak loudly, not get into the atmosphere, and not fully participate. It is necessary to curb this behavior quickly, so the Game Master must step in to remind the rules of the game to the group, the precautions regarding equipment, in order to calm the Wrecker’s behavior.
Once in the game, he is a player who can throw the others off-track, and hide or move important clues. In a Criminal Quest investigation, this has the effect of preventing other players from advancing. In an escape game, they will want to control the game, push their team towards bad leads and slow the progress down. And he’s also the type of player who will force equipment and potentially break important elements game.
What makes a good Game Master in his work?
We asked our GM: what makes a good Game Master in his work? … which caused laughter, as the answer isn’t an obvious one. Their answers all pointed to the same qualities, the keyword being: adaptability.
A good GM must be ready to face even the most unlikely situation. To manage them in the best way possible, you have to know every detail of the game and allow for spontaneity and improvisation. Sarah confides: “I know my game by heart, but I can’t game-master in a fixed, rigid way because each session is different. You have to adapt to the players in front of you because each group reacts differently.”
The first qualities in the Game Master’s job are his public speaking and his listening skills. In an escape game room, the GM observes and listens to the players, but doesn’t impose upon the game. He guides the players, directing them at key moments. It’s a question of timing and listening, to adapt the clues according to the players.
In conclusion, in Real Life Gaming, a good Game Master is a person who is attentive and able to adapt to every unexpected situation.