What is a sightless escape room?
A sightless escape room is designed to be played by anyone regardless of how much or how little sight the person has. This includes players who are blind, who have low vision and those who have sight.
The Owl Job was, as far as I am aware, Australia’s first ever sightless escape room. It ran just for a just a few days in August 2019 and again in January 2020. Players had to use their mind, their sense of hearing and their sense of touch to navigate the room and solve puzzles entirely without sight. Any players who had sight wore comfortable goggles cover their eyes. The idea was to make accessibility a creative process that spawned a new type of escape room that would benefit everyone.
What is this website?
The Owl Job website now exists as a kind a design guide. In these pages I want to share with you the lessons I learned in creating a sightless escape room so that you can take these lessons and build upon them.
Escape rooms, like any other kind of gaming, should be for everyone. There are many beautiful, clever and brilliant escape rooms out there in the world. But often they prioritize visual puzzles with written letters, colour combinations, codes in photographs etc. These of course often exclude, or make things difficult for players who have low vision or are blind. With The Owl Job I wanted to prove that you could make an escape room without vision based puzzles. I wanted to explore touch and sound to design different types of puzzles. And I wanted to demonstrate that this kind of creative approach to accessibility not only lets more people enjoy the amazing medium that is escape rooms, but let’s us push the medium in new and creative ways.
Sightless escape rooms are of course just one aspect of a much bigger conversation about making gaming accessible for everyone. It’s my hope that this will be just one more step in the right direction in letting more people enjoy the games we all love.
A sightless escape room should have three important values:
- Puzzles must engage senses other than sight; how much or how little a player can see should not matter.
- Access needs to be considered from end to end, from when someone first arrives at your website, through to when they leave your venue.
- It isn’t just a novel experience for people who can see.
What this guide won’t cover
This website only covers what’s unique to a sightless escape room. It won’t tell you how to build an escape room from scratch, as there are many great podcasts, conference and websites out there for that.
Are you going to spoil your entire escape room?
I want this website to be as useful as possible and not require the reader to have played The Owl Job. Most of the time I’ll talk quite generally about design lessons that you can apply to any escape room. Sometimes I’ll invent examples to demonstrate a point, but sometimes I’ll need to lay out examples from The Owl Job.
Besides, The Owl Job probably won’t run again. It was a proof of concept to show that a sightless escape room could and should exist.