How we used an online escape room maker to create accessible games.

4 mins read

Written by Hannah at Access Escape - We used Puzzle Panther online escape room maker to create our games!

Escape The Mailbox series logo. Reads: online escape room series. A free room every month.

Like most other escape rooms when the pandemic started and live games closed we began looking at how we could create a digital escape room instead, however with our live room being blind accessible and in complete darkness this was a challenge for us as we’re not able to host a video/zoom of our live game like a lot of other escape rooms did. It was important to us to come up with a different way to do this and keep our online rooms accessible too.  

After playing some text based online escape games we decided to try to create an online escape room ourselves, however most of these games are image heavy and rely on the player navigating through different pages of a site, which would be very hard to make accessible but also still fun for all players. 

A woman is standing in front of a soft cream background. She has her mouth open in surprise and is covering her eyes with her hands.

We decided to strip our game back to basics and only use short text based puzzles that you could solve using google search and siri. This is because text is more accessible to players using screen readers but is also still playable and fun for others. Accessibility tools also make text based reading and input easier for players with impairments.

The next barrier was to find a way to give players clues and puzzle in a simple but effective manner. A lot of online docs or web based escape rooms use the game site for this and add buttons or input boxes for players to click on or input a word to get a clue, however navigating to this on a site can be difficult when having to click between tabs or different pages which may have heavy text or images to scroll though. This led us on to our idea to run these games via email which would be an easy solution for a clue system as players would just be able to email their answer and receive the next puzzle, answers or help from us. But with people playing the game from all over the world, how do we reply to emails as quickly as possible to keep the game flowing? This is where we came up with our awesome online escape room maker, Puzzle Panther.  

A closeup of a laptop. There is a hand holding a magnifying glass closely to the keyboard.

We used our digital escape room maker to automatically respond to incoming emails from each address assosiated with a game. These emails could consist of a code to start the game, correct answers to puzzles, wrong answers to puzzles or people asking for clues. The platform also finishes off a game by sending congratulation email which includes the time taken to play. We started to realise that running these puzzles via email gave us the opportunity to make the games more immersive than other online text based games as we were able to create a theme that used the system as a person, which meant players were replying to someone rather than just submitting an answer to a question. This also gave us a wide possibility of themes we would be able to use/ create. 

A collage of escape the mailbox games.

Although in our mini Escape The Mailbox games we only use text based puzzles, Puzzle Panther is able to use/ do anything within the email sent, including things like links, pictures, videos, sounds - the list of puzzles is endless! We started to find that within our game design we were able to make these other elements accessible too! If you want to see some of these in action try out our Stony Island Game. 

The Stony Island game image. There is a small rocky island  with a drawing of a lighthouse ontop, a boat to one side, a whale to the other and birds and clouds in the sky.

Using Puzzle Panther has given us the roots to build our online accessible games. 

Check out our other E-scape and blind accessible zoom escape rooms here.

If you would like to create your own online escape room check out Puzzle Panther HERE!