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September 27, 2020
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Alastair Aitchison's Blog


One way or another, games have formed a huge part of my professional and personal life for the last 40 years. My first publicly-released game was a minigame I wrote in AMOS, which featured on the coverdisc of Amiga Format magazine in 1993. I've still got a copy somewhere. Since then, I've worked in a variety of roles on titles for console, mobile, and PC. I've dabbled in VR, AR, megagames, boardgames, geo-located games and card games. I was briefly employed as a games journalist. I co-founded the Norwich Gaming Festival, and I'm one of the co-organisers of the Norfolk Game Developers' group. In 2017, I was appointed the first ever games designer-in-residence at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium library - the most popular library in the UK.

Around 2015/16, I became somewhat disillusioned with the state of the videogame industry. It was also around that time that I played my first escape room, and I rapidly fell in love with them. Videogames at that time seemed to be becoming increasingly cynical, money-grabbing tools - psychologically tuned messages fed via a screen to keep you in an addicted state. Whereas escape rooms presented a kind of purity - a 1hr full and self-contained experience, more immersive than any VR headset could ever be, full of *real* interaction, excitement, and tension. No prompts halfway through to pay to download additional content.

I now lecture in game design, and run "Playful Technology" - applying game design theory and technology, and learnings from videogames, to create playful applications such as escape room puzzles.


Member Blogs

Posted by Alastair Aitchison on Wed, 09 Oct 2019 09:27:00 EDT in Design, Production
Escape room players must be given freedom to solve puzzles: too much guidance will make the game outcome feel predetermined, while too little may leave them directionless and struggling. This article considers the "sweet spot" that lies inbetween.

Posted by Alastair Aitchison on Fri, 06 Sep 2019 05:50:00 EDT in Design, Production, Serious
Escape Room (ER) games deliver greater immersion than a videogame, and more agency than a theatrical play, yet the narrative told in many ERs is little more than a cliched action movie plot. Can ERs use classical dramatic structure to tell better stories?

Posted by Alastair Aitchison on Tue, 13 Aug 2019 10:33:00 EDT in Design
Much of the recent research in the field of game studies has been concerned only with computer games. In this article, I’ll consider whether some commonly cited academic definitions of "games" and "play" can equally be applied to Escape Room games.

Posted by Alastair Aitchison on Mon, 29 Jul 2019 10:33:00 EDT in Design
Escape Room (ER) games have witnessed a huge growth in recent years, yet there are few resources discussing ER game design. This is the first in a series of articles applying game design theories to ER, starting with Bartle's taxonomy of player types.