The sheer volume of mobile games available is dazzling. Open up the Apple Store or Google Play and take a look at what’s on offer: you name it, it’s there.
Unfortunately, for every sort-of-clever (but also probably sort-of-annoying) game, you’ll find about ten dire copycat incarnations. Derivative, opportunistic, monetized; the creativity of the platform certainly has its limits. Which would explain the proliferation of door-based games on there.
Yes, doors. These self-proclaimed escape games all have essentially the same premise: you’re shown a door and you’re required to solve an increasingly tricky (read: annoying) puzzle in order to open it and ‘escape’. The solution can be as easy as literally just knocking on the door in the early stages or, later on, as difficult (read: annoying) as making sense of constellations, colours, bunny rabbits and numbers altogether, in an abstract way, that ultimately somehow opens the door.
The appeal of the genre is understandable; while eventually things do get pretty convoluted, there is a definite sense of achievement and/or relief whenever you do get one of those doors open. Yet the obvious irony of an escape game in which you can only really escape to the next level, the next door, over and over again is undeniably frustrating. It’s a paradox that defines so many games—namely, an idea that seems to be evolving, but is in practice actually very repetitive.
The sheer volume of door games, though, is what’s particularly striking. From basic titles like ‘Doors&Rooms’ through more absurd ones like ‘Dark Doors Escape’, ‘100 Doors Of Revenge’ and (my favourite) ‘DOOORS’, the games offer lifetimes-worth of mini-puzzles. The only way to really escape, however, is to delete the app itself.
These escape games well represent the creative limitations of the format. But more interesting is how perfectly the mobile escape game matches the limits put on our own creativity, on ourselves. In a weird way, the quickly advancing technology we’re faced with imprisons us just as much as it offers us the escapism we think we need. The phone, the tablet, the app—these too are doors. But doors to what, or where?