This Woman Gets Paid $10 an Hour to Lock People in Rooms

Game master
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Jennie Cook gets paid to lock people in rooms.

Of course, that’s not her sole responsibility — but it’s definitely the most fun.

In January, Cook started working as a part-time game master at an escape room called Can You Escape? in Tampa, Florida. Now that her college course load has lightened, she works full time.

At an escape room, people — working professionals, families, kids, even bachelorettes — pay to get locked in a room. The goal? To get out of the room by working together to solve puzzles.

Oh, and they only have an hour to do it.

What Does a Game Master Do?

Game master
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When guests arrive, Cook gives them a rundown of the rules before she locks them in one of the themed escape rooms.

After that, Cook sits like a security guard in front of nine TV screens outside of the room. She watches as teams struggle to escape, argue, celebrate and hopefully not harm each other — or get eaten by a zombie (more on that later).

Each level of the challenge (beginner, intermediate and expert) offers a certain number of clues. When they start feeling hopeless, teams can ask for a hint to help them along, which Cook offers over the speaker.

After each game, she resets the rooms, getting all the props in order and placing each decoration in its proper spot. She’s wrangled her reset time down to five minutes.

Three teams take on the challenge in various rooms every two hours, so she’s rarely bored. And Cook loves getting locked in the rooms herself. Even after watching teams for hours at a time, she still plays for fun.

Compared to her past work experiences (including a stint in fast food), Cook says the job really doesn’t have any drawbacks.

Escape Room Jobs Around the U.S.

Game master
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Because escape rooms are popping up across the country, job openings are plentiful. In fact, in a five-second search on Indeed, I found 54 open job positions that matched “Escape game master.”  

Cook, who is one of 14 game masters at her escape room, says her company is still hiring. About 400 people have applied so far for several open positions.

Pay varies from $9 per hour up to $15. Cook makes $10 an hour and works about 40 hours a week.

Other positions include hosts, technicians and actors. Hosts and technicians make about the same as a game master.

Actors make a bit more, plus they earn tips. I found some companies hiring actors for $25-$30 per game.

Cook’s company in Tampa hires actors for its zombie room, who earn about $12 per hour. A hungry zombie is chained to the wall and released bit by bit every five minutes. Talk about terrifying.

What Does It Take to Be a Game Master?

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Many job descriptions for game masters call for outgoing individuals who have no trouble interacting with others.

Cook agrees. Almost all of her responsibilities fall in that realm — which is what she loves.

You should also be detail-oriented, creative and tech-savvy, according to the pages of job listings I combed through. Also, you must be open to working nights and weekends, which is great if you’re looking for side jobs.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, you need to enjoy solving puzzles.

Don’t be shocked if a potential employer sticks you in a room and gives you an hour to weasel your way out. Cook says she had to prove herself before getting hired.

Her advice? Don’t panic. Just have fun.

Talk about the coolest job interview ever.

Your Turn: Do you think you have what it takes to be a game master?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents. She also avoids being locked in rooms with zombies.