📖 Association

Recognizing that two items work together in a puzzle

Association is one of the key skills and puzzle mechanics in escape games. Given an environment filled with objects the player must determine which items work together, such as knowing a key is for a lock, or that two pictures are part of a whole.

In terms of puzzle phases, assoction comes after searching, but they the border is fuzzy. Often you need to know what you're looking for before you can find it. For example, in a room filled with toys, you will only know chess pieces are important once you find a chess board puzzle.


All puzzle pieces have qualities that can link the pieces together. Here are some common examples.

  • Aesthetic: Objects share the same colour or paint pattern. This can also include the form of the obejct.
  • Function: Objects are used for the same activity, such as a fork and a knife being used to eat.
  • Lore: The items are linked in the game world via backstory. They all belonged to the same king, or are all ingredients needed for a magic spell.

Those examples all link the objects directly, but there are different manners in which qualities can be associated:

  • Direct: The quality is the same, or directly shared. A green hat and a green coat have the same visual quality of colour. A fork and spoon have the same functional quality of eating food.
  • Complementary: The quality of items is relatable when combined, or used, together. For example, a white board, the pens to draw on it, and the eraser have completmentary function.
  • Contradictory: The quality of the items are opposite, disjoint, or contradict each other. For example, fire and ice have opposite haptics of temperature.

These three manners are listed roughly in the order of difficulty. A player will have the easiest time associated items sharing direct qualities, and the hardest time associating contradictory qualities.

The impact, or subtlety of the quality magnifies the difficulty. Two birds that shared a red tinge are harder to associate than two bright red balls. An average player can distinguish between octaves on a keyboard better than semitones.

Feedback on Working Draft

If you have any questions, need an example, or want clarification, then let me know. Ask on Discord or Twitter.

Assume everything in this reference is a working draft, there's prone to be some mistakes and inconsistencies. I figure it's best to publish and get feedback rather than write for years in secret. The terms will change, the structure will shift, and the bugs will be chased out. It'll take a while.