Escape games tend to have a 15-30% escape rate. They aren’t good odds, and that’s what I love about them.
My favorite types of fiction usually feature a ragtag group of misfits fighting against impossible odds. In both business and pleasure, I get a kick out of the odds being stacked against me.
My personal proclivities aside, one of the most common topics of conversation when discussing room escapes is the question: “How difficult is too difficult?”
This room is too hard
We’re batting 50% on games with escape rates in the low single digits, but the more I reflect on them, the more I think that they might be missing the point.
We visited a company, they had two games, one with ~1.5% escape rate, the other with ~2.5% escape rate. From a statistical standpoint, those rooms are designed to be inescapable and have a margin of error.
A 2% escape rate is a joke. It’s an inescapable room that failed at its job.
This room is too soft
The easiest rooms I’ve played have approximately a 50% escape rate.I think this is too easy, but it’s just barely acceptable.
If there are better odds than 50%, the room is problematic, because if you lose, you will leave feeling very inferior. If a room has a 70% escape rate, and you fail… You really suck.
These games should be tough, but they shouldn’t be cruel. Making a game too easy is bizarrely cruel to those who fail.
This room is just right
I think the sweet-spot for non-beginner rooms hovers between 10% and 20%. These are respectable numbers that demonstrate a room is very challenging yet balanced.
If you lose to a room that 1 in ten teams makes it out of, you can leave knowing that you were defeated by a worthy yet beatable opponent.
When you get crushed by a room that 1 in fifty teams makes it out of, that is meaningless… Of course you were going to lose. You really didn’t have much of a chance.
When our team won a game with a 4% escape rate, we knew we played well, but we felt like there was a lot of luck involved. In a weird way, that made the victory less satisfying.
I think that a very challenging game is fine when a company has a series of games, and the ultra difficult one is available as a final boss level of sorts. Jumping straight to that level of difficulty comes across as a bit callous. It can also be lazy if your room is only difficult because you have a final puzzle with a goofy esoteric solution.
I like to leave a room feeling like I either won or lost to worthy opponent. When a room is designed to be difficult yet fair, the win or the loss is owned entirely by the team that played it.