It’s time to discuss something that’s dumb, but necessary.
It has come to our attention that there’s a tiny minority of games that are making their players buy hints.
I’m not really sure who’s doing it, but someone asked a question about this behavior to the panel that I moderated at the Escape Summit in Canada in May.
So, let’s get this out of the way once and for all.
Selling Hints is Bullshit
There is an assumption of fairness in escape room design. While some companies pull this off better than others, at the core of escape room play is the idea that these games will be fair even if they are difficult.
Selling hints undermines that fairness by introducing a financial feedback loop that encourages bullshit puzzle design. I’ll explain:
If a company sells hints, then they make more money from bullshit puzzle design because bullshit puzzles necessitate more hints.
This in turn encourages the company to include more bullshit puzzles, which drives more bullshit revenue.
This loop repeats recursively until the company strangles the life out of their business and closes because they suck. Along the way they will hurt the other local escape rooms by convincing the local player base that escape rooms are filled with bullshit puzzles, and thus depleting the potential customer base.
We’ve seen some this kind of nonsense from digital escape games like the point-and-click mobile escape room Spotlight: Room Escape (that’s not worthy of a link.) We’ve refused to review them.
We just assume that if the game is selling hints, the puzzles are probably bullshit.
We have better things to do with our time and so do you.
What Do We Do About This?
If an escape room company is selling hints, beat the hell out of them on Yelp for it.
Be fair. Don’t hit them with a 1 star review, drop something rational, but explain why this is a problem. Shame them into changing.
Also, alert the local player community. If you have a regional Facebook group, leave a note in there about the company.
The one time that I can see “selling hints” to be a viable option is if, and only if, the money is going to a good cause, in the name of the players (not the business).
Same goes for something like a blood drive.
Then even if the puzzles are bullshit, at least there’s a good cause to support.
But then again… maybe check out the cause on Charity Navigator first?