One of the more common questions we get asked is ‘how difficult are your escape games?’ From time-to-time, we also get asked to provide difficulty ratings for our games. This is an area that is hotly debated among escape game designers and enthusiasts alike. While there is no consensus as to the value or validity of escape game rating systems—and there is certainly no standardized rating system—on one point nearly all agree. That is the challenge in developing an objective rating system that can be reliably applied to any escape game by anyone anywhere in the world. Here’s why:
Where to start?
First, how do we convey the difficulty level? Some escape game operators who do provide difficulty ratings choose to a ‘star’ system, with, say 5 stars being most difficult and 1 star being least. Others take a more pragmatic approach and simply label them ‘easy’ and ‘difficult’. Still others prefer to rate them as ‘beginner’ or ‘advanced’. Here we already begin to see some of the nuances that make rating escape rooms so challenging.
Is Success The Key?
An obvious starting point is success rates. After all, the more people who are successful the easier the room, right? If very few people escape it stands to reason that it must be a difficult room, you say? That approach may work for one escape room operator, but it begins to break down when comparing games from different operators. There can even be variances caused by game masters. For instance, some game masters may be more ‘hands-on’ in providing hints, or they may be more specific in the hints they provide. For that matter, some may simply just be better at providing hints. This would most certainly cause variances in the perceived level of difficulty among different groups of players. That leads us to our next point…
All Escape Games Are Not Created Equal
We have written many times in the past about the differences among escape room operators. Some operators provide just two hints, while some provide three (or more). Some pride themselves on having a low success rate. Most games are 60 minutes in duration, however there are some that are just 45 minutes. Most escape game operators will pair strangers together to fill rooms, while others (like Quest Reality Games!) provide private experiences. All of these variables make comparability nearly impossible.
Not All Players Are Created Equal Either
We are all products of our own experiences. How successful any players are is dependent upon their individual experience and development, and the composition of the players in their group. Like anything, playing escape games is a learned skill. And like any new skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Naturally, if you’ve never played an escape game before, you’re unlikely to do as well as someone who has already played a few, and therefore your perception would be that the room is more difficult. Likewise, escape game enthusiasts who have played many, many games will start to see commonalities and similarities among puzzles that will help them solve puzzles more quickly, meaning they’re likely to find the same room easier, relatively speaking. Sometimes children do better than adults, because they don’t enter the games with pre-conceived notions. Oftentimes groups of adults who are unsuccessful tell us about all the assumptions they made that ultimately held them back, while children often see the world for what it is, in simpler terms, and therefore don’t make incorrect assumptions or bring extraneous ideas to puzzles that end up over-complicating them. For these reasons, children may actually find a given room easier than their adult counterparts.
The size of your group can also make a difference. Theoretically, the more players you have, the more ‘mental horsepower’ on your team, and the greater chances of success. Therefore, a larger group is likely to find the same room easier than a smaller one.
Where We Stand
The difficulty of a given escape room is a subjective experience. What one group says was too easy, another will say was impossible. Ultimately, at Quest Reality Games, we have one objective, and one objective only—that is to ensure each and every one of our guests has an outstanding experience. We’re not hung up on hints or success rates. We want you to have a fun, challenging, immersive experience, not be stuck on one puzzle pulling your hair our for an hour! And that’s why we don’t rate the difficulty of our games!
Our Solution To The Difficulty Rating Conundrum
At Quest Reality Games, we offer an entirely different experience, allowing guests to choose between an easy, standard, and difficult experience. If you’re playing one of our escape games for your first time, you can ask your Game Master for an easy experience. And for the seasoned enthusiasts who want to increase the challenge, you can ask for a difficult experience. Change your mind mid-game? No problem. Just let your Game Master know, and you can change the difficultly level of your experience at any time.
While this doesn’t change any of the puzzles or physical aspects of the game, it does change how our Game Masters interact with you. Looking for an easier experience? Just ask your Game Master and they’ll give you some extra detail and guidance in those hints. Want to maximize the challenge of our games? Our Game Masters can dial back the dialogue and give you more freedom to work it out on your own.
Ready for your next challenge? Book now!