Yesterday, at GameCamp in London, there was a talk on the exit game phenomenon given by Adrian Hon. It’s not clear what GameCamp etiquette is, whether what gets said at GameCamp stays at GameCamp, whether things can be reported under the Chatham House Rule, or whether there can be wider reports, but it would be great to hear more from the event. Failing that, Adrian discussed the genre towards the end of episode 41 of “The Cultures” podcast.
Some exit games take the approach that they will be very generous with the distribution of hints to their players, even making it clear that this is the policy right at the outset, in the discussion before players enter the room. As this was the approach taken by the first exit room site to open in the UK, this may well be the dominant approach nationally.
By contrast, there are other sites which offer some games where few or no clues are offered. The pitfall there is either that you set the difficulty level relatively high and have no or very few people crack the room, or you set the difficulty level relatively low and risk having people finish the game in less than half the permitted time, which can be something of a flat ending. There are plenty of other solutions, especially if players are prepared to enjoy the possibility of partial credit for solving some, but not all, of the game, but these appear to be less frequent.
Incidentally, the “deliberately very few winners” approach is the one taken by many of the games offered by SCRAP, considered the originators of the genre, among other operators. Befitting the Japanese origins of the “Nintendo hard” stereotype, as an example, their “What is the Real Escape Game?” page talks of a 2% success rate, and their Flickr photostream has a couple of photos of ongoing scoreboards suggesting victory rates not much higher than that. (Anecdotally, more recent games suggest an easing of standards to around 10%.) This site is not yet aware of any UK exit games that take quite such an extreme approach.
The issue of difficulty of exit games is an open one; there appears not to be a consensus on a single correct approach. As different players want to face different challenges, this variety of approaches may well be a good thing for the world. The difficulty is to match potential players up to the right game for them. This web site will do whatever it can to help in this regard.
The Keyhunter site in Birmingham takes a particularly interesting approach in this regard; it advertises its three games as having different levels of difficulty, and advertises its teams successes on social media not only in terms of the time they took but also by how many clues were needed. If you want the added challenge of completing an exit room and having “with 0 hints used” decorating your performance, perhaps Keyhunter might be the right site for you. There may well be other games that offer the same option and this site will make it clear when it’s available.