Results from the 2015/2016 Survey

Abstract survey graphicThis is the five hundredth item on this blog, or the 501st if you count the map as an item. It’s a lovely round number, certainly, but celebratory hoopla will be saved for another occasion.

Nearly two weeks ago, this site sent out 75 e-mails to exit games in the UK, with representing total of 88 locations, inviting them to take part in a survey. Twenty-four replies have now been received, featuring twenty-three answers, which is a pleasing rate of response. The first twenty came in time for a preliminary results presentation and analysis at The Great Escape UK last week; at that point, it was suggested that the full results would be made available within a week so now is the time to shut the lid on the survey.

Here follows a summary of the results. The percentage values quoted are not intentionally misleading, but the sample size of 23 is moderately small. On the other hand, maybe it’s just the best data that we can expect to get!

1. How was 2015 for you and for your business?

52% of respondents gave a somewhat generic positive response (good, really good, fantastic etc.) and 13% specifically suggested they found things editing, though 17% conveyed a sense that things have been tough or that their learning curve had been steep. 52% of respondents identified as being from new businesses; 26% pointed to expansion, growth or new rooms in their answers here and 9% suggested that 2015 had been better than 2014. 30% identified that they took pride in the good reviews that they had received and 13% proudly quoted the number of people they employed.

2. How do you feel 2015 was for the world of exit games in the UK at large?

57% of replies here pointed out the number of openings and 22% observed more general growth in the market. 35% identified increased awareness of the genre among the public, 13% noted the popularity and the quality of reviews and 26% gave a non-specific positive response. 9% of responses hinted at observing the start of market saturation.

3. What can you reveal about your plans for 2016?

57% of answers referred to at least one new room, 26% to at least one new site and 13% to planned forthcoming change to their existing rooms. 17% talked about spreading their brand through franchise or licensing arrangements. Finally, 13% hinted more vaguely at new projects, more experimental games or expansion outside the traditional definition of exit games.

4. What do you expect to see happen to the UK’s exit games in 2016?

The most overwhelming conclusion in the whole survey is that 83% expected more openings; an interpretation might be that some or all of the remaining response was from people who considered it sufficiently self-evident not to express. 22% said they expected further closures. 13% pointed out that they thought the market had not reached “the top” yet; 35% expected the new games launched to be better or more experimental and another 13% anticipated a better year in the media for the market.

5. What are your biggest concerns for 2016?

30% expressed concern over the effect of bad games on newcomers; 13% feared too much competition, or too many new sites, and 9% worried over the potential for their games to be copied. 17% used phrases like the beginnings of market saturation or the analogy of a burst bubble. Happily, as many as 22% of responses said they had nothing to worry about!

This site wishes to thank everyone who responded to the survey and looks forward to seeing how things compare in another year’s time. The raw results are long and accordingly behind the “Read more” link below.

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The 2016 MIT Mystery Hunt is in progress

"MIT Mystery Hunt" Indian head pennyThe 2016 edition of the annual MIT Mystery Hunt started at 2pm yesterday, based in and around that famous university, associated with Boston in the USA.

A quick summary is that it’s, arguably, the world’s most extreme open-participation puzzle hunt; a low-four-digit-number of players form a few dozen teams (of maybe as few as five players or as many as 125) and spend up to, perhaps, two-and-a-bit days solving puzzles non-stop, taking as little sleep as they dare. There is no limit to the difficulty of puzzles; many of the world’s very best solvers take part, and many of the puzzles are written with this in mind. It’s a practical assumption that most teams will be able to directly or indirectly be able to contact a postdoctorate academic in virtually every subject under the sun, high-brow or low-brow, whether in person or online. For a longer description of the hunt, see last year’s article on the topic, complete with links to write-ups of what it feels like to participate and to some of the most spectacular puzzles.

The hunt does aim to offer such a variety of not just puzzles but also other activities in order to give as many people as possible the chance to join in the fun and contribute whatever their special expertise is. It’s practically guaranteed that there will be several puzzles which will get people out and about (example), there’s very likely to be a twisted variant on a scavenger hunt (example), and it’s virtually traditional for there to be a “bring some food to the team running the hunt” puzzle – with the gimmick that the larger the team, the more elaborate the requirement for the meal to be supplied (example). There are also live events as part of the hunt, with this year’s “Escape from Mars” event sounding rather like it might be relevant to this site’s interests.

If you aspire to play all in the world’s most remarkable puzzle challenges, the MIT Mystery Hunt is one for your bucket list. Being there in person for it must surely be spectacular, though helping a team remotely is the next best thing. (This site is aware of suggestion of at least one remote cell of solvers in London, and believes there may be cells – or at least individual solvers – in at least Cambridge and Manchester.) For the rest of us – and this site knows, the hard way, that the event is out of its league! – then the puzzles and their answers are usually released fairly soon after the event finishes, so that everyone may enjoy and admire their incredible design and artifice.

On the other hand, if the MIT Mystery Hunt isn’t out of your league, why not consider attending the UK Open Puzzle tournament next month? UK solvers can qualify for the country’s team at the World Puzzle Championship!

The great day of The Great Escape UK

The Great Escape UK topic boardOn Thursday, I attended the first unconference in the UK dedicated to exit games and related topics, The Great Escape UK. Being an unconference, the attendees were invited to pitch discussions they wanted to lead, or to have. The board above shows the sessions that were pitched; it’s difficult to read them, so they were as follows:

Using Excel to write a budget forecast Social Media marketing “beyond the victory selfie” Back room equipment (cameras, systems) What other puzzle adventures exist?
  What is the future of escape rooms?   Mobile escape games
Ideas for “upselling” Outdoor escape rooms = geocaching Where does digital fit in escape rooms? Timetabling (illegible bullet point list)
What does a great employee look like? What is missing from the EG community? “Pimp my game” – high-tech and other ideas  

Slightly over 40 attendees booked places at The Cross Keys in Leeds; not everyone turned up, but there were walk-ins as well, so the final number of attendees is not yet known, but there were representatives from over twenty sites. Particular thanks to those who had come from afar to attend: not just London or Scotland, but all the way from Germany or the Netherlands. We had the private area upstairs, which was very good and an easily adequate size for us; the staff were attentive and extremely polite. (The fish and chips were excellent, coming with a particularly good home-made tartare sauce.)

The day started with an introduction to the unconference format; as an ice-breaker, we were split into five teams, each of which had to solve puzzles to crack a four-digit code to unlock a box. The main meat of the day was the four sessions of discussion; the end of the day was my presentation of the “state of the nation in 2015” and discussion on what might happen next to the community.

In the end, there wasn’t the demand to make every proposed session happen. Generally people would congregate around two or three tables and the discussions might have fifteen or twenty people each, though there were some smaller ones and happily some people found more use from talking to each other, perhaps in continuation of previous discussions rather than attending the sessions at all. The best news is that everybody was constructive, generous with their input and came across really favourably as far as I am concerned. If you were there, you’re straight on my strictly metaphorical “plays well with others” list – not to say that if you weren’t there then you’re on my “doesn’t play well with others” list!

Scribes took notes from each of the talks that took place and notes will surely be collated and published shortly, quite possibly in the same Google Documents format as used at the Ontario unconference so that other recollections will be shared. Certainly I’m interested in seeing what was said at the other sessions I missed, and there were usually two tracks that I wanted to attend in every session. Possibly the most exciting one concerns what is missing from the community; more on that before too long.

My presentation of the state of the nation and the 2015 survey results didn’t get too big a response while I was giving it, so I may need to rethink how I present the data. (People were kindly polite to me about the talk afterwards, but it didn’t feel like I had hit the mark at the time.) I shall publish the data in full within, hopefully, a week or so for you to perform your own analyses.

Lots more arising from the event to come over the weeks and months. A spectacular day; when the book on exit games in the UK is written, today will go down in lore!

News round-up for mid-January 2016

News round-upThis site is off to the unconference called The Great Escape UK today, so here are some news stories that have been queued up for a little while. There may be live coverage on Twitter with #EscGamesUK, but no guarantees.

  • Congratulations to Kelly and Alyson who became engaged to each other before Christmas at Escape Rooms Scotland! A report on Facebook suggests that Kelly had no idea, making the surprise proposal even sweeter. The best of health and happiness all round!
  • Clue HQ have already revealed that their next branch to open will be in Birmingham; even before launch, the Birmingham Post have a big piece on the forthcoming site. The suggestion that it might hold 36 guests gives a clear hint as to the ambition behind the location, suggesting it’s clearly one to watch.
  • Puzzlair of Bristol are also in the news as the Bristol Post visited the attraction and had “a great night out“. The reporter also noted that they had played Locked In A Room a few weeks earlier, so this site now has a favourite Bristol local newspaper. Some day the national press will start reviewing rooms and games…
  • Escape Asylum of Leicester are planning to launch in March but are already being covered in a piece in the Leicester Mercury that gives good detail about the founders’ backgrounds and starting-points and – along with the video – will give you a clear idea whether it’s the game for you. The site is set to launch whether or not its crowdfunding campaign reaches its goal; East Midlanders who like darker games should get in early and perhaps quickly pick up a discount.
  • Thanks to Ken for that one and for this: speaking of Kickstarter, there’s a campaign for a site in Preston called Timed Trap. While the campaign hasn’t got off to the best of starts, it’s far from unknown for an exit game to struggle with crowdfunding and then thrive in the fullness of time, so it’s definitely one to keep on the radar.
  • Further afield, the Brantford Expositor of Canada – and compare Expositor to Post and Mercury! – featured a piece on the BreakoutEDU Game Jam this weekend. Looks like an excellent time was had by all; it’s also exciting to read that there are more to come.
  • Even further afield still, Intervirals points to a panel on exit games at the PAX Australia convention in Melbourne. It takes a little listening, but fun to hear how they do it down under!

Looking ahead to 2016: predictions for the year

Peering into a Crystal Ball

This site has ran predictions features over the second half of 2014 and over the whole of 2015, assessing the accuracy of the predictions each time so that the world can have a giggle at just how wrong the guesses were in the first place. Let’s have another go for 2016, more because it’s fun than for any other reason. (Compare to the 2016 predictions for London by The Logic Escapes Me.)

That said, predictions are only so-o-o-o interesting. It’s more fun to think about plausible edge cases; it’s more fun to predict a long shot than something more obvious, but who’s to say what’s obvious and what isn’t? This list of predictions will also attempt to minimise the extent to which it covers previously-trod ground, as “this was an entertaining long-shot that didn’t happen last year and remains an entertaining long-shot this year” isn’t particularly exciting. A couple of other starting-points for predictions: this site will steer clear of predicting things it believes to be foregone conclusions already, and this site will attempt to make the most ambitious predictions that it feels confident making; this site would set over-under lines for the numerical predictions only a little above the figures quoted.

This site considers each of the following to be at least slightly more likely than not:

  • This site will become aware of more than 51 exit game openings in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (Not part of the prediction, but this site suspects that at least 40% of the openings will come from brands and people already in the business in 2015, with a decreasing number of people starting from scratch. Deliberately short-lived pop-up games are not included in the count.)
  • This site will become aware of more than 13 exit game closures in the UK and Ireland. Not every closure is a catastrophe: some businesses have decided to deliberately run a game with a finite duration, possibly with later sequels in mind.
  • At least one brand will have at least nine locations open in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (This is perhaps the most marginal of predictions, but eight seems just a little too safe to predict.)
  • Crowdfunding will get harder; no reasonably traditional exit game based in the UK or Ireland will attract more than £5,000 in funding in 2016 unless the people behind it have an established track record in this or another closely related industry.
  • Many of the biggest gaps in the market will close. At least one exit game will open in 2016 within eight miles of the main train station in at least four of the seven following locations: Reading, Portsmouth, Milton Keynes, Hull, Middlesbrough, Coventry and Peterborough. (This site has heard people talk about possible sites in two of these, but that’s far from a done deal. Other possible cities have been rejected from the list for being too safe a prediction.)
  • The exit game industry will continue to grow sufficiently quickly that this site’s estimate for the number of unique players in the UK or Ireland by the end of December 2015 reaches or exceeds 750,000.
  • There will be a meeting in the UK or Ireland in 2016 with exit games as its focus which attracts more than 50 attendees.
  • This site will become aware of someone that it does not already know at the time of making this prediction running an exit game for friends and family on an amateur basis within the UK and Ireland in 2016 using something more elaborate than, say, a Breakout EDU kit or similar.
  • London and at least two other UK towns will each hold at least four Puzzled Pint events in 2016. (This site has six possibilities in mind.)
  • There will be a UK DASH event and it will sell at least 25 team spaces – or sell out completely if the organisers choose a lower capacity – within 12 days.
  • There will be at least 18 locations in at least three countries around the world at this year’s DASH.
  • Ulrich Voigt will win the World Puzzle Championship this year for his eleventh victory in seventeen years.
  • David McNeill of Northern Ireland will defend his over-50s title in at least one of the World Sudoku Championship and the World Puzzle Championship; hopefully both!
  • This site will finally predict the WPC winning team after picking second place for the last two years.
  • This site loves stories of marriage proposals taking place at exit games and there have been at least ten customer proposals on record. A more interesting prediction is that by the end of 2016, this site will become aware of at least one proposal between a couple who got to know each other by both working at the same exit game.

This site considers each of the following to be less likely than not – maybe something like 30% likely each? – but nevertheless these are interesting possibilities.

  • Some company may bring larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (This is inspired by SCRAP’s Real Escape Game events playing in France and Spain as well as other continents, and is surely slightly more likely than last year.)
  • An exit game brand in the UK and Ireland may take over at least one other existing game, or maybe even another exit game brand altogether.
  • There may be a single-day puzzle hunt in the UK and Ireland that is not the continuation of a series run in previous years and that attracts at least a hundred players.
  • There may be some interactive transmedia storytelling (or an Alternate Reality Game, as people called them a decade and a bit ago) to promote a new exit game or a new room at an exit game.
  • This site may become aware of an Irish exit game community; the rooms do exist, as well as the Boda Borg centre at Lough Key and doubtless other things far too cool to exist in the UK yet, so it would be a delight for someone to start a blog with an Irish focus and maybe even get meetings going as is starting to happen in the UK.

This site considers each of the following to be much less likely than not – maybe something like 15% likely each? – but nevertheless these are entertaining outside possibilities.

  • There might be a TV puzzle show made in the UK or Ireland to match up with the best puzzle shows that we’ve had in the past; if someone were to commission a local version of The Genius and it were to live up to its potential, that would count, or if someone were to make a really good exit game TV show, that would count too.
  • There might be a puzzle competition (as opposed to an armchair treasure hunt or puzzle hunt) launched in the UK or Ireland which is designed to be played in teams – maybe even an inter-town league or an inter-university championship. This site really misses the Croco-League.
  • Someone might start an overtly humorous blog about the genre in the UK and Ireland: two-thirds serious content, one-third shtick.
  • Someone might start an attraction just north of Heathrow called The Crystal Hayes or in South Essex called The Crystal Grays

Mechanics Monday: if you had to invent The Crystal Maze, would you?

A pentakis dodecahedron

A few days ago, this site was delighted to see job adverts for the exciting-looking position of Maze Master at the forthcoming The Crystal Maze live attraction opening in London in a double handful of weeks’ time. It might seem a shade strange at first to see them go down the acting recruitment route to fill the positions, but any customer-facing position in either an exit game or any other live entertainment game is definitely a show business position, playing to the audience of (usually) a single team at a time. Don’t forget, Richard O’Brien was (among many other things) an actor before he became so familiar to audiences in this particular role.

The hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of Kickstarter campaign pre-orders are an excellent indication that people are very, very excited about getting the chance to play the game – and, from there, it doesn’t seem too implausible to suggest that there may be many other people who would like to get the chance to do so but might not, for geographic reasons or many other possible causes. The number of other games that have made either explicit reference or implicit allusion to The Crystal Maze when trying to explain their appeal, or just as a familiar point of reference, also goes to reference the strength of the show as a cultural touchpoint at the very least.

It’s public knowledge that one of the distinguishing advantages of the live The Crystal Maze attraction is its authenticity, not least from the work they have done with the rights holders and the people who made the show in the first place. It’s also true that some part of the appeal of the show, to a (presumably reasonably large) part of the audience, was the wonderful and elaborate environment that the show worked so hard to create. It would seem unlikely to implausible that any other site might ever be able to match this; if people want to play the show they loved, they have no other alternative – and are delighted that the live attraction exists as a possibility at all. In case it’s unclear at all, getting to play the live attraction is one of the things that this site is most looking forward to in 2016.

However, it could be possible for a game to describe itself as “like The Crystal Maze but better” and then provide a number of reasons why it makes that remarkable claim. It’s certainly true that The Crystal Maze was designed to be watched rather than to be played by a mass audience. Some of the distinguishing properties of The Crystal Maze are not necessarily conducive to being an ideal experience when played live; the live experience has hinted at some concessions to authenticity for a better live experience and it will be fascinating to see, in time, whether further such concessions will have been made.

For instance, this site tends to believe that nobody really wants to be locked in and to have to, at least nominally, wait to be bought out. Playing a game is more fun than not playing a game, which is why player elimination mechanics have fallen out of fashion in modern game designs. With this in mind, the suggestion that “locked in” players in the live attraction will also be able to rescue themselves by solving additional puzzles rather than by waiting to being bought out – or not – by their team seems like a wise one in terms of the gameplay experience. A friend made a suggestion to the effect of “If you pay £60 to go round The Crystal Maze and end up being locked in on game one then it’s your fault for being so rubbish”, which is fair enough on one level and the roughest of justice on another.

So if you were designing a live experience to be played by the self-selecting near-mass audience, rather than to be watched on TV, what differences would you choose to make from The Crystal Maze as we know it? While it makes sense for there to be a penalty for failing at (at least some) games other than opportunity cost, perhaps there could be other ways to express this penalty other than the “miss a turn” aspect of a lock-in. The whole aspect where only one player could play any particular game and everyone else just had to watch them play and (usually) shout suggestions might also be worth reconsidering; while shouting suggestions is one way to play a game, for many it will be more vicarious and less vicious than might make for the most compelling experience. Lastly, why couldn’t players have a free choice of physical, mental, mystery or skill genres and the ability to play more than one of a particular type in a particular zone if that’s what would make the game the most fun for them?

At this point, it’s tempting to imagine a rather freeform game. Imagine that your team might get to spend (e.g.) 15 minutes in each of four themed zones, gaining para-crystal currency units. In each zone, there are perhaps 25 opportunities to gain currency units, with each one designed to be possible to win by a single player, with teams having complete flexibility to deploy players to opportunities as they see fit – so possibly lots of people playing one-player games, or people advising other people how to play their games, or maybe even two people teaming up on a single game, or so on. Budgeting time and assigning players to challenges would be the major challenge; the only time limit could be the 15 minute limit in each zone. The currency won from each zone would then be used in some endgame to generate an overall score, which might or might not involve analogues of flying tokens and/or geodesic domes. This site is unsure what the intellectual property laws of the land would dictate.

Is this a game you would like to play? Is this a landscape that looks commercial to you?

Coming soon to Edinburgh: Exit Plan Edinburgh

Exit Plan Edinburgh logoAnother new exit game opens its doors in Edinburgh on Monday. (Then, presumably, closes some of them again, at least for an hour at a time.) Exit Plan Edinburgh is based in an office complex within Edinburgh’s New Town, with St. Andrew Square probably the nearest stop on the tram line. The site is set to open throughout the day, every day; its first game, The Tesla Cube, has a one-hour time limit and is designed to cater for teams of two to seven. Perhaps there is a hint of local flavour in, at least, an allusion to Edinburgh’s strong history in theoretical physics.

The brilliant inventor and scientist, Doctor Boson, has spent a lifetime advancing and improving upon the designs of his idol Nikola Tesla. In particular, the development of an object called the ‘Tesla Cube’ – a device of near limitless power. Until recently, you were the Doctor’s assistant. That was before he fired you for doing nothing more than simply questioning his motives for developing such a device. This only increased your suspicions about what the Doctor was really up to so you decided to find out for yourself.

You have learnt that rather than using this device to solve the world’s energy problems as he said, the Doctor is in fact working in secret for a criminal organisation and the true purpose of the device is as a key component for a terrible weapon. He intends to hand over his completed prototype to his employers this evening – you cannot allow this to happen but you know that nobody will believe you without proof. The Doctor has just left his apartment to finalise his plans – now is your chance to break in undetected.

The price is reasonably competitive with that of other local games; £44 for two players up to £66 for a foursome and £73.50 for a team of seven. Many thanks to Ken for pointing this one out.

The semester report for late 2015

Tree graphics from the second half of the yearThis site looks at locations’ TripAdvisor performances from time to time; it’s interesting to reflect on how far the industry has come. The Timeline shows that the number of known open exit games in the UK doubled (or, on every occasion but one, more than doubled) over the first half of 2013, the second half of 2013, the first half of 2014, the second half of 2014 and the first half of 2015. (Those numbers: 1 to 3 to 7 to 14 to 30 to 64.) Over the second half of 2015, the number did not double again but rose from 64 to 95. Maybe it’s only 94. It’s in the very high double figures, at least.

It’s worth occasionally looking at trends in popular reviews of exit games in the UK and Ireland, taken from TripAdvisor statistics. This site is using a little more reserve than once it did with regards to what it says, bearing TripAdvisor’s terms of use in mind; the aim is not to laud or criticise particular sites in this regard, more to look at the bigger picture. Besides, if you run a site and care about your performance in this regard, it’s probably not difficult to work out which site is which from context. As usual, there’s more than a hint of truth in xkcd’s snark about online star ratings; in this world, anything other than full marks (and, especially if you’re on eBay, several pluses and stars) is a “diss that don’t miss”. It’s not necessarily a healthy state of affairs for anyone who cares about subtlety, graduation and shades of light and dark – but, with this in mind, are five-star ratings quite as common as they used to be?

Here’s some raw data, aggregated over the universe of TripAdvisor reviews for exit games in the UK and Ireland that this site was able to find.

Time period Number of reviews Number of 5* reviews Proportion of 5% reviews
To end of June 2014 1665 1532 92%
Second half of 2014 2240 1998 89%
First half of 2015 4248 3900 92%
Second half of 2015 6697 6127 91%

From these figures, there has been no measured change in quality over the last six months; a z-test does not suggest any even slightly meaningful degree of significance in the change from the first half of 2015 to the second. These statistics make the considerable (and untestable) assumption that the standard required for a 5* review is the same as it ever was.

It may be closer to comparing like with like to only consider the 52 sites that have been open since before January 2015, where we have meaningful numbers of reviews (10+, and even that’s a stretch) for H1 2015 and for H2 2015.

Site location First half of 2014 Second half of 2015
  Reviews 5% reviews Prop’n 5% Reviews 5% reviews Prop’n 5%
Scotland 66 52 79% 115 95 83%
South 79 70 89% 75 65 87%
Ireland 24 18 75% 20 16 80%
Midlands 11 1 9% 15 0 0%
Midlands 109 108 99% 113 107 95%
North 84 82 98% 69 64 93%
South 22 21 95% 23 15 65%
South 64 60 94% 92 88 96%
Scotland 203 167 82% 103 82 80%
Scotland 103 98 95% 98 96 98%
Scotland 119 113 95% 163 151 93%
Scotland 66 64 97% 148 142 96%
Scotland 122 109 89% 106 90 85%
Scotland 14 12 86% 35 30 86%
Scotland 41 41 100% 111 109 98%
North 36 35 97% 23 23 100%
Scotland 11 11 100% 48 45 94%
North 200 194 97% 176 163 93%
North 156 150 96% 93 86 92%
North 80 80 100% 95 94 99%
North 72 66 92% 104 97 93%
North 28 27 96% 23 19 83%
North 40 37 93% 147 132 90%
North 21 18 86% 89 77 87%
London 189 178 94% 177 163 92%
London 220 207 94% 235 213 91%
London 71 54 76% 62 47 76%
London 23 22 96% 23 23 100%
London 20 19 95% 35 33 94%
London 59 50 85% 115 97 84%
London 31 29 94% 128 114 89%
London 62 60 97% 181 178 98%
London 75 71 95% 202 191 95%
North 31 30 97% 32 32 100%
North 172 155 90% 211 184 87%
North 76 69 91% 258 216 84%
North 190 169 89% 254 195 77%
Midlands 13 13 100% 15 15 100%
North 41 37 90% 37 31 84%
North 65 62 95% 38 29 76%
North 41 41 100% 59 57 97%
Midlands 82 76 93% 148 137 93%
Midlands 46 46 100% 162 158 98%
Midlands 27 20 74% 46 38 83%
South 121 112 93% 104 91 88%
South 71 70 99% 74 74 100%
North 141 134 95% 185 161 87%
North 39 37 95% 34 33 97%
North 210 203 97% 198 190 96%
North 95 90 95% 197 186 94%
Ireland 36 36 100% 85 85 100%
Ireland 22 20 91% 53 48 91%

The first column is classified as Scotland, Ireland, London, and (referring to different parts of provincial England) North, Midlands and South. Be aware that Ireland refers to both Northern Ireland and Ireland as such; this is poor practice that the site does not usually follow, but the alternative would be to let at least one site be individually identifiable, which this site considers to be an even worse alternative. There is further ordering in the table which this site chooses not to make explicit but is not hard to deduce. (If you run a site and can’t work out which site you are, you could always ask.)

So, only among these 52 popular and well-established sites:

Time period Number of reviews Number of 5* reviews Proportion of 5% reviews
First half of 2015 4040 3744 93%
Second half of 2015 5432 4905 90%

That is a statistically highly significant difference over the whole of the population and some individual sites have similarly statistically significant differences as well. Does this mean that those sites have got worse over time? Not necessarily; it may just mean that people are holding well-established sites to an even higher standard still to the one that once they did. Run your own tests!

There’s one other comparison worth running:

Time period Number of reviews Number of 5* reviews Proportion of 5% reviews
52 well-established sites 5432 4905 90%
The other 40+ sites 1265 1222 97%

That too is a statistically highly significant difference. Does this mean that new sites are better than well-established sites? That could be one conclusion. Does this mean that people are holding these less well-established sites to a less exacting standard? That could be another. Certainly some new sites have got off to remarkably accomplished starts. This is excellent news and this site looks forward to seeing whether they can maintain their remarkably high ratings over time. Every site was a less well-established site before it became a well-established one.

There is one very important assumption that this analysis makes: that the reviews that people leave are a genuinely representative sample of participants. Different sites seem to perform more or less effectively at converting participants into reviewers and it is not clear why. Looking at the geographic locations of reviewers, it’s also sometimes possible that more than one member of the same team might choose to leave a review for some games, though there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that; it’s conceivable that different members of one group might leave – say – both a ***** review and a *** review, rather than the group leaving a single **** review. It’s not unknown, in the wider world at large, for there to be such things as fake reviews; this site isn’t aware of it having happened in the exit games it covers, but this site has chosen not to look too hard.

In conclusion: in aggregate, the statistics suggest that exit games were awesome up until the first half of 2015, and have been just as awesome in the second half of 2015 as well.

Coming soon to Gravesend: The Panic Room

The Panic Room logoThe above logo, with a delightfully Mexico 70 font, belongs to The Panic Room of Gravesend, which opens tomorrow and is the first new exit game to open in 2016, by a small margin. The venue is a business suite within Gravesend’s Old Town Hall. To begin with, the site will open with a single room, which can host teams of two to eight and has a 60-minute time limit. Additional rooms are promised but may have lower team size limits. The site will open on weekday evenings and all day at weekends.

The name of the first room is The Panic Room, matching the name of the site. “You are a team sent to a crazed conspiracy theorists mansion where he has been found dead. He found out something he shouldn’t have and clearly someone wanted to cover it up and hide it. The room is trashed and clearly in the murderer’s haste he couldn’t find the secret file. It is now your job to solve the trail of puzzles and riddles left by the conspiracy theorist, find the exit code and escape before the 60 minutes is up.

The charge is reasonable at £15/player for teams of two, three or four; the rate ramps down rapidly for larger teams, with a team of five paying £70 total and teams of six, seven or eight paying £75 total. T-shirts are also available, which is rather neat. You’ve played the game, now wear the shirt!

Looking forward to the Unconference in Leeds next Wednesday


(Posted by Dr. Scott Nicholson from the Ontario Escape Room Unconference 2015.)

This site has mentioned the “The Great Escape UK” unconference next Wednesday a few times; tickets are still available with registration open until at least Sunday. That ticketing page confirms the venue (a mile from the coach station, half a mile from the railway station) and sets the tone and suggests what might be in store. Definitely room for more owners, would-be owners, enthusiasts and those who just want to learn a lot more, myself firmly included.

Conversations I would be interested in having next Wednesday include:

  • What does the future of exit games look like? (I think there is no one future, but many different parts of the future…)
  • What does the UK market really look like at the moment – what is the survey (discussed yesterday) not properly capturing?
  • What other sorts of puzzle adventures are there to enjoy? I talk about quite a few on this site, but there must be others that I know very little about and would love to know much more about.
  • What are the characteristics of an excellent exit game employee, how might they be recognised and rewarded?
  • …and doubtless many, many more that I look forward to being pleasantly surprised by.

Hope to see you there!