Sometimes people ask ‘what’s the record time for the Device? Or a related question, ‘What’s the win percentage at McSnooty’s?’. In fact, many escape room businesses do keep leaderboards on which they prominently display fastest times for finishing their rooms. And some escape room businesses even post on their websites the completion rate of each room. The idea is ostensibly to give people a sense of how hard an escape room is so they can make a more appropriate, or at least informed, choice when they make reservations.

When people ask me these questions, I answer in a way that I know frustrates some people, but it’s simply the truth. At Save Milwaukee Escape Rooms, we don’t post a leader board and we do not record times. We also don’t keep track of what percentage of groups are successful (although you can get a bit of a sense of that from our facebook page by looking at the group photos we post and paying attention to whether they are holding success or failure signs.)

The reason isn’t that it would be difficult or hard to keep track of. Rather, I believe it would shift our focus away from making sure that each group has the best escape room experience we can offer.

Let me explain. A leaderboard implies competition, and competition necessitates fairness. It only makes sense to compare times when groups face the same challenge. But what about hints?

Some escape rooms have a policy of giving each group a fixed number of hints. For example, you might be given three objects that can be exchanged for hints at the mission’s beginning. At Save Milwaukee Escape Rooms, we don’t have a set limit on hints. Instead, we give hints as needed to keep you engaged and working on your adventure.

This means that groups that are particularly experienced or good at sleuthing may receive less hints (or even none at all), whereas other groups that need more help will receive more. I believe that is the best way to do things- groups book an escape room to have an enjoyable, memorable challenge. People don’t want to be too frustrated, but people also don’t want to have answers they could come up with on their own spoon fed to them before they get the opportunity to figure it out.

But by customizing the experience somewhat for each group via the quantity and sometimes content of hints, we sacrifice the possibility of fair competition. In my view that’s a good trade off

It’s also hard to quantify how difficult an escape room is because things really vary from group to group. Clues that some people struggle to find others catch right away. Just for example, I’ve seen times where people who have done dozens of escape rooms completely miss something that a group of kids finds right away. And of course the opposite- sometimes kids or people who are new to escape rooms struggle putting something together that other folks are familiar with or have seen before and do right away.

So when you come to Save Milwaukee Escape Rooms, my advice is to just focus on having fun with the process of completing your mission. Remember, no one is keeping track of whether you win or lose.


Owner, Save Milwaukee Escape Rooms

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash