The Best Escape Room in the World

November 17, 2016 by Nate Martin

I’ve got a confession to make: You won’t find the best escape room in the world at any Puzzle Break location. Where is it, you ask? Good question, but first:

What is the best movie ever made? The best game? What’s the best book ever written? The best painting ever painted? Unfortunately for Top X Lists everywhere, these things do not exist. The reason is subjectivity. Movies, games, books, works from all creative mediums, have subjective choices made to appeal to different types of audiences. From big decisions like genre (romance, action, horror, etc.) all the way down to cosmetic word/dialogue choices with a gorillion* variables in between.


*Pictured: 1 Gorillion Dollars

*Pictured: 1 Gorillion Dollars

Because of the enormous inherent subjectivity, identifying an objective best work is functionally impossible. Any critic/reviewer of a creative medium who would argue there’s an objectively single best piece is either being tongue-in-cheek, dishonest, or has a fundamental misunderstanding of subjectivity.

Which brings me to the nascent world of escape room reviewing. As of this writing, there’s well over 5000 escape rooms in at least 90 countries, and we’re beginning to see some intrepid folks formally reviewing room escapes on dedicated sites/blogs. Many of these are excellent resources containing tremendously valuable insights with a vitally important awareness of subjectivity. 

Perhaps my favorite example of subjective-preference-sensitivity is the format of the reviews at Room Escape Artist. At REA, there isn’t an objective scoring system. Instead, they analyze subjective design choices in the context of the experience. Each review ends with a “Should I play [this game]?” section outlining the types of players who will love/hate the game. As a player, I love puzzle-heavy experiences, hate horror experiences, I’m not a fan of interacting with an in-fiction actor, and I loathe low-light situations, etc etc etc. The best game in the world to me might be the world’s most awful experience to someone else, and vice versa.

There’s an unfortunate (and frankly dangerous) trend among some less experienced reviewers where subjectivity is ignored. Variables are not controlled for. Consider an unfortunate book critic who only likes young adult horror romance comedy, ideally with sexy vampires. Further, they don’t grok the concept of “different strokes for different folks”. Ulysses? D-. Slaughterhouse 5? D+. Twilight? The best book ever written.


For the record, I'm on Team Count

For the record, I’m on Team Count

So, where can you find the best escape room in the world? I’m afraid it doesn’t exist. But all is not lost! Looking for an escape room recommendation? Don’t ask reviewers/critics/friends/strangers-on-the-bus for “best”. Instead, ask “What’s your favorite?” or “What would you recommend for someone like me?” And if they respond with Puzzle Break, I bet they have excellent taste.

-Nate

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4 Comments

  1. Manda

    Yup! Every time I hear the words "We need completely objective reviews" my response is always "That is impossible". Well thought out article!

  2. David Spira

    Thanks for the kind words Nate. You’ve completely nailed our approach over at RoomEscapeArtist.com.

    We know that we can’t be purely objective, so we’ve worked very hard to create a framework that allows our readers to make the judgement call for themselves.

  3. Ken

    I love REA and think their reviews are enjoyable, even for someone who’s unlikely to ever play the rooms they review. They are the gold standard of reviewing, I aspire to their quality of writing, and I’ll freely admit their work influences my review style.

    I’ll set you this one challenge though. I’m going to New York on a once in a lifetime trip and I decide I want to book a game and head to their site. Which one should I choose? Where do I start?

    Ratings allow you to filter when you have access to a lot of games. Once you’ve got your potential five games, then you can jump in and skim the review (or, better yet, read the "recommendation" section). Yes, you might have missed out on a good game that was four stars, because it didn’t make Lisa and David happy, but you might equally miss out on one because there aren’t ratings and you haven’t read all the reviews.

    Another way of dealing with that (where you’re reviewing for a particular location) ot to put together a guide that points people at what you consider to be good examples of rooms that might appeal for visitors with certain preferences or needs – for example, games for couples, wheelchair-accessible games, high tech games, historical ones, focus on immersion. I’ve done that for my review site but visitors still wanted a central place that ranked all games.

    There’s a lot of hate for ratings and rankings but when it comes down to it, they work. They’re not perfect but I’d argue not having them leaves the user with a poorer experience. There’s an unfortunate (and frankly dangerous) trend amongst experienced players to think that people have time to read every review before making a decision.

    And that example – that’s not a theoretical one. It’s the one that actually happened this weekend to a friend visiting NY.

  4. Gregory

    Only in Poland we have over 1000 er, so probably there is more than 5000 over the world.

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