The focus of this short article will be on consistently broken games and the ethics behind it. This will be a lot less incendiary than the last post , and no particular businesses will be named, and evidence is circumstantial
I wrote in my ‘one year in review’ about how I loathe businesses that are okay with selling broken games, and I’ll explain in detail why. It’s an important distinction that there are definitely businesses/rooms that break down intermittently from random wear and tear, quickly address it and move on. These are not the same businesses.
The first obvious reason is of course that the player’s experience is damaged. Maybe a lock doesn’t open when it should, or maybe a button doesn’t activate a hidden panel. The problem snowballs. Players won’t know that a mechanism isn’t working because it’s broken. It’s much easier to assume the answer they used was incorrect. They waste time all the while getting increasingly frustrated.
The second issue involves the insidious nature businesses deal with it. On the surface, it seems fine. Maybe it was a small hiccup, and they gave you additional time to address it. Maybe they let you play another room for free. As long as the customer is happy, isn’t everything okay? Well, maybe. What about the next group of players? Or the ones after that? The nature of escape rooms is that players don’t repeat rooms. So players won’t be able to tell if anything’s being done about it (and they might not even care). This is anecdotal, but I’ve been to a place where a particular mechanism didn’t work. A little over a week later, a random reader emails me and comments that the same mechanism wasn’ working for her. Another week passes, and I hear the same thing again. At this point, I can’t help but wonder – Is this just a string of coincidences? Or maybe, they’re okay with selling a broken game, and just compensate players depending on how upset they are afterwards. I think this is fairly unethical.
The third issue is that it hurts everyone. I suspect there’s more than one place that does this. Players suffer. The hobby as a whole suffers. Think of the first impression a player has of the hobby if the first game they go to is broken.
All I (or any player) wants are working games, and how this is achieved is the responsibility of the business. I understand that these businesses are here to make money, but this is clearly a case of cutting corners. If you can’t take care of your high-tech equipment, then don’t have any. If locks are breaking down, then replace them. I would hope such simple considerations should be part of one’s business plans.
I’ve been super excited that other reviewers are popping up now. You can find them in the Links page up above. It”ll be a much more consistent process to compare notes and figure out which perpetrators everybody should avoid. Fix your games.