Imagine being locked in a room with no means of escape. To get free you must solve a hodgepodge of riddles, puzzles, and locks. You have a certain amount of time to interact with your surroundings before it’s game over. Seem like an interesting concept? If so, you have the chance to test your problem-solving skills and abilities in a real life escape room. With six unforgettable escape rooms including classic adventures like Save the White House and Survive the Joker’s Trap, there is a puzzle room suited for adventurers of all kinds here at Room Escape Fairfax. While Room Escape Fairfax may have the most rooms of any facility on the east coast with completely original puzzles and features, we didn’t invent the concept. The origins of the escape room craze date back several decades.
The First Live Escape Rooms
While escape room-style games were played as early as the 80’s and 90’s, it wasn’t until 2007 that the first live escape room was created. Real Escape Game (REG) was created by Japanese businessman Tako Kato who worked at a Kyoto publishing company known SCARP Co. The Japanese game required players to enter a themed room where they had to solve riddles to escape. Players had a defined period of time to solve the game and win their freedom, usually one hour. The development of REG led to many other countries developing their own version of the adventure game.
It wasn’t until 2011 that the escape room left its original birthplace of Japan. Budapest, Hungary is where the first live escape room was built outside of Japan. Its originator Hungarian franchise Parapark required people to pay to be locked inside a room where they must use their skills to find objects and solve puzzles. Creator Attila Gyurkovics claimed that he had never heard of the Japanese game before creating his own version. Instead, he said he used experience as a personality trainer to create the game. Parapark later went on to operate in 20 locations in Australia and Europe.
In 2012, SCRAP moved to the United States and opened up shop in San Francisco, California. Real Escape Game, or REG, became America’s first live escape room. As popularity of the interactive adventure games spread, new companies joined the scene. Puzzle Break and Escape the Room NYC both opened in late 2013. By then, a new escape room game known as HintHint Debrecen had popped up in Hungary in 2012. HintHint spread to the UK in April of 2012. By late 2012, the live action game could also be found in Switzerland and Romania.
In 2015, the first escape rooms arrived in the South. By this period there was an estimated 2,800 live escape rooms found in cities across the globe, with over 1,500 escape room facilities in the United States alone.
The Start of a Phenomenon
While the first live escape game may have roots in Japan, these mystery-oriented adventure games were on the scene long before then. Literature, films, and television shows often touched on the concept of escape games. In the 1990s, a television station in the UK aired The Adventure Game. The storyline contained three people stranded on a planet outside the galaxy. In order to return to earth, the group must locate a crystal to power the spaceship. In 1990, another UK TV station aired The Crystal Maze. In this show contestants must play a series of mental, physical, skill, and mystery games in themed zones to gain as many crystals as possible.
While watching escape rooms on a TV set was intriguing, it didn’t allow viewers to take control of the plot. When escape room video games came along, it gave consumers the opportunity to get in on the storyline. Players could solve puzzles and search themed rooms, all within the constraints of the game. Myst was one of the most popular video games of the early 90s that closely followed the concept of an escape room. In a fictional world, players must solve puzzles and find clues to reveal information about a character in the game.
Actual Escape the Room games became widespread starting in the early 2000s. One of the first games to hit the market was Crimson Room. This Japanese point and click game required the player to escape a confined space by searching their environment. While simple, the game opened the door for many other video game designers to create more complex and challenging escape the room games. Today you can find escape the room-style strategy video games in stores, online, and available on many apps for your smartphone.
Inspiration of Escape Games
Humans have always had an interest in the unknown. Many have a natural desire to solve mysteries and succeed in challenges. As children, you may have participated in treasure hunts which required you to look for clues in specific places. As an adult, you may have dabbled in live role play which requires players to personify characters and interact with one another, similar to how players interact in escape rooms. However, live escape rooms can differ significantly. While some focus on competition, others put an emphasis on the investigation itself.
What makes live escape rooms so popular are their interactive features. Today, people don’t want to just sit back and be entertained. They want to get in on the action and use their creative abilities to solve a problem and win a prize, even if it’s just the successful escape of a “locked” room. What also makes these live adventure establishments so unique is that they appeal to many types of people, from ambitious adventurers to amateur sleuths. There are currently escape rooms in more than 50 countries and over 280 cities worldwide. With the perfect balance of fun, thrills, and challenge, don’t expect the escape room craze to die down anytime soon.