Escape rooms are the ultimate destination for recreational fun. Escape rooms are not a new addition to the gaming or recreational industry, but they have become a hot commodity in the past decade. You must see ads for escape rooms near you every time you open your Instagram feed, right? That is because of the insane popularity escape rooms have enjoyed in recent years.
Now, you must be wondering what all the hype is about. So, here is a little lesson on the history of the escape room and what goes on behind the scenes.
Escape rooms offer live-action escape games for players. What does that mean exactly? You voluntarily enter a themed escape room and form a team with other players in an escape room. The primary goal is to find clues and solve puzzles to escape the room. You might also have to solve specific scenario-oriented missions before you leave. The game has a time limit (typically 60 minutes) during which you will have to make your escape.
The escape rooms are all based on specific themes. It could be a murder mystery, thriller, horror, supernatural, science fiction, and even crime noir. The concept of live-action escape games was developed from old locked room mysteries and puzzle games. The introduction of interactive video games also played a part in the formation of escape games.
So, how did these escape games come into being? Read along to find out more.
History of Escape Rooms
The history of escape games can be traced back to the late 20th century. The introduction of point-and-click games and other interactive live games paved the way for the development of escape room games. In the late 1970s, LARPing, or Live Action Role Playing, became famous thanks to Dungeons and Dragons. Then in 1988, John Wilson (a software programmer) created a text-based interactive game called Behind Closed Doors. This game followed the technique of interactive missions through interactions with the game environment.
Next came the point-and-click escape video games like Crimson room and Planet Memphis. In these video games, players will have to use a pointer and, well…click to figure out the gameplay and uncover clues to escape the game. These games leveled up (pun intended) using graphics and more interaction over text-based games. Interactive escape games were slowly taking up shape from here. Several games like True Dungeon (inspired by Dungeons and Dragons), real-life interactive puzzle games like 5 Wits, and even theater performances started involving the audience in the game, which created a space for live-action games.
But it will be quite some time before escape rooms become an established model for live-action games. The first real-life escape games were organized in Kyoto by a company called SCRAP in 2007. Takao Kato, a Japanese puzzle enthusiast, created the first live-action immersive escape game experience. In this game, 5-6 players played a live puzzle game inside a themed room. Around 150 people played the first game. Since then, SCRAP has grown even more significantly with its annual Real Escape Game Event, which hosts more than a thousand players in the event.
The ground-breaking and sustainable popularity of Kato’s escape game prompted the industry to develop and establish different escape room games. In Europe, a Hungarian social worker named Attila Gyurkovics got inspired by finding the object and escaping the location genre of games and established Parapark in Budapest in 2011. In 2012, Attila Nagy and another Hungarian name Csaba Vinkler founded Britain’s first escape room, HintHunt, in London.
In The United States, the first natural and immersive escape game came in 2012. Kazuya Iwata established a Real Escape Game in San Francisco. Later, he turned it into a franchise with multiple locations across the country. In 2013, Microsoft alums Nate Martin brought live-action escape games with Puzzle Break to Seattle. This was, in fact, the first American escape room company.
In 2013, India also got its first live-action escape game at Clue Hunt in Mumbai. In 2015, Breakout Escape Games entered Bangalore as India’s only movie-styled escape room. Since then, Breakout has opened up 44 new branches.
Pandemic and Escape Rooms
The covid-19 pandemic changed the world as we know it. Almost all aspects of our lives went through drastic changes. Every industry underwent re-evaluation and restructuring to fit the standards of a world living with a deadly virus. Most physical escape rooms postponed their businesses.
This was when virtual escape games started gaining ground. Virtual escape games returned to the roots of the immersive escape genre- point and click games and interactive video games. Virtual escape games can be roughly divided into four generations.
1. Generation 1
This generation focused on mobile-friendly puzzle games. It includes the puzzle aspect of escape games without the graphics.
2. Generation 2
The second generation went a little further and started focusing on the visual aspects of the game as well. This became the basic setup of a virtual escape game- puzzles and great visuals. The conferencing applications will help bring the team together and plan for the escape.
3. Generation 3
The third generation revolutionized virtual escape games. The escape game establishment will provide a field agent with a body cam in these games. You can experience all the beauty of an offline escape game without any real-life contact. Perfect for social distancing, right?
4. Generation 4
The fourth generation is the most recent introduction to virtual escape rooms. These games took the shape of a movie. The agent inside the gaming establishment will not do the bidding of the gamers. Instead, they will be Non-Playable Characters or NPCs. This stranger will add the element of suspense to the game. Perhaps an homage to the famous locked room mysteries.
Escape rooms have gone through several ups and downs. The pandemic also forced escape games to forge a new path for developing escape room games. But it is safe to say that escape room games are here to stay.