History of Escape Rooms

By 8th September 2021 No Comments
History of Escape Rooms

The hype around Escape Rooms is real. If you have yet to put your brainpower to the test in one of the most immersive, live-action experiences in town, then buckle up! 

With an exciting origin story to match some of the most iconic games around today, the history surrounding Escape Rooms is a captivating read. From the innovative SCRAP to the iconic Channel 4 smash hit show The Crystal Maze, it’s no wonder we’re all in love with this unique experience. 

So what sparked the Escape Room revolution? Let’s take a look:

An obsession with secrets

Historically, humanity has always had an obsession with the idea of secrecy, codes and mystery. From clever Jewish cryptic messages hidden in texts thousands of years old to Alan Turing codebreaking military secrets during WWII. Cryptography has long played a part in unmasking hidden truths for millennia. 

Often featuring the classic “random-substitution letter-to-symbol cipher, with numbers and punctuation marks, and without word divisions”. This form of the puzzle has been the framework for most mysteries throughout the ages. You can see cryptography at work throughout several works of fiction, most notably Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Gold Bug and Maurice Leblanc’s The Hollow Needle

Perhaps inspired by real-life examples or from the love of mysteries. The art of cryptography has given rise to popular puzzles, cryptograms. These puzzles can use anything from symbols, numbers or words to create complex cyphers just waiting to be solved! 

Video game origins

Anyone who has ever played Fallout, Bioshock or Resident Evil will be all too aware of the Escape Room vibes. You do have to seek out clues, crack puzzles and use logic to proceed to the next stage. You will find yourself immersed in captivating and timeless stories and mysterious plots. Sounds familiar, no?

During the 1970s, point-and-click adventures games began to shape the growing video game landscape. One of the earliest examples is Planet Mephius. Designed by Eiji Yokoyama and released by T&E Soft in 1983, this groundbreaking prototype for virtual adventure was available exclusively in Japan. 

But the one that tipped the scales has to be the cult classic video game, Crimson Rush. Created by Toshimitsu Takagi in 2004, you have to work your way through a series of clues hidden in a crimson coloured room. The only way to make your escape is to use your logic and work your way through 23 steps. 

SCRAP: The world’s first live-action Escape Room

Not long after Crimson Rush changed the video gaming world forever, innovative designer Takao Kato brought the first-ever live-action Escape Room to life. With a desire to create his own adventure, “a story – and invite people to be a part of it,” Kato quickly sparked a new craze. 

First opening its doors in 2007, Japanese company SCRAP, introduced players to real-life themed situations while faced with a series of riddles and puzzles to solve in a set period of time. 

Back then, games often took place in bars and clubs before companies started constructing more permanent locations. 

And the Escape Room phenomenon was born. 

Rooms quickly spread like wildfire throughout Asia before arriving in Europe and the USA. Now you’ll find over 50,000 rooms Escape Room experiences spread over 44 different countries. 1,500 of those are in the UK alone. Making it one of the country’s most popular forms of entertainment. 

Pop culture inspiration

Growing up in the UK, cult classic TV shows such as The Crystal Maze (1990) and The Adventure Game (1980) were an unavoidable part of weekend viewing. In both shows, contestants would find themselves taking on various physical and mind-boggling challenges and puzzles while trapped in a room. With the sole purpose to make your escape and claim the prize at the end, it’s no wonder we’re all so obsessed with Escape Rooms!

Thematically, a lot of what makes Escape Rooms so appealing to the masses is their ability to bring captivating stories to life. Whether they use real-life inspiration from the likes of The Great Train Robbery or Jack the Ripper. Or lean on literary heroes such as Sherlock Holmes. The sense of “escaping” real life for 60 minutes is all part of the magic. 

Post-2012 – the games really begin!

Ever since the Escape Room concept landed on US and UK shores in around 2012, the industry quickly saw an explosion ripple across the globe. By 2013, the UK was home to seven Escape Rooms. Fast forward to 2021, and there are now over 1,500 to choose from across the country. 

Players could suddenly immerse themselves in real-life adventures in ways never seen before. No longer would weekends and evenings be spent watching TV and films from the comfort of your home. But they need to try something new and experimental shook the industry more than ever before. 

With pop-up experiences landing at the likes of Comic-Con, music festivals, and “haunted” adventure attractions, players quickly caught on to the buzz and satisfaction of going up against the clock, while solving the mystery or case. 

Stepping into the mindset of a real-life detective, a train heist mastermind, or unlocking an authentic bank vault for yourself has allowed players to become the hero of their own adventures. In short, no other role-playing game or experience places you in the heart of the action quite like an Escape Room. 

Fully immersive, action-filled and let’s face it, the most fun you can have in an hour. There are so many reasons why we keep coming back again and again for more! 

Escape Rooms aren’t simply a fun day out. They are challenging, immersive, engaging, and downright cool. You won’t find another experience like it where you can truly become the character and the hero of your own story. 

With a history as rich and explosive as this wild game, it’s no surprise it has taken the world by storm. Are you ready for your next adventure