Dark secrets and mystery await you behind the locked door of an escape room. Full of thrills, adventure and a fully immersive experience like no other, the secret is well and truly out! Escape rooms are taking the world by storm, and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.
But what sparked the escape room revolution? Like all good tales, this origin story starts off with a bang. So, let’s start where it all began…
The Ancient Greeks had the minotaur roaming around a never-ending labyrinth. Plato had his allegory of the cave where he contemplated life in a box, and if it’s the only reality you have ever known at the cost of imagination.
According to Charlotte Higgins, our obsession with labyrinths or mazes goes a bit deeper. She describes it as “a gesture of optimism that a corner of the universe can be mastered and given pattern and order by the human mind” Red Thread: On Mazes and Labyrinths.
So naturally, we have a need to master the unknown. To solve the maze and overcome the challenges that are presented to us. Not unlike solving an escape room!
Video game origins
Anyone who has played Tomb Raider to Fallout will be all too aware of the parallels to an escape room. You have to crack puzzles, find clues and use logic before you can proceed to the next stage. Combined with captivating and mysterious storylines, the parallels to an escape room are inescapable!
Despite being a hotly debated topic, it’s believed that the original concept of the escape room came from Toshimitsu Takagi’s video game, Crimson Room.
Created way back in 2004, the game is not dissimilar from the real-world escape rooms you can play today. Essentially, you are thrust into a crimson-coloured room and have to solve a series of clues before you can make your escape.
Go back even further to the 1970s, and you’ll see the rise of point-and-click adventure games. The groundbreaking prototype, Planet Mephius by Eiji Yokoyama, is a prime example of virtual adventure. The catch? It was only available exclusively in Japan.
SCRAP: the first of its kind
Fast forward to 2007, and Takao Kato opened the first-ever live escape room in Kyoto, Japan. Built by the masterminds of SCRAP, players had to solve a series of puzzles and riddles to escape from a locked room within an allotted time.
Kato’s vision was to create his own “story – and invite people to be a part of it.”
While the first of these were effectively pop-up experiences in bars and clubs, the phenomenon quickly swept across the country before taking over the rest of Asia and Europe. With real-life situations at the core of each game, players had to face a series of puzzles and riddles and solve them within a set amount of time.
Like all revolutions, it didn’t take long for the escape room phenomenon to spread like wildfire. Today, you’ll find over 50,000 different escape rooms spread across 44 countries. Over 1,500 of those are in the UK alone!
Don’t forget the Crystal Maze!
Growing up in the 1990s, there was a treasure trove of inspiring television to whet your whistle! And the most iconic of all has to be Channel 4s, The Crystal Maze.
Led by the OG games master Richard O’Brien, contestants would take on a series of physical and mental challenges set in different periods of time and space. Successful teams would get a shot at the ultimate challenge, the Crystal Dome. Viewers were always left wondering what happened to the rare few who got sealed in each zone to meet their fate!
Pop culture is the backbone of many escape rooms today. Whether they are inspired by the iconic 90s show, Sherlock Holmes or the Great Train Robbery, you don’t have to go far before you are plunged into an adventure of your own.
5 Wits, USA
Boston, 2004. 5 Wits first opens its doors. A fully immersive world greeted players, taking them from the ordinary to the extraordinary within seconds. With super-realistic special effects, interactive characters and out-of-this-world sound and lighting, a new type of game greeted its visitors.
But, here’s the catch. 5 Wits have never called themselves an escape room.
Adventure is key to the 5 Wits experience. You are greeted by various physical environments, with multiple rooms and theme park-style special effects. All while you discover and overcome a series of physical and mental challenges that will really put you to the test.
Failure IS an option. Each adventure adapts to your group’s performance, so you never know what will happen when you reach the end of each game!
2012: the new dawn of escape rooms
Fresh from the masterminds of SCRAP and like-minded individuals, 2012 saw an explosion of escape rooms setting up shop worldwide. Within a year, the UK was home to seven brand new rooms. Nearly a decade later, and that number had grown to over 1,500 unique game experiences.
But what is it about the escape room that keeps making us come back for more?
In 60 minutes, you get to play detective, uncover hidden mysteries, and overcome tricky mental and physical challenges – all within the safety of “another world.” You might step back 50 years or a hundred. But whatever you face, it is an exhilarating adventure that you simply won’t find on an average night out with your friends.
Gone are the days of awkward chit-chat over a meal or trying to find something exciting to fill your weekends. Now, you can access the worldwide phenomenon in most big towns and cities across the UK.
You cannot deny the power of the escape room. They allow you to think outside the box, overcome challenges and come together with your friends and family in a completely unique experience.
Want to discover your next adventure? Check out our games to see if you have what it takes to beat the room! -p-