21 Feb

History of Escape Rooms: When Did They Start?


Escape rooms have rapidly become a global sensation in the world of entertainment. You can never miss escape-the-room games in amusement parks and other activity areas in various cities. 

Offering a blend of compelling storylines, challenging puzzles, intricate paths, and popular culture references, escape room enthusiasts always look forward to a unique and thrilling experience when playing, whether in-person or through virtual reality. 

These fully immersive games challenge players to unlock their way to freedom from a locked room by solving a series of riddles, hints, and clues. 

The essence of escape rooms lies in their diverse and CAPTIVATING SCENARIOS carefully designed by the room escape artist, ranging from international spy missions to haunted houses and ancient tombs. 

As we unravel the fascinating history of escape rooms, questions like “Who invented escape rooms?” and “When was the first escape room made?” emerge. 

Journey with us as we learn escape room fun facts and reveal its fascinating evolution — from its humble beginnings to becoming a phenomenon that has reshaped how we engage with games. 

Read on, learn how and when the escape room industry started, and explore this modern cultural marvel gamers and puzzle enthusiasts love

How Did Escape Rooms Start?

The inception of escape rooms can be traced back to first-person video games. Planet Mephius is among the popular ones that acted as its virtual prototype, foreshadowing the immersive form of gaming that features intricate puzzles

Following this, John Wilson programmed “Behind Closed Doors,” featuring gameplay where the player is trapped in a room. This concept skyrocketed in popularity in 2004 thanks to growing internet access with Toshimitsu Takagi’s “Crimson Room.”

Eventually, the in-person escape game concept materialized in Kyoto, Japan, with the first modern room by SCRAP (a.k.a. Real Escape Game) in July 2007. Initially a setup for 5-6 players, it offered a live-action version of video game challenges. 

SCRAP’s concept quickly evolved into the expansive Real Escape Game events, accommodating thousands of escape room enthusiasts. In 2012, SCRAP opened in San Francisco, becoming the first company in the Americas to call itself an “escape room.

This innovative model catalyzed the global proliferation of escape rooms, now a mainstay in over 60 countries, redefining what an escape room is as not just a game but a worldwide phenomenon.

Eventually, companies have expanded their reach, taking this unique form of leisure to greater heights in the entertainment industry, branching out in major cities across the globe, making the game even MORE EXCITING AND ENGAGING. 

FUN FACT: Puzzle Break is among the games that initiated the first wave of expansion in the U.S. This opened a year after SCRAP opened its doors in San Francisco.

What are the Inspirations for Escape Rooms?

The inspirations for escape rooms are varied, drawing from a rich tapestry of INTERACTIVE and IMMERSIVE experiences. These influences have shaped the escape room business, infusing it with creativity and diversity. Here are some key inspirations:

  • Live Action Role Playing (LARPing): LARPing brings the fantasy of role-playing games into the real world, blending storytelling with physical challenges. Players embody characters from fictional storylines, historical settings, or sci-fi adventures. This has significantly influenced the development of escape rooms, particularly in terms of narrative and interactive elements.
  • Online “Point and Click” Escape Games: The digital world, especially online “Point and Click” games, has been a significant source of inspiration. Here, players would click on objects to interact and solve puzzles. This has directly influenced physical escape rooms’ puzzle design and problem-solving features.
  • Traditional Scavenger Hunts and Interactive Theatres: The concept of scavenger or treasure hunt games has been integral to the evolution of escape room games. Here, players find items or discover hidden clues to solve the mystery to get out of a single room. Similarly, interactive theater, which involves audience participation in the unfolding narrative, has also inspired its immersive and participatory nature.

These inspirations have contributed to the unique and engaging nature of real-life escape games, blending narrative, problem-solving, and interactive play elements. 

Live Action Role Playing (LARPing)

Live Action Role Playing (LARPing)

Escape room businesses owe a significant part of their immersive and interactive design to live-action role-playing (LARPing). 

In LARPing, players physically embody characters from games, fantasy settings, or historical events, engaging in a storyline in real-time with real-world settings. 

This form of role-playing goes beyond traditional gaming by allowing players to experience the narrative physically and emotionally, aspects that have been seamlessly integrated into the escape room experience. 

The influence of LARPing is evident in how escape rooms encourage participants to take on roles within a story, solving puzzles and interacting with their environment in a way that is both engaging and true to the character they portray.

Examples of these escape-the-room games are True Dungeon, Alice in Wonderland, and the Harry Potter Series, which often feature mazes inspired by the Hampton Court Maze.

FUN FACT: Mazes as garden puzzles became popular in the 16th century, particularly during the time of European Aristocrats. But not many people know that ancient times also featured mazes for trapping evil spirits, the Labyrinth pattern being the most notable. 

Online “Point and Click” Escape Games

Online _Point and Click_ Escape Games

Online “Point and Click” escape video games have played a pivotal role in shaping the modern concept of escape rooms, including the development of what is now known as a virtual escape room

These games, accessible from the comfort of one’s home, involve players navigating their own adventure through virtual rooms by pointing and clicking on objects and elements within the game. 

This format requires players to solve puzzles, uncover hidden items, and find clues, all through a digital interface. 

The intuitive nature of point-and-click gameplay makes it an ideal platform for puzzle-solving and adventure — elements central to the physical escape room experience. 

This digital realm has not only inspired the design and structure of many physical escape rooms but has also led to the creation of virtual escape rooms, where players can enjoy the thrill of escape games REMOTELY.

MOTAS and Crimson Room are only some of the point-and-click escape-the-room games that have enticed many players to explore these video games for over a decade. 

Traditional Scavenger Hunts and Interactive Theatres

The evolution of escape room companies has been significantly influenced by traditional elements found in scavenger or treasure hunts, as well as the dynamic world of interactive theaters. 

These classic forms of entertainment have seamlessly blended into the fabric of what makes escape rooms so engaging:

  • Scavenger Hunts: The essence of scavenger or treasure hunts, where participants follow clues and solve riddles to find items or locations, is deeply embedded in escape rooms. This format of discovery and problem-solving is central to the appeal of escape rooms, providing a real-world parallel to the escape room solutions that players seek.
  • Interactive Theaters: Interactive theaters, such as haunted houses or murder mystery dinner shows, have also contributed significantly to the escape room concept. These experiences, where guests become part of the story, interacting with actors and the environment, have influenced escape rooms’ immersive and participatory nature. This theatrical aspect encourages players to engage more deeply with the narrative and setting of an escape room, enhancing the overall experience.

Both these inspirations have helped shape escape rooms into the multifaceted and engaging experiences they are today, combining the thrill of discovery with the excitement of live, interactive storytelling.

Escape Rooms in Modern Culture

Escape Rooms in Modern Culture

Escape rooms have undeniably become integral to modern culture, offering a unique blend of thought-provoking and immersive fun that appeals to a WIDE RANGE of audiences. 

Whether it is a family outing, a night out with friends, a team-building exercise with workmates, or a memorable experience for couples, escape rooms provide an engaging and interactive way to connect and create unforgettable experiences.

Here is how escape game events evolved to cater to a variety of individuals in today’s hobby space:

  • The rise of virtual escape room ideas has further expanded the accessibility and variety of these experiences, allowing people to enjoy escape rooms anywhere. Online escape rooms became a trend because they allowed players to enjoy features of escape game events through online mediums.
  • For younger audiences, virtual escape rooms for kids offer a safe and exciting platform to develop problem-solving skills and have fun in a digitally interactive environment.
  • Social gatherings, too, have found a new dimension with virtual escape rooms with friends, where groups can collaborate and challenge themselves, irrespective of the physical distance. It is a good activity for team building. 
  • Couples seeking a unique date experience are turning to virtual escape rooms for couples, which offer a fun and collaborative way to bond.

The growing popularity of escape rooms has even given rise to escape room conferences, where fans and industry enthusiasts gather to share experiences, discuss new trends, and celebrate the community’s creativity and innovation. 

These conferences not only underline the cultural significance of escape rooms but also highlight their evolving nature in entertainment.

Key Takeaways on the History of Escape Rooms

As we reflect on the historical journey of escape game events from their inception in Kyoto, Japan, to their global popularity, these immersive games have clearly transcended cultural and geographical boundaries to earn their spot in entertainment.

Their evolution from physical rooms inspired by video games and live-action role-playing to augmented reality experiences highlights escape rooms’ adaptability and enduring appeal to people of all ages.

Escape-the-room games offer a UNIQUE BLEND of storytelling, puzzle-solving, and teamwork, making them perfect for various occasions, from casual get-togethers to corporate team-building exercises. 

Their ability to adapt to the digital era through virtual escape game rooms ensures that anyone can enjoy the thrill of escape games regardless of location.

If you want to experience the innovative blend of fun and challenge that escape game rooms provide, Escapely’s online escape rooms offer an accessible and engaging option. 

Whether for team-building or simply as a fun activity with friends, family, or partners, Escapely provides an IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE that taps into what makes an escape room so captivating.

Book your next unforgettable adventure and embark on a journey that promises an opportunity to connect, collaborate, and challenge yourself and your friends in exciting ways!

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