An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit. The games are physical versions of “escape the room” video games. Games are set in a variety of fictional locations, such as prison cells, dungeons and space stations, and are popular as team building exercises.
The earliest room was created in 2006, and escape rooms became popular in the United States, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Israel and mainland China in the 2010s. Permanent escape rooms in fixed locations were first opened in Asia and followed later in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. Notable organisers include AdventureRooms, ClueQuest, The Escape Hunt Experience, ClueJob, and Puzzle Break.
History of escape rooms
Real Escape Game (REG) in Japan was developed by 35-year-old Takao Kato, of the Kyoto publishing company, SCRAP Co., in 2008. It is based in Kyoto, Japan and produces a free magazine by the same name. Beyond Japan, escape games appeared in Singapore from 2011. Escape games in Singapore expanded quickly with over 50 games by 2015. Kazuya Iwata, a friend of Kato, brought Real Escape Game to San Francisco in 2012.
Parapark, a Hungarian franchise that later operated in 20 locations in Europe and Australia, was founded in 2011 in Budapest. The founder, Attila Gyurkovics claims he had no information about the Japanese escape games and based the game on his job experience as personality trainer. Another escape room, “Origin”, was created in Silicon Valley by a group of system programmers in 2013. The mysteries and challenges in the game were inspired by the works of Agatha Christie and became a popular tourist attraction.
In 2015, there were over 2,800 escape room venues worldwide. These are particularly lucrative for the operators, as the upfront investment can be as low as US$7,000, while a party of 4-8 customers pay around US$25-30 per person for one hour to solve a room puzzle, being able to generate annual revenue in the range of several hundred thousand dollars.
A 2015 American Science Channel television game show Race to Escape is based on this theme.