Escape rooms, escape games, room escapes, exit games – whatever you call them, they’ve seen an incredible surge in popularity in recent years. The UK now hosts over 1250 different escape rooms with tens of thousands available around the world, and chances are you’ll know of someone who has played one.
Escape Rooms are interactive, real-time experiences, set in a variety of fictional environments in which teams of players solve a series of puzzles and challenges before the time runs out. Think Crystal Maze vs The Krypton Factor but with the opportunity to dig around and find hidden objects, unlock padlocks, discover hidden rooms and unravel mysteries with your entire team.
Traditionally the goal was to escape the room (hence the popular industry name!) however nowadays a large proportion of escape games instead task you with solving a mystery before the time runs out. Escape rooms tend to be 60 minutes long, though there are mini-games and pop-up rooms which can be as short as 5- 10 minutes, and a number of 90 minute experiences dotted around the country.
The history of escape games is hotly debated, however most agree that the first real-life escape room appeared in Japan in 2007 before the concept was exported to Hungary where they swiftly took off. Prior to 2007, elements of escape games can been found in popular culture throughout the 1980s and 90s and escape games in their current form are clearly an amalgamation of many different types of computer games, television challenges, treasure hunts and puzzle events that preceded them.
Even now, ‘escape rooms’ encompass anything from small, plain rooms filled with locked boxes, collections of hidden items and paper puzzles; all the way to sprawling multi-room and multi-location games which include live actors, physical challenges, multi-stage puzzles, multiple endings, technological wizardry and strong narrative. Most rooms of course, fall some where in-between.