A history of room escapes – where did the concept evolve from and predecessors to its current form

a history of room escapes

A history of room escapes – initial concepts and predecessors

While Wikipedia suggests that the year 2006 is the earliest point of reference for the development of real world games where people are locked in a room and must make an effort to explore the environment around them to find clues in order to escape a room – there isn’t enough substantial evidence I could find to back this up. Plus I didn’t want to write a blog based on facts from broken links in the Wikipedia article on real life room escape, so have only listed what I could find from reputable sources.

From here on, I’ll start discussing the history of room escapes from the starting date of when actual room escape companies started their business. Discussion about online room escape games e.g. Crimson Room as a concept that inspired the development of room escapes is worthy of another blog in it’s own time.

It started the same year the iPhone was released – in 2007 – when SCRAP Entertainment, based in Japan – began after its founder Takao Kato saw a classmate playing an online game, whereby she had to click around the room in order to find clues and objects which would help her to unlock the room’s door. Following this, Kato wondered about bringing the concept of the game to life, so players could immerse themselves in it fully and the company developed this idea into what it called ‘real escape games’ – which are temporary events lasting a couple of weeks at most.

To find the first room escape predecessor that looks similar to current real life room escapes ie. where the business has an established location that visitors can visit throughout the year, there were probably several set up in Japan between 2007 and 2011. However for the earliest predecessor outside of Japan, you need to look at Budapest, Hungary. In 2011, Parapark was the first company in Hungary which created a room escape facility which meets the criteria: people pay to be locked in a room, must utilise their skills to find objects to solve puzzles to escape a room and the business is in a permanent location. The founder of Parapark, Attila Guyrkovics studied team building concepts and the result was an experience where people can bring the unexpected into their lives.

Following this other early room escape game providers include:
– HintHunt Debrecen, Hungary – February 2012
– Real Escape Game, USA – March 2012
– HintHunt UK – April 2012
– Adventure Rooms Bern, Switzerland – November 2012
– Exitgames Romania, Romania – TBA, 2012

If anyone knows of any other room escape game providers which started their business in 2012, please let me know. Otherwise feel free to leave a suggestion or comment!

Essa 🙂

P.S. Thanks for being patient everyone, posting blogs for Blog February should get back on track now!

Additional Information:
– Early history of SCRAP Entertainment

– Early history of Parapark

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5 thoughts on “A history of room escapes – where did the concept evolve from and predecessors to its current form

  1. Victor Milton van Doorn February 10, 2015 at 1:56 am Reply

    Hi Essa, thanks for this brief insight! Good to know where we hail from 😉
    cheers, Victor from Sherlocked

    • Essa February 10, 2015 at 12:34 pm Reply

      Hi Victor, thanks for your comment! I think it was good to finally do some research into how room escapes had their actual beginnings.
      Essa 🙂

  2. Chris M. Dickson February 10, 2015 at 6:59 am Reply

    Really good post! I’d heard that 2006 origin story before and wondered about it but not been able to come up with a primary source for it myself – and yet I feel that between us we should know someone who knows someone who knows the truth, if it is verifiable. Certainly Silicon Valley employees have been playing ambitious puzzle games since long before 2006, but whether they came up with the escape room format or not remains to be seen. It’s plausible that it has been independently invented several times; certainly I know of no link between the Japanese tradition and the Hungarian one. It’s fun to think that there’s no reason why people couldn’t have played very similar games fifty or a hundred years previously and evidence of this might turn up some day.

    HintHunt started in the UK in 2012 (I asked them exactly when once and they said at the start of April 2012) and nothing else started in the UK until spring 2013. Maybe the good people at exitgames.hu might be able to help with other early starts here?

    • Essa February 10, 2015 at 12:59 pm Reply

      Regarding the 2006 origin story about Silicon Valley employees – I’ve been looking but the only reference available seemed to be a Baidu article – http://baike.baidu.com/view/7736558.htm [Chinese]. Perhaps it’s worth getting in contact one day with the original creator of the article – Mingzhe maple – according to Google Translate.

      Hopefully one day someone who played the Original Piece game, in Silicon Valley, California in 2006 will decide to step forward and clear things up. I do wonder if the event was indeed held, why there isn’t more information about it available on the internet.

      I should also look further into the development of room escapes in countries nearby to Hungary too – e.g. Romania, Austria soon.

      I’ll edit the article to include HintHunt UK too, thanks Chris!

      Essa 🙂

  3. Exit games in the news | Exit Games UK February 12, 2015 at 12:33 am Reply

    […] blog post recently has been part of Intervirals‘ Blog February series, with a look at the history of room escapes. It’s got people thinking, talking and […]

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