A Short History of Escape Games – Part 1
All of us here at the Enigma Room are big fans of escape room games, also known as “real life escape games”, “live action escape games” or simply “escape rooms”. There is a huge appetite for these games around the world, with venues all over Asia and Europe, and a burgeoning scene in the US. Part of the reason why we decided to open up our own venue was that we had been to some of these places overseas and had really loved the experiences, but on coming back to Australia we found that the scene hadn’t really taken off here. Aussies are smart cookies and have always loved sports and physical activity, so surely they’d love something like this too? Hopefully with our escape room opening up (and a few other venues that have opened already around Australia) we’ll start to see our own Australian take on the genre.
But where did this craze start? There are a few different stories depending on who you ask or what you read on the internet. I’ve decided to dig around and find out what I can about the origins of live escape games below, and in part 2 I’ll discuss influences taken from other media.
The first live action escape game that I know of was held in Kyoto, Japan sometime in 2007. Run by the company SCRAP, they have a mix of escape rooms as well as large scale events around Asia and the US in venues like sports stadiums or the hull of a battleship. One highlight of their games is the extremely low success rates (of which the organisers are quite proud of).
Another venue that’s also talked about as being one of the first in the world is Parapark in Budapest, Hungary. It’s not the world’s first escape room as it only opened in 2011. However, it’s highly regarded in the super competitive market in Hungary (at one stage I know there were over 30 escape room venues in Budapest alone, with some sources also now saying there are over 100! Either way that’s a lot for a city with one third the population of Sydney!)
One more rumour that I’ve heard is that rather than Japan, the escape room concept started in China, but I haven’t been able to find any information on that at all. Similarly, I’ve seen one mention of an escape room in Silicon Valley in 2006, but also haven’t been able to verify that. If you know more about any of these places, or if you’ve been to some of these escape rooms around the world, tell us in the comment section below!
Stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll look at media such as movies, TV shows and video games which have influenced (and been part of) the development of the escape game genre.