The Real Origin of Escape Rooms

 In Atlanta, Silver Spring, Uncategorized

Escape Room History – Wait… What even is an Escape Room?

In order to understand Escape Room history, we must first understand exactly what an escape room is.

Escape Rooms are essentially giant brain teasers. You follow a series of puzzles and clues to eventually escape entrapment, whatever the scenario may be. The theme of the room can be anything from stopping the zombie apocalypse to a generic room with no real goal or theme whatsoever other than solving the puzzles and escaping the room you’re in.

But where did it all come from? What is Escape Room History? Today there are hundreds of real-life escape rooms to choose from, but it wasn’t always like that.

What was the inspiration behind the first escape room? In order to find out, we need to take a walk through escape room history…

Humble Beginnings

In order to find out where escape rooms came from, we have to look back in time, way back.

Solving puzzles for entertainment is not a new idea. One of the earliest gaming pieces that have ever been found was a series of 49 elaborate pieces of small stone sculpted into different shapes and painted in green, red, blue, black and white. They were found at the 5,000-year-old Başur Höyük burial mound in southeast Turkey. See what the oldest game ever discovered looked like here.

Tic-tac-toe is another early example of mankind testing their wits for fun, and the trend stuck! Three-in-a-row boards have been discovered in Egypt encrypted onto 3000-year-old roofing-tiles.

Take a few steps forward in history to medieval Europe. Royal families were creating mazes to be used as a way to test their wits and their ability to escape. King Louis XIV ruled in France from 1643 until 1715 and is one of the most famous examples of royalty who had a maze to solve specifically for fun.

Let’s skip forward a bit more... Once people began sailing around the world, puzzles came into play. John Spilsbury, a well know mapmaker and engraver, is known to have invented puzzles in 1767. Mapmakers like Spilsbury would paste maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces. Soon after these became a useful tool in education and entertainment. 

In the early 1900s, Jigsaw puzzles were gaining traction. The first puzzles were carved from wood and very expensive. In 1908, you could snatch a puzzle for only $5!… Then again the average wage was roughly 22 cents an hour… so the splendors of problem-solving were reserved only to the wealthy. Who would have guessed they would be so common today? 

Let’s Get Digital

Gaming caught on quickly. Games moved their way up the evolutionary track right alongside us. In the 1950s, technology began popping up in everyday life, and people started experimenting with morphing gaming and technology.

For instance, in 1952, British professor A.S. Douglas recreated the timeless game tic-tac-toe on a giant EDSAC computer (one of the first ever computers) as part of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Cambridge. Games were becoming more of a serious matter right around this time period apparently…

Physicist William Higinbotham created what is widely considered to be the first video game a few years later in October 1958. It was a very simple tennis game, similar to the classic 1970’s video game “Pong”.

In the game, players would hit a button to get the ball to go towards the other player. As long as they pressed the button when the ball was in their court, players couldn’t actually miss the ball, but if they hit it at the wrong time or hit it at the wrong angle, the ball wouldn’t make it over the net. Balls that hit the ground would bounce like a real tennis ball. When the ball went off the court or into the net, players hit a reset button to start the next round.

Alas! The first video games were a hit. This event in history set off a wave of video game trend bigger than Higinbotham could have ever imagined.

From Video Games to Real Life

Let’s skip the Pacman packed 80’s and get right to the point.

Yes, escape rooms were a result of video games. How? Escape rooms weren’t always action-packed, real life, themed experiences. The first escapes rooms were completely digital and completely theme-less.

Crimson Room is the first in the genre. You poke around a seemingly normal-looking room to solve puzzles and collect items and eventually unlock the door out. It was created by Toshimitsu Takagi in 2004 as a Flash game and then quickly took off and inspired many similar titles. Today, there are 1000’s of escape room video games online, and even in your app store. Crimson Room is the original inspiration behind escape room genre gaming as we know it today.

The First Real Life Escape Game

A company called SCARP developed the first real-life escape room and opened the doors to the public in Japan in 2007. Since then escape rooms have become quite the trend and today there are over 3,000 escape room venues worldwide. The first ever escape room was generic.

The first Real Escape Game in the U.S took place in San Francisco in 2012.

Despite the highly challenging difficulty of 2% success rate, all tickets are continuously selling out. The events get popular among people who enjoy doing unique things.

Today, you can find countless variations all over the world like escape rooms built on old school buses, outdoors, and there are even giant multi-room escape adventures., like Big Escape Rooms. There are over 5000 Escape Rooms in existence today.

There are countless variations of escape Rooms to choose from today. Just to name a few types:  

  • Family friendly
  • Scary (like live-action zombie-in-the-room scary)
  • Mobile (built on a bus or trailer)
  • Established (Escape Room companies with various rooms in a single location, like an office building or event space)

And don’t forget those “countless themes” I keep mentioning. Become whoever you want to be by participating in one of these thrilling scenarios:

  • Saloon
  • Clown
  • Basketball
  • Zombie
  • Space
  • Kidnapping
  • Prison Break
  • Bank Robbery
  • And many, many more

In any of these live actions scenarios, you will need to complete a solid take or mission. It’s almost like stepping into an alternate reality where you are the star of the show. It started off with tic-tac-toe… but gaming will never be the same after the immense wave of escape room popularity we find ourselves in today.

What a time to be alive!

It started small and we’ve come a long way since hedge mazes. Escape rooms are sweeping the nation and escaping for fun is more exciting than ever before. Want to see what all the hype is about? Click the button below to learn more.


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