Escape Room Puzzle History
There are several existing attractions that contain elements similar to modern escape rooms and could thus be seen as precursors to the idea.
An additional inspiration for escape rooms came from the "escape the room" genre of video games. Escape the room games, which initially began as Flash games for web browsers and then moving onto mobile apps, challenged the player to locate clues and objects while within a single room.
The earliest concept to resemble a modern escape room was True Dungeon, which premiered at GenCon Indy in Indianapolis, USA, in July 2003. Created by Jeff Martin (True Adventures LLC), True Dungeon had many of the same elements that people associate with escape rooms today; a live-action team-based game where players explored a physical space and cooperatively solved mental and physical puzzles to accomplish a goal in a limited amount of time. True Dungeon "focuses on problem solving, teamwork, and tactics while providing exciting sets and interactive props".
Four years later, Real Escape Game (REG) in Japan was developed by 35-year-old Takao Kato, of the Kyoto publishing company, SCRAP Co., in 2007. It is based in Kyoto, Japan and produces a free magazine by the same name. Beyond Japan, Captivate Escape Rooms appeared in Australia and Singapore from 2011, the market growing to over 60 games by 2015. Kazuya Iwata, a friend of Kato, brought Real Escape Game to San Francisco in 2012. The following year, Seattle-based Puzzle Break founded by Nate Martin became the first American-based escape room company. Japanese games were primarily composed of logical puzzles, such as mathematical sequences or colour-coding, just like the video games that inspired them.
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 Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's flow theory and his job experience as personality trainer. As opposed to the Japanese precursors, in the games of Parapark players mainly had to find hidden keys or reach seemingly unattainable ones in order to advance.
In 2012 a Swiss physics professor created a scientific escape game for his students. The game was later offered to the public under the name of AdventureRooms and distributed as a franchise in twenty countries. The Adventure Rooms introduced scientific puzzles (e.g. hidden infrared or polarized codes) to the genre.
As of November 2019, there were estimated to be over 50,000 escape rooms worldwide. These can be particularly lucrative for the operators, as the upfront investment has been as low as US$7,000, while a party of 4-8 customers pay around US$25–30 per person for one hour to play, potentially generating annual revenue upwards of several hundred thousand dollars. As the industry has grown, start up costs have increased dramatically and so have the competition. Customers now expect higher production values and often games can cost over $50,000 to create. The UK has seen the market grow by over the past 5 years by 93%, 148%, 409% and 43%
Wisecracks Comedy Escape Room currently offers two games Laundering Money, and Jack-In-The-Box. Jack-In-The-Box can be played either in person or online. we are working on our third game, more about this will be covered at a later date.
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