Immersion is not only present in theater - this trend has also moved into other entertainment, including the world of escape rooms. Today there are said to be 3 generations of escape rooms. What are the differences between those generations and what is the future of escape rooms? This is the history of escape rooms.
Escape room history in the nutshell
Games based on escape rooms have been known for years now. It started from computer games in the 1980s. Many years later - more less 20, in Japan the first known escape room was built. And that entertainment found a fertile ground. Real escape rooms found a lot of enthusiasts. Thanks to this the industry can evolve and develop. Changes are easy to observe - from the first generation of escape rooms, based on padlocks and classic riddles to immersive theaters full of electronics and unexpected solutions.
And then someone thought “Let’s create an escape room in the box for everyone and everywhere!”. That's the simplest and basic description of card and board escape room games ever made. But simple doesn't mean bad. Games based on escape room idea are excellent options when you just can’t or don’t want to go to the real one. And unlike the majority of the real escape rooms, you can play solo. Mostly these games contain cards, less often other elements like markers and boards. The main goal of all games is to solve all puzzles and riddles and to reveal the mystery.
From the box to an alternative reality
The first generation, the simplest and oldest, is based on a simple scheme - people locked in a room must solve a puzzle to get out. Literally escape a room. The rooms, of course, had a plot, but the clue of the rooms of this generation was the puzzles that the room designers used to delight players. The rooms had padlocks and keys - electronics were absent or rare. The budget for building rooms used to be much smaller - compared to today's market, you might say, ridiculous. But beginnings are always difficult.
As the popularity of escape rooms grew, developers began to go further. This is how we get to the second generation of rooms, which were already richer in design, as well as the puzzles themselves. In addition to classic locks and padlocks, magnetic locks, electronic door opening systems combined with puzzles and even simple special effects began to appear. The space also expanded - one room, as in the first generation rooms, was no longer enough. Designs began to include multiple rooms, connected to each other by secret passages - through a closet, a hidden door or a tunnel. The storyline ceased to be an addition to the puzzles, and became an integral part of the gameplay.
Appetite comes with eating - the third generation of escape rooms has in common with the first only the idea - and often even that is different. The puzzles are less important, while a lot of effort and money is invested in the scenery. Rooms are designed with modern technology - sensors, electronic systems to control the room. Riddles, including electronic ones, open secret rooms, turn on special effects. The rooms used to create escape rooms are large, but designed to appear even larger than they really are - many rooms, even small ones, secret passages. And the storyline - the heart of the gameplay. In addition to an amazing story, the game often features actors who make players drown in a created world where the line between reality and fiction collapses. Immersion. You are no longer in an escape room, you are in another world and have a task to perform.
The immersive future
Most modern audiences are no longer interested in ordinariness. Ordinariness for some means boredom. Being constantly attacked with content from various sides - Internet, traditional media, banners on the street, in the store - people need to be shocked. They want uncommon content that will stay in memory. They also often want something that will, at least for a moment, add variety to their daily routine. And probably that's why immersive experience become popular in escape room world. And it go further. Now there are a lot of businesses offering something more then escape room around the world - the example od it you can find in every European country (probably).
But this is a topic for another article. Stay tuned!
Journalist and indologist by profession. Writer, marketer, tarantulas keeper and urbex explorer by heart.
In the meantime I’m playing escape rooms and board games, and I wonder how I find time to sleep (still dunno). I was born to write - my favorite forms of expression are extensive articles preceded by a long research, and horror stories (for some it’s the same).
Have you ever wondered what working in an escape room looks like? Probably a lot of people think - owners build the room, and then sell tickets, let groups in and give hints if necessary. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Running an escape room involves many other aspects that players often don't know about.
Probably all of us like to go to good escape rooms. However, before a room becomes playable, it requires months of work on various levels: after all, the scenography, puzzles or electronics need to be taken care of. A finished room, however, is not a guarantee of success - checking whether a scenario is suitable for a commercial client is one of the tasks of so-called test groups.