How Escape Rooms Have Evolved Over The Years
Contrary to popular belief, escape rooms are not novel ideas. In fact, escape rooms have been around for well over a decade, with different iterations introduced to the public. The escape game industry initially originated in Japan, but it has since expanded to various parts of the world as a unique activity that not only provides fun and entertainment, but also team bonding opportunities among players. If you take a look at other games in the market, very few offer the same experiences and benefits as escape rooms, making escape rooms truly one-of-a-kind in the gaming industry.
As such, in this article, we dive into the history of escape rooms and how they have evolved over the years as people’s expectations and the gaming industry have changed.
Origins of Escape Rooms
Escape rooms can trace their lineage all the way back to point-and-click adventure games, which many escape game fans have admiringly termed as the “grandfather of modern escape rooms”. As the name suggests, point-and-click games refer to online gameplay requiring players to interact with the game’s environment and objects by pointing and clicking the cursor, providing an immersive experience.
While the first point-and-click adventure games were created in the late 1970s to early 1980s, it was not until 1983 that Japanese game designer Eiji Yokoyama invented “Planet Mephius”, which the world saw as the earliest form of escape games. This game eventually grew in popularity, leading to increasing demand for games that are both interactive and invoke a thrill in players.
First Escape Room Games
Based on what we have mentioned above, there is no doubt that there is a market for escape games. As such, British game designer John Wilson came up with “Behind Closed Doors” in 1988, the first-ever proper escape room game that saw players trapped within a small space. The objective was simple enough: find ways to escape the room in order to win. This concept gained traction for over 15 years and took over the style of point-and-click gameplay.
Moving forward to 2004, “Crimson Room” was released by Japanese developer Toshimitsu Takagi. “Crimson Room” is by far one of the most significant escape room games ever created and is why the genre – “Takagism” – was formed. What you see today of our escape rooms and their structures are because of “Takagism”, thus proving the game’s influence in spreading the escape game concept to the East and West.
The concept of “Takagism” essentially refers to gameplay carried out in a first-person perspective, in which a text and short introduction are displayed to start the game officially. Since the atmosphere is purposefully designed to invoke feelings of isolation and fear in players, the interface tends to be minimalistic, and there is a lack of characters. All players have a single goal: to escape through the door by finding and solving hidden clues.
First Real-Life Escape Room
Taking inspiration from “Takagism”, Takao Kato then seeks to design the world’s first real-life escape room. Back then, all escape rooms took place in online games, so Takao Kato, being an adventurous person, was motivated to try something new. In 2007, his dream became a reality when he established the company, Real Escape Game. Under this company, Takao Kato hosted a number of in-person escape games in various bars and clubs throughout Japan. As more and more people are exposed to escape rooms, escape games soon hit different countries, from the United States all the way to, you guessed it, Singapore.
Modern Escape Rooms
Between 2012 and 2014, you can find escape rooms pretty much everywhere. Their rise in popularity can be attributed to the fact that they provide a form of experimental entertainment, in which players can be directly involved in the entire gaming experience. People no longer simply want to sit and watch. Instead, they want to get in on the action.
However, this also means that escape rooms must constantly strive to be innovative and distinctive in order to remain competitive. Whether it is presenting an exciting storyline or inventing avant-garde puzzles, there are no limits to how escape rooms are implemented.
Adapting to the Pandemic and the Future
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck our world in 2020, many industries faced a challenge in continuing their operations, and the escape game industry is no exception. Considering that in-person escape rooms require participants to be on-site, this was not possible during a time of social distancing. Fortunately, many escape room providers like The Escape Artist successfully adapted to the situation by conducting escape games online.
This turns out to be beneficial for multiple reasons as virtual escape room games come in handy as a team-building activity for online schools and remote companies, which are becoming the norm as flexible working environments are picking up steam. As we look into the future, it seems that escape rooms will not be going anywhere soon. From team-bonding events to dating ideas, escape games are suitable for many occasions.
It is incredible how escape room games have evolved from straightforward, linear games to complex entertainment experiences and then to virtual adventures. At The Escape Artist, we pride ourselves on being one of – if not the – pioneers to bring real-life escape rooms to Singapore. Since our inception in 2013, we have kept up with industry trends in order to provide a mentally stimulating and unique escape game experience for our clients, as seen with our virtual escape room in Singapore.