The history of escape games may be brief in the grand scheme (as compared to, say, tennis), but this entertainment favourite has been moving and shaking at an impressive speed, growing fast in a little time.
Escape room legend has it that the first of these rooms opened in 2007 in Japan: the Real Escape Game. It’s not surprising that escape games have their start in Japan—a country known for some seriously innovative thinking—but escape room history actually goes even further back than that, to PC gaming.
We all remember being completely defeated by Myst back in the ’90s, right? Logic puzzle games like this are where we find the origins of the first “real” escape game. Because what’s better than pretending you’re in a mysterious room with your own brain as the only key to escape? Actually being in one, of course. As generations grow up with gaming consoles and the Internet, spending great chunks of their lives in virtual worlds, there has come a great hankering for something more tangible, something more real.
Back to 2007: Takao Kato attempts to satisfy this hankering, and translates PC room escapes into the Real Escape Game. Fast forward five years to 2012, and the first escape room opens in the US. Meanwhile, more than 100 others have popped up across Asia.
Escape rooms have now spread to every continent (except Antarctica probably—although it’s really just one giant escape room, isn’t it …). The first Canadian escape games, including the first Vancouver escape rooms, opened in late 2013 and early 2014, with Krakit bringing some dedicated horror fun to the Coquitlam escape game situation in September 2014.
The trend toward bringing some hands-on reality to entertainment isn’t just visible in the rise of escape rooms. Immersive entertainment has also infiltrated cinema (like London’s Secret Cinema) and can be seen in the steadily increasing popularity of city-sized ziplines and slip-and-slides.
What does this tell us? That the history of escape games is only just beginning. Because you can’t beat the real—no matter how fancy your 3D animation may be.