The Origin of Escape Rooms

An escape room, also known as an “escape game”, is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy to complete the objectives at hand. Players are given a set time to uncover the secret plot which is hidden within the rooms. Escape rooms are inspired by “escape-the-room”–style video games. Games are set in a variety of fictional locations, such as prison cells, dungeons, and space stations, and usually the various puzzles and riddles themselves follow the theme of the room. While our love for modern escape rooms is a new phenomenon, civilized societies have a long history of enjoying the kind of adventure quest we now associate with escape rooms.

Take the labyrinth for example. The labyrinth is a complicated physical maze structure with Greek origins. In Greek mythology, a labyrinth referred to the maze built for King Minos to imprison the Minotaur. The Athenian hero Theseus had to solve the labyrinth in order to find and kill the Minotaur (plus he had to find his way out again). The image of a labyrinth even appeared on Greek coins as early as 430 BC and the labyrinth pattern can be found today on everything fromEscape rooms gothic cathedral floors to modern beer labels. The labyrinth isn’t wholly a Greek phenomenon, however. Physical artifacts and references to labyrinths have also been found in Turkey, Egypt, Italy, India, Russia, England, and in Native American histories. Traditionally, a labyrinth was meant to trap evil spirits or tricksters. They were also thought to be used by pilgrims who walked the intricate paths while reciting prayers. Basically, since very early days, we’ve been creating elaborate ways to get lost—and challenging ourselves to escape again.

While stone labyrinths were designed to entrap spirits, hedge or turf mazes were designed for fun. This is one of the earliest examples of people escaping a physical space for pure entertainment. From the 16th century onward, elaborate English gardens were a sign of wealth and hedge mazes were popular with royalty—the most famous today probably being the Hampton Court Maze which is open to visitors. These hedge mazes were meant for pleasure rather than having any religious or mythical connotations. Hedge mazes are now part of popular culture and appear in everything from Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter to The Shining. Author Carol Shields even wrote an award-winning novel about them. Check out some of the world’s coolest mazes here. Other modern examples of these kinds of mazes are the corn mazes popular in the U.S. and Canada around Halloween or the fun houses you find at local fairs. Labyrinths and mazes eventually moved online in the form of early video games. (Pac Man is probably the most well-known of these.) This leads us full circle back to the online origins of escape rooms.

In 2007 thehe Japanese company SCRAP first transformed the concept Live Escape Rooms. Its founder, Takao Kato, wanted players to be immersed in the game. The players should play in a themed room and solve mysteries to escape within the allotted time. Escape Games started to pop up in the rest of Asia before arriving in Europe and the U.S and the rest of the world..