How Did Escape Rooms Become So Popular?

It feels like over the past five years, escape rooms have been popping up left, right and centre. We would know! These fantastic immersive experiences offer something exciting and new for a generation who grew up playing point-and-click adventure games, and watching TV shows like the Crystal Maze and Knightmare. It’s no wonder this type of entertainment has become so popular in such a short space of time.

So where did the trend for escape rooms start? Let’s take a look back at the story of the escape room up to this point.

The first ever escape room experience

The year is 2007 – Barack Obama hasn’t taken office yet, the final Harry Potter book is yet to be published, and Apple has just launched its revolutionary iPhone. This was also the year SCRAP Entertainment was born, after founder Takao Kato happened to see one of his classmates playing an online game. This game involved exploring the room, finding clues and solving puzzles to unlock the door. Sound familiar?

Kato began to wonder whether this was an experience that could be brought to life. The company began to develop ‘real escape games’ – but these were often week-long events, not necessarily something tourists or casual visitors would like to enjoy. Nevertheless, it was the first commercial type of ‘escape room’ to hit the market.

A growing trend

Fast-forward to 2011, in the city of Budapest. The company Parapark launches it very first escape room facility, Hint Hunt, which looks a lot more like the escape rooms we know and love. Visitors paid money to be locked in a small space, and had to use their skills to escape within a time limit.

Escape rooms were also becoming a hit in Singapore, with more than fifty different rooms set up in 2011. In 2012, SCRAP, which had now refined its idea of an escape room, launches its first escape game in the US. Things started to take off for both of these companies. Hint Hunt set up a base in England, then in France. The trend had begun to spread! Even Barack Obama (by now nearing the end of his second term in office) and his family hopped on the bandwagon, escaping from Breakout Waikiki in Hawaii with just twelve seconds left on the clock. Not bad, Mr President.

Utilising technology

The escape rooms we know today are constantly being refined and updated, to bring in new technology. Nowadays you can find ‘smart’ rooms, where smartphones are not only encouraged, but required to help you finish the game. VR escape rooms are also hitting the big time, with experiences like our own Mind Horror showing just how limitless virtual reality can be. The history of escape rooms is definitely exciting and fun to look back on – but we’re more looking forward to the future, and welcoming all these developments that make this one of the most popular leisure activities of the moment.

A thrilling experience! It's hard to review this place while not spoiling the puzzles, but it was truly a blast. The production value of the two escape rooms I've tried were pretty amazing. It kind of felt like being in a movie!

Awesome rooms. I've done a lot of live escape rooms and the one we did at Omescape London was both challenging and had incredible technology to it.

Would love to do this again! The puzzles were clever and challenging. Clearly they put in a great deal of effort towards designing interesting puzzles. I have no idea how they orchestrated all of it, but it worked great!