A Brief History of Escape Rooms
Room Escape Adventures
Sometime in 2007 a man by the name of Takao Kato saw a girl playing an online escape game. Kato was already looking for ideas for some sort of new, exciting event. He figured that if people get hooked on virtual escape rooms, they might like the real ones, too. “When we held the first event in Kyoto, Japan, all we had was a small ad in a classifieds paper,” Kato wrote in a recent article. “In no time, all tickets were sold out.” The first events held by SCRAP Entertainment, a company that Kato founded, were big and temporary, but otherwise very similar to today’s escape rooms: mysteries, puzzles, and challenges. From the beginning, Kato made it intentionally hard to escape. Out of 150 people who came to the first room escape adventures event, only 6 escaped.
In a survey of 175 escape rooms across the world, which was part of a study by Wilfrid Laurier University, 65% of room escape owners said that they were inspired to open their escape rooms because they played in or heard of other rooms. The remaining 35% drew inspiration from a number of “precursors”, as the study calls them.
These precursors include: live action role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, graphic adventure puzzale games like Myst, traditional treasure hunts where groups work together to solve clues in order to find some sort of “treasure”, and even haunted houses.
By December of 2013, there were over 100 escape rooms open in Asia, and they were popping up like mushrooms all across Europe. By June of 2015, 1,765 escape rooms were registered worldwide, with over 300 in the US. As of today there are at least 20 room escape adventures in Denver.
And now Hollywood is catching on. When “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” was released last summer, Paramount Pictures and Skydance teamed up with AMX and IMC to launch themed escape rooms at theaters in Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Even the Science Channel launched its reality series “Race to Escape” last April, in which the first teams to escape the room wins $25,000.
by Shira Kaminsky