Escape rooms might be one of the country’s favorite new group entertainment activities, but escape the room concepts are far from new. These sweetly challenging game settings were popularized more than a decade ago in Asia and before their rise into popular culture, history told accounts of their mentally tantalizing origins.
Before you and your group come in to escape our clever escape set-ups, take a minute to soak up escape room history and the stories from civilizations’ earliest days to understand the contexts from which the newly beloved pastime unfolds.
History of Escape Rooms
In Greek mythology, the labyrinth is a well-known maze that was built to entrap the Minotaur and other evil spirits. Athenian hero Theseus was tasked to navigate the maze, find the Minotaur, kill it and manage to escape the maze back into reality. Myths serve as archetypes, pointing clearly to the human tendency to traverse the complexities of cognitive activity to execute a mission (find an answer, kill a fear, etc.) and return to reality with successful accomplishment to enrich their lives and the lives of those around them. The myth of the labyrinth gained fame in Egypt, Italy, India, Russia, Turkey, England and Native America and it is still alive and celebrated today in Greece.
Hedge and Turfs
The next evolution of mazes can be found in English hedge or turf gardens, where mazes were set up in the 16th and onward centuries as a form of entertainment for royals and guests. The challenge proved riveting to those playing and some can still be enjoyed as entertainment today.
The last transition between legitimately threatening escape mazes and fun, interactive escape spaces rests in the virtual reality of online video games. John Wilson’s Behind Closed Doors (1988) computer game first brought the challenge of escape to gamers and Crimson Room (2004) by Toshimitsu Takagi solidified it as a gaming obsession.
Takao Kato is credited with bringing the first real-life escape room to Japan in 2007. Kato breathed the escape room concept to life after watching a classmate play the concept online, hosting live events at clubs and bars, inviting attendees to escape his settings in real time. His live events gained a ton of attention and grew quickly, selling out at each live event. From Kato’s introduction of escape rooms in Japan, the concept spread to Singapore, Hungary, Romania, Switzerland and the rest of the world.
Escape the Room was started in 2013 as a pop-up by Victor Blake and morphed into a permanent location the next year. As the very first US company to produce live escape games, Escape the Room spawned an entire new form of immersive entertainment. What started with basic furniture and locks has transformed into elaborate sets and high-tech props and puzzles. Escape the Room is the leader and innovator for the 2,500 escape rooms in America and looks forward to continuing to bring new and exciting themes and games to market for it’s over 1,000,000 annual players.
Escape rooms draw out human curiosity and a particular impulse to escape settings, overcome clues and find their way back to a starting point. We can date the lure of escape far back to Egyptian times and probably further to our earliest evolutions. As the concepts grow, the creativity that fuels the challenges expands, too, encouraging everyone to think creatively and get through obstacles of escape.
Escape the Room in Phoenix invites you and your crew – family, friends, co-workers – to come in for an exciting day of creative thinking, problem-solving and working together as a team to better understand one another and even yourselves!