A lot of people wonder where this whole escape game craze has started. While there are several theories, they all agree that live versions orginate from computer games. The first game where the player was trapped in a room and had to escape was John Wilson’s 1988 text adventure: Behind Closed Doors. The term ‘escape the room’ came from Mystery Of Time And Space, an online graphic adventure game created by Jan Albartus in 2001. The genre was further popularized in 2004 by the Japanese “Crimson Room” game by Toshimitsu Takagi.
Wikipedia says that the first live escape room opened in 2006 in the Silicon Valley, in the US. But it’s hard to find any evidence for that anywhere else. In 2007-08 a japanese company called SCRAP created a live action game called REAL ESCAPE GAME. ‘Escape from the Mysterious Room’ has a 2% success rate but it’s still very popular among people who love this genre. The first escape room in Singapore opened in late 2011.
The first escape room in Europe was opened in 2011 in Budapest, Hungary. The founder of ParaPark states that he never heard of the Japanese version before and he came up with the idea completely on his own. His goal was to create a flow experience, where players got immersed into the game so much that they wouldn’t even notice how fast the hour flew by. He wanted to offer a game where there is something to do for everyone, and he also wanted the room to be challenging, but to have at least a 60% success rate at the same time.
The game quickly became popular and lots of new venues opened all over the country. After the Hungarian success escape rooms started spreading in other Europian countries. Some of the London based games (Hinthunt, Cluesquest, Escape Land) have Hungarian backgrounds as well.
The first escape room which opened its doors to the public in London was Hinthunt in 2012. Today (at the beginning of 2016) the UK and Northern Ireland have more than a hundred companies that offer live escape games, most of them have multiple rooms.