An incomparable game experience
Escape Rooms are a new entertainment activity, that groups of all ages accept the challenge of being trapped inside a thematic room. Their mission is to try to escape, by solving a series of puzzles that will bring them closer to the game’s completion. Room themes vary, with inspiration from popular movies, video games, historical events, legends or horror stories. What remains the same in every escape room is the ultimate goal of the game. Players are asked to collaborate using their observability, perception and intelligence, while physical strength and speed are sometimes useful. In this way the game comes alive and the players become the heroes of the adventure, winning more than experience and emotion.
Where did Escape Rooms come from and why were they so much loved by the audience? Is this a fashion that will deflate with time, or a new kind of fun that will continue to the next generations? A … getaway back in time will help us find the history and evolution of Escape Rooms and figure out their place in the future.
The primordial need of escape and exploration
Of course, the concept of Escape Rooms were unknown in antiquity, but not the need for escape and exploration. From world mythology and legends, we find that great emphasis was placed on mental tests. Often the hero had to find the solution to riddles and puzzles to reach his goal. Sometimes, usually trapped in a cave, castle or narrow passage, he should escape, using the power of his mind, as happened in the myths of Odysseus and Cyclops. Most of the time the hero collaborated with other heroes, or got help from a god (something like the Game Master). These heroic myths, inspired the modern culture of fun, but they also formed the basis for many games, including Escape Rooms.
The roots of Escape Rooms over the centuries
Group games for adults were the favourite games of many ancient civilizations, like the Egyptians and the Romans. Some of these games, usually played in religious festivals, resembled LARP (Live Action Role Playing Games or Live Roller Games). The players were disguised as characters of earlier times, playing similar roles. Group games have been popular during the 19th century, in Europe of the Industrial Revolution. Then, there are also remarkable novels that give birth to two literary genres: horror literature and police literature. Monsters such as Dracula and Frankenstein, along with detectives like Sherlock Holmes, will not only affect every form of art in the centuries that will follow, but will also lay the foundations for the themed Escape Rooms. Mystery, Atmosphere, Crime Scene, Tremor, and of course a multitude of puzzles come straight from the monumental works of Edgar Alan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Dolly, Bram Stoker and many others.
Theme parks and … haunted houses
At the same time that English writers write about murders, ghosts and undead, Madame ‘Marie’ Tussauds opens in London, in the homonymous museum with wax figures who became famous for the «Chamber of Horrors». In this room, visitors saw heads and tortured forms from the French Revolution. It is considered the first “house of terror” although it was not meant to scare visitors like relatively thematic parks that appeared about a century later.
In 1930, America began to open up thematic restaurants, while in 1955 the creation of Disneyland brought them upside down by combining games and spectacle. With the spread of amusement parks, recreation that is based on team activity, begins to evolve. The way to create Escape Rooms has been laid, but it will take several years to become accessible.
The evolution of group games
From the early 1980s we have a variety of indoor entertaining games. Table games, cards, puzzles, video games, pen & paper rpg (role plays) are evolving rapidly over two decades. Most of them are based on cooperativity and communication of the players, sharpening the mind and cultivating imagination. The TV, performs live shows such as the Adventure Game (1980-1986) and The Crystal Maze (1990-1995). The dream of a group adventure, against time, space and multiple trials, is temporarily behind the screen.
After 2000, where video games are at an advanced level, along with the online rpgs, also comes the first online escape games. These games are based on research, data collection and puzzle solving and they are the fathers of real life interactive escape rooms.
Escape Games Come to Life!
Influenced by digital Escape Games, Attila Gyurkovics, founder of ParaPark, dreams of lively escape games by transferring them in reality. The idea is as follows: Two to five players have to solve a series of puzzles, find the required hidden keys and escape within a certain time. In 2011, Budapest opened the first European Escape Room. Although the first escape room supposed to be in Hungary, the demonic Japanese had only started to make the beginning, just a few years before Gyurkovics, which he was ignoring this fact.
first Escape Room
In 2007, Takao Kato of Scrap Publications, designed the first escape room in Kyoto, Japan. The room began in 2008, with great success. That was the Real Escape Game , made for five to six players. Later, Scrap organized a much larger Real Escape Game, that could host hundreds of players at once. In 2012, Scrap presented the game in San Francisco and Escape Rooms began to spread at a high speed in America. Apart from Japan, escape rooms make their appearance in Singapore in 2011, and by 2013 they have conquered all of Asia.
Escape Rooms conquer the world
With frenzy rhythms, escape rooms spread around the globe, winning more and more fans, who were total;y unaware of this activity, until a few years ago. In March 2016, the number of escape rooms that were operating reached 3,400 rooms. In September 2017 the number doubled. It is estimated that more than 8,000 escape rooms worldwide today operate in fixed installations, apartments, multi-storey buildings and cruise ships.
The themes of escape rooms vary. Rooms of mystery or horror, influenced by movies, video games and successful blockbusters. Escape rooms are challenging not only for gamers, but also for game designers, who enrich the rooms with more details.
Escape rooms in Greece
Escape Rooms in Greece, flourished at an incredible speed across the country. In 2016 there were about 300 rooms in Athens, Thessaloniki, Larissa and the Greek islands, with great appeal in Rhodes and Crete. According to popular online guides, today 414 thematic rooms have arrived, and by the next year it is estimated that they will be even more.
First of all, Great Escape is based in Athens with branches in Thessaloniki and Corinth as well as a thematic room within Allou! Fun Park. This is The Volcano Island, which is the largest escape area in the Balkans. The most successful and popular rooms of Great Escape, are Guantanamo, The Circus, The Perfect Crime, The Secret Agent, The Survivor, Release the Kraken and Whisper of Shadows. These rooms include live acting and are characterized by a special atmosphere, originality, adventure and interactive game-play. Special mention is worthwhile for The Ritual, which belongs to the horror category and is considered the most scary Escape Room ever created in Greece. The Ritual remains the number one in this category, at the Great Escape of Thessaloniki for two consecutive years and in Athens it is a daily challenge for groups of Greeks and foreigners, that want to experience the ultimate terror. Great Escape’s reputation has overtaken the border, with dozens of visitors from Europe, America and Asia visiting their thematic rooms all year round.
Waiting for the next escape
We live in the Age of Real Life Escape Rooms. A time that team games escaped from virtual reality and became true. Players do not control ready-made heroes, working on their behalf. They become the heroes, in order to live the adventure and the thrill of exploration. The level of escape rooms is already high and competitive, and as long as it goes up, it offers even more new experiences for players. If in just a few years since the foundation of the first Escape Room, they have reached such a high level, one thing is certain: the future will be exciting!