What is an Escape Room?

An escape room is a sort of live adventure as a group which puts to the test your teambuilding abilities and the skills of each member of the team.  Usually, each game is set in a different make-believe world which players must explore to get to grips with the story and the objectives to be met. They have to investigate, look for clues and overcome a series of tests generally involving logic and brains, such as riddles and puzzles, although it may also involve some physical activity.

They have different names:  escape room, room escape, escape game, etc., thus called because traditionally the game consists in players locked in a room that they have to escape from. That’s why it is common for the rooms to represent prisons, bunkers or assassins’ hideouts. But new plots have gradually appeared and new ways of playing, so how you meet the goals has also changed. Other customary plots in this sort of game can be finding a treasure, avoiding a catastrophe or finding out certain information.

For example, Mystery Hunters is a suspense and science fiction story in which we have to enter an abandoned warehouse so that the machine created by the wicked Grax can’t lure a sinister being from another dimension, Valnaxar. In this game, you have to solve puzzles of different types, both with traditional locks and latest generation electronics, which foster the development of different skills and teamwork.

A bit of history

Escape games have their roots in the interactive fiction and adventure games of the nineteen eighties and nineties.  They consisted in advancing along the scenes and story, finding and using objects and solving different puzzles. Some of our favourites in Escapop are the King’s QuestMonkey Island and Maniac Mansion sagas.

In the United Kingdom, there appeared a new type of television contest inspired in role and video games in which the contestants were dropped into a fantasy world

Although, funnily enough, this is not usually mentioned when referring to the history of escape games, they also had predecessors on TV. During the decade of the nineteen eighties, in the United Kingdom, there appeared a new type of television contest inspired in role and video games in which the contestants were dropped into a fantasy world. Led by a Gamemaster, they had to follow the plot and solve different mental and physical puzzles to win.

Based on Dungeon & Dragons and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, British producer Patrick Dowling created The Adventure Game in 1980, a TV show where several celebrities were landed on planet Arg and were faced with different intelligence and skills tests. Later, in 1987, there came Knightmare, a medieval adventure for children based on two Spectrum games: Atic Atac and Dragontorc. However, one of the most famous was The Crystal Maze, which began to be aired by Channel 4 in 1990. The contestants in this programme had to cross 4 time zones with different settings  (Aztec, medieval, futurist and industrial) and face 4 categories of tests (physical, skill, mental and mystery) before reaching the final challenge of the crystal dome. The Crystal Maze is the only one of these programmes which has its own live game right now, open to everyone who, obviously, is in the UK.

This contest format was quickly exported to other countries. The Spanish version of Knightmare was called El rescate del talismán (1991-1994) and Scavengers, a science fiction adventure, was presented by Bertín Osborne in 1994. However, the most popular of these shows, despite its brief appearance, was La noche de los castillos (1995-1996) with the participation of Anthony Quinn, among other actors.

 

The first recreational escape company appeared in Japan in 2008

This journey along the evolution of adventure games now leaps to 2006. In that year, a group of Silicon Valley engineers created an on-line game based on Agatha Christie novels, where a riddle had to be solved in a certain period of time. This was not yet an escape room as we know it today, as it wasn’t live, but it was a fledgling version.

The first recreational escape company appeared in Japan in 2008, led by Takao Kato and was called Real Escape Game. As opposed to subsequent versions of escape games, the riddles and puzzles here were only a small part of the game.

Finally, escape rooms acquired their best known format in Budapest around 2011, in an attempt to give a new lease of life to abandoned premises in the city. The pioneer of the idea was Attila Gyurkovics, creator of the Parapark franchise. This attraction quickly became highly popular and immediately spread around the world. In Spain, Parapark opened its first escape room in Barcelona in 2012 and, two years later, also opened in the Canaries; namely, in Playa del Inglés. In recent years, this entertainment sector has continued to grow and develop and, right now, it is thought that there are more than 5,000 rooms worldwide.

Why is an Escape Room so addictive?

There are many factors which make escape games so popular and which make people come back to play again.

To start with, as opposed to videogames, it is a live activity; that is, it is you – in flesh and blood – who faces the challenges, making the thrill more realistic.  This instinctively releases adrenalin, making us more attentive and euphoric. At the same time, all our senses are on the alert and we develop skills that we normally don’t use.

Then, when we face unknown challenges and puzzles, we use our imagination and rational thinking, reinforcing our memory and increasing our knowledge and skills. Therefore, we help our brain to keep young and nimble.

Plus, surprisingly, escape rooms also favour physical exercise because, even if the puzzles are mainly mental tests, it’s not a sedentary activity and often they require some type of physical effort or skill.

An incredible feeling of wellbeing, euphoria and happiness is generated, thanks to the release of dopamine, also called “happiness hormone”

All this has a positive effect on our self-esteem and our wellbeing during and after an escape room session. This is associated to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s concept of flow. This flow refers to the mental state of a person when carrying out a task which is intrinsically gratifying; it exists when there is a balance between the set of skills and capabilities of the person and the level of the challenge faced.

But escape rooms are first and foremost social games where liaison with the rest of the group is essential. That is why when we play, the emotional ties between participants are strengthened and it helps develop our communication and group skills.  

Another interesting aspect of escape rooms is that they are good for teambuilding and developing leadership skills, while revealing the capacities and resourcefulness of each player. That is why a growing number of companies use escape rooms for their personnel screening procedure or to foster synergies between their employees.

Finally, when you meet the challenge of the escape room before the deadline, an incredible feeling of wellbeing, euphoria and happiness is generated, thanks to the release of dopamine, also called “happiness hormone” which is the same as the one produced, for example, when we engage in sexual activity.

As you can see, there are many reasons why the escape room is so addictive and for so many people. So, if you haven’t tried it yet, we offer you a great chance by clicking on this link.

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