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Real-life escape rooms started to appear all around the world in the end of the 2000’s. As the industry is still growing, we can say that a new escape room opens somewhere in the world almost every day.

While examining the reasons behind such success, we had to dig deeper in its history. We found a bunch of interesting facts about online escape games - the source of the real-life version - and the games of today.

Everything started black and white

The first online escape games were quite simple. They based on adventure textbooks where you would follow a given storyline. In the end of every action you could pick an answer and jump to the indicated section based on your decision.

The interest in these adventure books and the enthusiastic love of caving led computer programmer Will Crowther to create Colossal Cave Adventure (later known just ADVENT), the very first of its genre.

We are in the late 70’s, IT business had just started to rise. There were no fancy graphics and designs at all, just a black and white console. It displayed a written story and the user’s inputs were only two-word commands like ‘pick up’ or ‘go left’.

The Big Mac Index of Escape Rooms

In this single player game, users had to explore a cave filled with riches. The main aim was to find as much treasures as you could (every treasure was worth points), escape the game safely and finish on the top of the leaderboard with the most points gained.

This game was so popular that programmes kept releasing updates until 1984. By that time, it was available for different platforms like the Commodor 64 and Apple, and had tons of new features, upgrades and patches.

Breakthrough in adventure games

Escape adventure lovers had to wait until the early 2000s when the first point-and-click games - which are really popular even today - appeared online.

Compared to games nowdays, they were silly little browser-based games with flash graphics. Players should click with the cursor on items to perform some kind of action. The first of its kind was Mystery Of Time And Space (MOTAS) which is still available online.

The Big Mac Index of Escape Rooms

This is the classic prototype of the point-and-click adventure game genre. In the very beginning, you could escape the room by finding hidden objects and inserting items together. Developers released frequent updates for 7 years. 21 stages followed the original one and some of them even had musical effect - yes, it was a real breakthrough back in those days!

After MOTAS, flash games flooded the internet. You can find thousands of these games online even today with the widest range of topics and themes.

As the first smart technology devices appeared, understanding the potential, developers of the escape game genre started creating games for those new platforms. Even though there are millions of games to download for smart devices, in puzzle games the most popular are related to exit games.

Three general types have evolved:

  • where you have to solve puzzles to get out of each rooms and level up (this is the most similar to the point-and-click browser games)
  • where you have to solve one logic problem to open up a door and level up and
  • where you follow a storyline and you have to gather element and solve a mystery with the help of hidden clues

New generation of escaping

As the internet and smart technology conquered the world, these online games were still getting more and more popular among internet surfers. But the late 2000s brought a new hype.

Japanese were always famous for their innovations. In 2007, one of Japan’s biggest publishers SCRAP created REG - Real Escape Game, which is one of the well-known global escape room franchises today. The original rooms are available for the English speaking public since 2015.

The first rooms had only a few and very simple clues, but this actually started to change shortly, as even more clever and tricky methods were developed for the games.

Beside typical rooms where you can see all the clues from miles, much more elaborate gameplays started to spread. There are some intelligent rooms where instead of forbidding it, the use technical devices, such as barcode readers on smartphones, is actually required.

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