Escape rooms are a reasonably recent phenomena, appearing in Japan in 2007 and a few years later in Europe and the USA. But there is a history leading up to these first physical escape rooms. The computer game versions of ‘escape-the-room’ date from the late 1980s, and TV shows such as now Get Out Of That also had a similar premises. It is also not hard to see precursors to the escape rooms in other media. The Saw films are a recent example; the James Bond classic Dr No from the late 1950s is another. But the development of this phenomena does not explain its appeal. Why are people drawn to puzzles, challenges and the race against the clock tension of an escape room?
There has been some editorial speculation on the popularity of escape rooms and similar games and literature. One popular notion is that modern professionals are worked hard and kept on a busy schedule. Lives are structured, and this is something that we literally want which we want to escape. But we cannot really leave our lives because that would be irresponsible. Instead, we escape symbolically.
Perhaps this should come as no surprise. The term ‘escapism’ has long been applied to many types of entertainment Escape rooms manage to express this more literally, while also being a creative and intellectual exercise. Being confined to a small room, even handcuffed, normally wouldn’t seem like something that should be appealing. But we must remember that it is the escape we are looking forward to and not the sense of entrapment. Perhaps we already feel a little confined in our own life, and escaping this in a game gives us a sense of release.
Try the escape room that Sydney siders have found so appealing. Break out of a mindset or bad habit while pondering the puzzle before you. Exercise a different attitude or different thinking process. Best of all, experience something new with your friends or colleagues.