What Are Escape Rooms

This article is about the physical puzzle games, known as escape rooms where a team of 2 to 12 people are locked in a themed and decorated room and have to riddle their way to the exit in just one hour....

What Are Escape Rooms

This article is about the physical puzzle games, known as escape rooms where a team of 2 to 12 people are locked in a themed and decorated room and have to riddle their way to the exit in just one hour. 

Escape rooms are inspired by 'escape the room' style video games.  The themed and decorated rooms are set in a variety of fictional locations, such as prison cells, dungeons, space stations, bank vaults, pirate ships, as well as many others.

Escape rooms became popular in the 2010s, at the time of writing this industry is still experiencing growth as it manages to keep on top of customer expectations.


  1. History and Origin of Escape Games
  2. Inspiration
  3. Stories
  4. Puzzles
  5. Evolution
  6. What it's Like Playing an Escape Room
  7. How to Escape
  8. What Holds Teams Back From Escaping
  9. How Many Puzzles Have to be Solved
  10. Escape Room Reviews
  11. UK Escape Rooms

1.  History
The origins of Escape Games came from the video games called 'Escape Rooms' or 'Escape Games'.  The player had to solve mysteries by interacting with the people around her in order to escape from the room and move to the next level.

In 2007 the Japanese company SCRAP transformed the video game concept into a Live Escape Room.  The founder Takao Kato wanted players to be immersed in the game.  He created a themed room where the players had to solve mysteries to escape within a specified time.  The rooms grew popular very quickly and Escape Games took off and started to pop up in the rest of Asia before finally arriving in Europe.

SCRAP soon expanded and launched in the United States under the name of Real Escape Games.  Whereas, the European competition in Hungary who started to develop games in 2011, and claim they didn't know about the Asian Escape Games, expanded and launched in the United Kingdom.

Since 2013 Escape Games have taken off in the UK at an amazing rate.  All the major cities have at least one room, many are now owned by Franchises, but you can still find a few independents in smaller towns and rural locations.

2.  Inspiration
Inspiration for the different Escape Room themes are often drawn from books and films, but some companies who wanted to be different and stand out from what is becoming a crowded market, decided to create their own universes.

As more Escape Rooms open it becomes harder to create unique experiences for the players, but there are dedicated players out there who seem to enjoy participating in every room available; in their opinion there isn't enough of them.

3.  Stories
Some of the more popular themes and story lines have included, zombies, haunted houses, science laboratories, prisons, pirates, treasure hunting, bank vaults, and kidnappings.

4.  Puzzles
The puzzles that can be found in escape rooms are hidden objects, keys, decoding, using something in an unusual way, using black light to uncover clues, assembling a physical object, algebra and other mathematics, pattern identification, riddles, ciphers, and playing music on an instrument.

5.  Evolution
Escape rooms are possibly the fastest evolving event at the moment.  The first games consisted of logical puzzles that were solved with pen and paper.  Later objects were hidden in props where padlocks would need to be unlocked to access more keys and codes using objects around the room.  Now technology, immersive decoration and more elaborate story lines are being used to enhance the visitor experience, making puzzles more interactive and to create an experience that is more theatrical and atmospheric.

It is felt the next stage of the Escape Room experience could well move into mobile vehicles such as old abandoned train carriages, caravans, metal storage containers, as well as abandoned barns and buildings.

6.  What's it like playing an Escape Room
At the time of writing I've completed around seven rooms.  The first three I was locked in, but from there on I've made it out of all of them with only one other team mate, and one of the rooms had a 30% success rate.  So for those of you who want to do couples only, it is possible to make it out.

It's a pretty awesome experience.  As my group travelled to the event the atmosphere in the car felt the same as Christmas Eve when I was a young kid.  Coming home had a similar feeling to just after opening all my gifts.

Once we arrived we were taken to the waiting area and given the run down on the rules and how the games master is there to help, then we signed our lives away (just joking, or am I, we did sign something...) before being lead to the game.

We entered the room, and my heart rate went up as I looked for puzzles.  Then frantic activity ensued as everyone started hunting, touching, looking and talking.  Once we had everything we could find we all came together and started to concentrate and make sense of everything, then systematically the group started to work together through the puzzles.

This particular escape room was made up of 4 rooms, by the time we hit the 4th room everyone cried out 'NO'! We knew time was running out and we panicked, I'm certain lives could have been lost in our rush to complete the last puzzle and our mad dash to get out of the exit.  We looked like we had run a marathon when we all fell through the door.  I don't know who was laughing hardest, us or the games master.  They clearly get a buzz out of watching people enjoying themselves.

Afterwards my team spent time celebrating and going over every puzzle, each person claiming the ones they solved.  We also had a good laugh about peoples reactions to unexpected bangs during the game.

I've never been a games type person, I've never played computer games and rarely go near a board game.  But since doing the Escape Rooms I've become addicted and also enjoy the box game versions and can't wait to do the next room.

7.  How to Escape

  • Assemble the best team possible: When I first started out I grabbed as many people as possible from different age groups from teens through to pensioners who had different abilities.  What a mistake, too many leaders and each generation trying to prove their worth.  Now I go as a couple and I escape every time, so I think my husband and I have proved you can do it with two people if you have enough skill sets.  What you need from your team is logical brains, thinkers, problem solvers, good maths skills and above all the ability to know how to communicate with each other.
  • Leave fear at the door: I wasn't too comfy in the first few escape rooms, but once I relaxed and immersed myself in the experience, I started to really enjoy myself and have fun.  I soon forgot my dislike of dark spaces, and putting my hands into dark holes.  So just relax and enjoy yourself, it's only an hour which will fly by.
  • Ask the staff questions: The staff will usually walk you through what you can and can't do.  Like - don't move the furniture, don't stick fingers into plug sockets etc.  If you are stuck and don't think you can solve the puzzle, ask for assistance, they usually give you a nudge in the right direction so you still feel that you solved it all on your own. 
  • Use your time wisely: You only have an hour, have a quick look around the room and prioritise what you can do quickly.  If you think you are spending too long on one puzzle ask the games master for help.  Too much confidence in your abilities can also hinder your progress because you will take too long over some puzzles.  If you are in a larger group, appoint a leader, have a game plan, then divide and conquer!
  • Communicate: Whether you are in a group of 2 or a group of 12, valuable time can be lost if two people each have one half of the puzzle and don't tell each other.  This is why escape games are such great team-building exercises, your boss can see straight away who gets ignored, who talks too much, who has all the influence and if you are all capable of getting along without ending up in a heated argument.

8.  What holds teams back from Escaping

  • Ego - some people are just too proud to ask for help, either from their team mates or from the games master.
  • Lack of communication - another common problem, one player may find a clue that solves a puzzle but her team mate fails to announce she has the answer.
  • Lack of diverse skills - the more skills people can bring to the team the better
  • Failure to search the entire room - people don't check in dark places, they don't feel around inside draws, cupboards or safes.
  • Over thinking - escape room enthusiasts are especially prone to over thinking things.
  • The team in general - some teams have already lost before they set foot in the room.  They don't have enough diverse characters who look at the world in different ways.  Team members who don't want to be there are a dead weight.  Lastly being under the influence.
  • Not searching enough - some rooms have a scavenger component but the teams don't hunt around enough, or check deeper into recesses.  They also don't double check what their team has already looked at.
  • Hoarding Information or objects - team members putting things in their pockets and forgetting they are there.
  • Talkers - some people love the sound of their own voice and talk too much as well as over everyone else, it restricts good communication.
  • Too quiet - some people are quite and don't speak up about something they know.
  • Ignoring the obvious - it's easy to get carried away and complicate a puzzle that is straightforward.
  • Couples - stick to each other like glue because they want to have fun together, instead of dividing and conquering the room.
  • Watching the Clock - focusing on the time left on the clock takes focus away from the puzzle to be solved.  The more clock watching the more panicked the team becomes.
  • Lack of experience - The rooms are all different but there are similarities in the method of solving puzzles, the more experience the team has the better they will do.
  • Arguing - some people completely lose the plot and start arguing about differences of opinion.
  • Not paying attention - ignoring the information given, and/or trying to solve a puzzle without all the information.

9.  How Many Puzzles Have to be Solved
I don't have any hard data, but going on what I've experienced:-

60 - 70% success rate: 7 - 10 puzzles
50 - 60% success rate: 7 - 13 puzzles
30 - 40% success rate: 15 - 20 puzzles
<30%: 18 - 30 puzzles

10.  Escape Room Reviews

Cryptex Cambridgeshire
Cambridge Escape Room
Oliver Cromwell's House - Ely
GR8 Escape York
Top 10 Escape Rooms in the UK

External Links