At the Origins of the Escape Room

Released in 1988 on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer, "Behind Closed Door" is the very first "escape the room" game where the character starts off trapped and must find a solution to escape. This differs significantly from adventure games that have existed since the early days of video gaming, popularized mainly from the early '80s by companies like Sierra (Mystery House) and LucasArts (Maniac Mansion). In those games, the hero starts free and must find items or keys to open doors.
No graphics were present in Behind Closed Door, developed by the English studio Zenobi Software; it was a text-based adventure: the story was described as in a novel. Our hero begins trapped in the restroom!
Thus, the escape game adventure truly began in a playful manner with a protagonist stuck in the smallest room of the house.

While numerous games continued to be released requiring solving puzzles to open doors and progress in the game, such as Myst and its sequels starting from 1991 or Resident Evil in 1996 among the most well-known, it would take until 2001 to find a game of the "escape the room" type where the protagonist is truly locked in a room, and the ultimate goal is to succeed in escaping. This game is Mystery Of Time And Space or MOTA for insiders. A flash game on a browser. The goal is simple: you start by finding yourself in a room with only one locked exit and must, by all means, get out of this room. This can range from the simple "I find the key under the rug and open the door" to the more complex "with the crowbar found in the fridge, I find the knife under the floor, allowing me to unscrew the screws of the fuse box, in which I install the new fuse previously obtained from the drawer locked by a padlock whose key was hidden in the crack behind the wall poster, in order to power up the generator repaired with the adjustable wrench, finally opening the gate that prevented access to the door, which opens with the key assembled from pieces collected here and there, also assuming I've found the door handle hidden under the bed." Once the first door is unlocked, you typically find yourself in another locked room and repeat the process until the end of the game (if there is one).
A great success updated with new levels for many years.

Another game that popularized the escape the room concept is Crimson Room (2004) by the Japanese Toshimitsu Takagi. Originally released as a flash game on an internet browser, the game garnered success and was ported to handheld gaming consoles, and ten years later to PC.
In practically empty rooms with red walls, players must figure out how to escape using the few elements they find, often by repurposing their use.

The concept is launched, and numerous other games would ride the trend; one can mention "999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons" on Nintendo DS but also "The Room" on smartphones as the most well-known. Just getting lost in the Apple Store or Google Play reveals the impressive number of games of this type.

Video games aren't the sole inspiration for the live escape game concept, but they are likely the most significant.

From Video Games to Live Escape Room

Based in Kyoto, Japan, SCRAP is a company that creates puzzle-based events. In 2007, the company invented the world's very first live-action game called REAL ESCAPE GAME (REG) in Japan. These REGs took place in Japan and other Asian countries in unique locations such as multiple schools, dilapidated hospitals, amusement parks, stadiums, and churches, sparking considerable enthusiasm. In Japan, a TV series titled Real Escape Game TV and movies were broadcast. A physical location opens in Kyoto where players have 30 minutes to escape from a room by solving series of puzzles.

It was in 2011 in Budapest, Hungary, that the first escape game in Europe arrived in the format known today with the establishment "Para Park" by Attila Gyurkovics, who had never heard of the development of escape games in Japan at that time. The brand expanded beyond Hungary under the name "Hint Hunt" in London and then in Paris. The phenomenon went global.

Over time, padlocks and keys gave way to electronic opening and closing systems, the scenery improved, and creation budgets also increased, tied to the ever-growing expectations of players. Escape games became increasingly immersive, and establishments unable to keep up with this frenetic evolution naturally closed down.

It was in 2015 that Enigma Escape opened in Toulouse, in the midst of the escape game boom, followed by a second location in 2016, and finally a giant escape room called Enigma City in 2023, which undoubtedly foreshadows the future of escape games: ever more beautiful, larger, and increasingly resembling amusement parks.