They have had a major role in creating the escape room experience that you can enjoy today.
By most measures, escape rooms are one of the most popular forms of live action entertainment today.
Wanna have an impromptu Sunday evening out with the family? Google “escape rooms near me”.
Looking for ways to celebrate your birthday that are refreshingly different and memorable? Once again, Google “birthday party escape room”.
Wondering how to make the next office team event one that’ll have everyone raring to take part in? Look for escape rooms that offer team building bookings.
They have even spawned a successful movie franchise.
Escape rooms have come a long way from their humble beginnings as “click and point” games on the internet.
There have been five names that have contributed enormously to that.
And that is the topic of this blog: Five important names in the history of escape rooms.
Image courtesy https://realescapegame.com/thoughts-reg/.
A publisher from Japan, Takao Kato was, perhaps like many others of his time, quite taken with online “click and point” or “click and find” games.
But he didn’t stop at just playing the games himself.
He wanted to create a real-world experience modeled along the lines of the online games.
That led him to put together the Riaru Dasshutsu Ge-mu, the Real Escape Game - the very first modern physical escape room.
Initially, these rooms were designed to be temporary events at halls and clubs.
But their spectacular success convinced him that he was onto something.
So he converted his publishing company - SCRAP - into an escape room company, and went on to set up permanent escape rooms in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and then later on in San Francisco here in the United States.
Image courtesy https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/budapest-escape-room-championships-2017-mission-unlock-enoch-parapark-scavenger-games-attila-gyurkovics-a7644036.html.
You can think of Attila Gyurkovics as the Takao Kato of Hungary.
Attila was a social worker who, like Takao, highly relished playing online “click and point” games.
He was enthralled by the concept of taking part in a thrilling adventure, escaping from the humdrum of daily life.
And that inspired him to set up Parapark in Budapest in 2011, the very first physical escape room in Europe.
Reportedly, his last words before locking a team inside their escape room would be:
Getting out is not guaranteed.
According to a story the BBC did on this, Attila’s timing was perfect.
Budapest’s real estate was still suffering the shock of the 2008 financial crisis, which led to properties being available on the cheap.
That, coupled with the intense popularity of the then-new concept of escape rooms, led to an explosion of creativity and entrepreneurship, with as many as 60 escape rooms opening in the city by 2014.
Image courtesy https://www.businessinsider.in/careers/escape-the-room-founder-talks-leaving-finance-to-lock-people-up-for-a-living/articleshow/52947381.cms.
Are you thinking that Victor Blake is someone who played online escape games, got inspired, and set up a real-life escape room.
Well, yes, you’re right.
He set up an escape room in New York in 2013.
But, it wasn’t the first escape room in the United States - SCRAP had set one up in San Francisco the previous year (2012).
So, why am I mentioning him?
Well, he used to be in finance.
When the escape room bug bit him, he adopted it as a side gig.
Every Friday, he’d leave office, pick up some supplies from IKEA and head for a space he’d rented to set up a pop-up escape game.
He would spend the entire weekend running the game, and be back at work on Monday.
There was very little advertising, and players arrived on word of mouth.
Eventually, his popup escape rooms became popular enough for him to quit his job in finance, and set up New York’ very first escape room - Escape The Room.
Professor Scott Nicholson
Image courtesy https://scottnicholson.com/.
Professor Nicholson teaches game design and development at the Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada.
He consults escape rooms on game design, and has researched and written extensively on the subject.
He occasionally conducts surveys on escape rooms, like Peeking Behind The Locked Door and State of Escape.
He also collaborates with Red Bull on the Red Bull Mind Gamers - a global escape room tournament for players.
David and Lisa Spira
Image courtesy https://roomescapeartist.com/about/.
David Spira is a digital experience designer. Lisa is a linguist and data expert.
They’re both escape room enthusiasts.
And they’re both fans of escape rooms.
Which is why they set up Room Escape Artist.
It started out as a review website.
It’s since grown into having a podcast, running an escape room convention, running escape room tours, publishing recommendation guides and even conducting industry surveys.
Which names come to YOUR mind when you think of the escape room industry?
Also, do you have any plans for the weekend?
If you haven’t, you can check out Seattle’s premier escape room!
Banner image courtesy Tony Hand on Unsplash.