Escape the room

Last updated

Escape the room, also known as room escape or escape game, is a subgenre of point-and-click adventure game which requires a player to escape from imprisonment by exploiting their surroundings. The room usually consists of a locked door, objects to manipulate, and hidden clues or secret compartments. The player must use the objects to interact with other items in the room to reveal a way to escape. [1] [2] Escape the room games were born out of freeware browser games created in Adobe Flash, but have since become most popular as mobile games for iOS, and Android. [3] [4] Some examples include "Crimson Room", "Viridian Room", "MOTAS", and "Droom". The popularity of these online games has led to the development of real-life escape rooms all around the world. [5]


Elements of escape the room games can be found in other adventure games, such as Myst and Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors , where a complete puzzle is solved by evaluating the elements within a single room. [6] [7] [8] Games like The Room may also present virtual puzzle boxes that are solved in a similar manner to escape games, by finding out how to open the puzzle box using visual clues on the box and around the environment.


The basic gameplay mechanism of having the player trapped in a single location dates back at least to John Wilson's 1988 text adventure Behind Closed Doors, [9] in which the player is trapped inside a restroom. [10] However, the growth of escape the room games is believed to be tied to the popularity of the Myst series, first released in 1993 by Cyan Worlds, which created puzzles across pre-rendered computer-generated environments, requiring players to look for clues across the landscape. The first game was a landmark title, helping to popularize the use of CD-ROM technology for computers, but as they continued to develop sequels with more ambitious landscapes, alongside several other developers spurred by Myst's success, adventure game sales flattened. [10] Rand Miller, one of Cyan's co-founders, described Myst as "too big" and "too hard to top". [11] Vox writer Alex Abad-Santos stated that while adventure games with more open exploration may be "too aimless", the appeal of escape room games is in their immediacy and constricted world. [10]

The term originated in 2001 from the MOTAS game, [12] though there are many older examples of the point-and-click variation, such as Noctropolis, and even earlier examples from the text adventure canon. The genre was further popularized in 2004 by the Japanese "Crimson Room" game by Toshimitsu Takagi, which has spread throughout the internet and can be seen on many gaming websites. [10] [13]

While a single-location game may not be set inside a room, and while the player's goal may not necessarily be escape, in 2002 the interactive fiction community first hosted a One Room Game Competition (attracting six entries, all in Italian), and in 2006 Riff Conner wrote Another Goddamn Escape the Locked Room Game, indicating that the genre is well known in the contemporary interactive fiction hobbyist community.


Most escape-the-room games play from a first-person perspective, where the player must click on objects to interact with them. Most room escape games offer only token plots, usually a short cut scene consisting only of text to establish how the player got there, and sometimes another when the game is finished. [1] [2] [6] Room escapes usually have a minimalistic interface, ambient soundtrack, and no non-player characters; these elements can enhance the gamer's sense of isolation. [3]

During gameplay the player must click on objects to either interact with them or add them to their inventory. As the player passes the mouse over the game screen, usually the mouse cursor will change shape (e.g. to a hand or different kind of arrow) if the item under the cursor can be used, opened, manipulated, collected, searched or (if an exit) followed, but some games do not provide such hints to the player. If the object cannot be collected, opened, used or manipulated, the player is usually assumed to be inspecting it; in most cases, the player will see a brief text description. [2] The player must collect items and use them with various objects (or other items in the inventory) to find a way to get out of the room. Some games require the player to solve several rooms in succession. Some require significant amounts of pixel hunting (tedious searching for a small clickable area), which can frustrate players. [3] For example, when reviewing the PSP game "Crimson Room Reverse" (a collection of room escape games that were originally free online flash games), critic Brad Gallaway said, "Key items are often hidden behind other items, and the player has no way of knowing these areas exist or that it's possible to search there unless the cursor falls in a very specific location, sometimes a "hot spot" as small as a few pixels." [14]

Related Research Articles

Puzzle video games make up a broad genre of video games that emphasize puzzle solving. The types of puzzles can test many problem-solving skills including logic, pattern recognition, sequence solving, spatial recognition, and word completion.

<i>Myst</i> Video game

Myst is a graphic adventure puzzle video game designed by the Miller brothers, Robyn and Rand. It was developed by Cyan, Inc., published by Brøderbund, and initially released for the Macintosh personal computer platform in 1993. In the game, players travel via a special book to the island of Myst. There, players solve puzzles and, by doing so, travel to four other worlds, known as Ages, which reveal the backstory of the game's characters.

<i>Riven</i> 1997 video game

Riven is a puzzle adventure video game. It is the sequel to Myst and second in the Myst series of games. Developed by Cyan Worlds, it was initially published by Red Orb Entertainment, a division of Brøderbund. Riven was distributed on five compact discs and released on October 31, 1997, in North America; it was later released on a single DVD-ROM on August 17, 1998, with improved audio and a fourteen-minute "making-of" video. In addition to the PC versions, Riven has been ported to several other platforms.

<i>Uru: Ages Beyond Myst</i> video game

Uru: Ages Beyond Myst is an adventure video game developed by Cyan Worlds and published by Ubisoft. Released in 2003, the title is the fourth game in the Myst canon. Departing from previous games of the franchise, Uru takes place in the modern era and allows players to customize their onscreen avatars. Players use their avatars to explore the abandoned city of an ancient race known as the D'ni, uncover story clues and solve puzzles.

<i>Myst III: Exile</i> Third title in the Myst series of graphic adventure puzzle video games

Myst III: Exile is the third title in the Myst series of graphic adventure puzzle video games. While the preceding games in the series, Myst and Riven, were produced by Cyan Worlds and published by Brøderbund, Exile was developed by Presto Studios and published by Ubi Soft. The game was released on four compact discs for both Mac OS and Microsoft Windows on May 8, 2001; versions for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 were released in late 2002. A single-disc DVD version was later released for Windows and Mac OS.

<i>MOTAS</i> 2001 online graphic adventure video game

The Mystery Of Time And Space is a popular online graphic adventure game created by Jan Albartus (LOGAN). The game was produced using Macromedia Flash and was an early influential example of the escape the room genre. There are 20 levels of varying length, some consisting of a single room and others consisting of a large network of rooms. Though advertised as a constant work-in-progress with "new levels coming soon," MOTAS has not been updated since May 2008.

<i>Myst V: End of Ages</i> video game

Myst V: End of Ages is a 2005 adventure video game, the fifth installment in the Myst series. The game was developed by Cyan Worlds, published by Ubisoft, and released for Macintosh and Windows PC platforms in September 2005. As in previous games in the series, End of Ages's gameplay consists of navigating worlds known as "Ages" via the use of special books and items which act as portals.

<i>Nightfall</i> (video game) 1998 video game

Nightfall is an American computer game released in 1998 by Altor Systems, Inc. Although claimed to be the first real-time 3D first person adventure game, there are earlier examples of 3D first person adventure games, however, such as Total Eclipse, released in 1988. It employs a three dimensional world and sprites for objects such as vases and rats, as well as true 3D objects such as blocks and statues. Essentially, the gameplay is a combination of 3D first-person shooters such as Doom, the gameplay found in Myst, with some additional elements.

<i>Lighthouse: The Dark Being</i> adventure game developed and released by Sierra On-Line

Lighthouse: The Dark Being is an adventure game developed and released by Sierra On-Line. It was the first and only game designed by Sierra On-Line art director Jon Bock.

<i>Castle of Dr. Brain</i> 1991 video game

Castle of Dr. Brain is an educational video game released in 1991 by Sierra On-Line. It is a puzzle adventure game.

Azada is an adventure-puzzle casual game developed by Big Fish Studios Europe, and distributed by Big Fish Games.

<i>Alice: An Interactive Museum</i> 1991 video game

Alice: Interactive Museum is a 1991 visual novel/click-and-go adventure game, developed by Toshiba-EMI Ltd and directed by Haruhiko Shono. It uses elements and ideas inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and uses pre-rendered 3D computer graphics. It was designed for Windows 3.x and later released for the Windows 95 platform. In 1991, Shono won the Minister of International Trade and Industry's AVA Multimedia Grand Prix Award for the game, and in 1995, Newsweek coined the term "cybergame" to describe games such as Alice and Shono's second game, L-Zone. They were followed by Shono's third title, Gadget: Invention, Travel, & Adventure, in 1993.

<i>Juggernaut</i> (video game) 1999 video game

Juggernaut, known in Japan as Juggernaut: Senritsu no Tobira, is a horror-themed adventure game published by Jaleco in 1999 for the PlayStation. It was developed by the Japanese studios Will and Tonkin House. The game play is similar to that of the popular adventure game Myst and featured FMV sequences.

In video game culture, an adventure game is a video game in which the player assumes the role of a protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving. The genre's focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media, literature and film, encompassing a wide variety of literary genres. Many adventure games are designed for a single player, since this emphasis on story and character makes multi-player design difficult. Colossal Cave Adventure is identified as the first such adventure game, first released in 1976, while other notable adventure game series include Zork, King's Quest, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Myst.

<i>Hamlet</i> (video game) video game

Hamlet or the Last Game without MMORPG Features, Shaders and Product Placement is an indie adventure game based on William Shakespeare's Hamlet. It was developed and published by indie game developer Denis Galanin.

Escape room real life escape game

An escape room, also known as an escape game, is a game in which a team of players cooperatively discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms in order to progress and accomplish a specific goal in a limited amount of time. The goal is often to escape from the site of the game.

<i>The Room Three</i>

The Room Three is a puzzle video game developed by Fireproof Games. It was released for mobile platforms in November 2015 and for Microsoft Windows in November 2018.


ClueKeeper is a GPS location-aware software platform created by a group of puzzle lovers and initially released in January 2008. A simple description is a mix between a puzzle hunt, an escape room and augmented reality.

The Eyes of Ara is a 2016 adventure game developed by the Brisbane-based, one-man independent games studio 100 Stones Interactive, founded by Ben Droste.

<i>The Room: Old Sins</i>

The Room: Old Sins is a puzzle video game developed by Fireproof Games, and the fourth game in their series, The Room. It was released for mobile platforms in January 2018.


  1. 1 2 divisionten (October 12, 2009). "Escape-the-Room Games: A History, A Catalogue, and an Explanation - Kino Diaries" . Retrieved 2013-01-08.
  2. 1 2 3 Brown, Kristine (September 4, 2012). "Reading Escape from the Blue Room - Digital Rhetoric and New Media" . Retrieved 2013-01-08.
  3. 1 2 3 Alexander, Leigh (2013-01-25). "Could The Room's success predict a new trend?". Gamasutra . Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  4. Matthew Broderick (2018-08-31). "Where would you be wtihout your brain?".
  5. Suellentop, Chris (June 4, 2014). "In Escape Rooms, Video Games Meet Real Life". The New York Times . Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  6. 1 2 Meer, Alec (October 6, 2009). "Room Escape: A Secret Giant?". Rock Paper Shotgun . Retrieved 2013-01-08.
  7. Laura (January 10, 2010). "The Two Parts Of Extreme Escape: 9 Hours 9 People 9 Doors / Siliconera". Siliconera . Retrieved 2013-01-08. The first is the Escape Part. Here, you explore the rooms and use the DS touchscreen to examine everything in the room -– anything that could give you a hint on how to escape from the locked room. As you discover new things, the people with you will also give their input and provide you with more hints. Sometimes, you can also find usable items, which can be combined with other items for various purposes. Once you solve all the mysteries in the room, it is possible to unlock the door and escape.
  8. Hamilton, Kirk (2013-01-28). "I Spent Saturday Morning Solving Puzzles In The Belly Of A Naval Battleship". Kotaku . Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  9. World of Spectrum: Behind Closed Doors
  10. 1 2 3 4 Abad-Santos, Alex (October 26, 2016). "The strange appeal of escape the room games, explained". Vox . Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  11. Yoshida, Emily (September 24, 2013). "Lost to the Ages". Grantland . Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  12. Ransom-Wiley, James (2007-01-15). "New MOTAS levels to point and click thru". Joystiq . Retrieved 2007-12-14.
  13. "Inside Out Escape London". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  14. Gallaway, Brad (January 7, 2010). "Crimson Room: Reverse Review / - Games. Culture. Criticism". Retrieved 2013-01-08.