Willingly Locked In

Imagine you are in a room and you don’t know why you are there. The doors are locked and it seems there is no way out except to solve ridiculously hard puzzles and scrounge for clues that can easily be overlooked. It can take several hours to escape and once you finally do there is no conclusion to this story or explanation to why you were put in the room in the first place, it just fades into whiteness.

While that might not sound enjoyable to you, games like that happen to be one of my favorite types of games to play and I’m not alone. These games are actually a very popular subgenre of Point and Click adventure games called Escape the Room or Room Escape.

Escape the Room games have been around for a while and although they are mostly associated with casual games on the iPad or being browser based, there are actually console and PC games that could be in that category as well. Myst, one of the first games that used the mechanics seen in room escape games, was released in 1993 and until The Sims came out it was one of the best-selling PC games.  It was so popular that 4 direct sequels followed it as well as spin-off games and books.  Another game, created for the Nintendo DS, is called Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was created in 2009 in Japan. The game play has the player explore a ship and solve puzzles like you would find in Room Escape games.


Cover art for the game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Cover art for the game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Cover art for the game Myst
Cover art for the game Myst













Even the casual games on iPhones and iPads are incredibly popular. This article on Gamasutra discusses an ios game called The Room which won “iPad Game of the Year” in 2012, and went past 1 million in sales. Although in the game you are technically not breaking out of a room and instead trying to break into a box, the game play and mechanics are drawn very heavily from escape games. If Escape the Room games are games you enjoy playing, I highly recommend you download The Room. Where most causal escape games problems, such as bad graphics, gameplay, or just lacking in the story department, The Room and its sequel flourish and leave you wanting more.

One of the many puzzles from The Room and its sequels
One of the many puzzles from The Room and its sequels


Escape the room games have consistently gained popularity over the years; so much so that they are actually starting to break out into the real world with live action versions. The first Real Escape Game, or REG, was created in Japan in 2007 by a company called SCRAP, and then it eventually made its way over to the US where it is so common that we even have one in Fredericksburg. The REGs are almost exactly the same as the virtual ones except for that they are of course are real and most of the games are solved with a team. You also have to pay around 30 dollars to play while it is easy to find hundreds of free Room Escape games online. For someone on a college’s students salary of nothing, $30  is a lot of money to spend, however REGs do offer an opportunity for people like me who love these games to work in a team and explore this genre in real life.

While escaping rooms and solving difficult puzzles may not be your thing, it’s undeniable how popular this sub-genre has become.


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  1 comment for “Willingly Locked In

  1. Kayleigh B
    April 3, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I’ve always been interested in playing a Room Escape video game but I wasn’t quite sure about the mechanics of this genre of game or what game I should start with. I found this article very helpful in suggesting what games to play. The fact that this type of puzzle game has made its way into the real world is fascinating and the trailer for the Fredericksburg escape the room game, which they call “The Breakout”, shows that this game type works just as well in the virtual world as it does in a real room with real people. The puzzle solving game genre is possibly my favorite game genre and this article has made me interested in learning more about and playing games of the Escape the Room puzzle sub-genre.

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