4 thoughts on “Emergence or Convergence? Exploring the Precursors of Escape Room Design”

  1. The main worry that I have in decentralizing the origin story of escape games is that it runs the risk of avoiding giving credit for the form to key developers in Asia, or at least outside of North America and Western Europe. Already, most folks I encounter in the U.S. don’t know that the games have strong ties to Asia and are even more prevalent and commonplace there. For sure, in the English-speaking world, people often claim a variety of inspirations, and that’s great, but it also intentionally or unintentionally obscures parts of the form’s history and makes it seem like a purely North American invention. I’ve seen multiple websites where venue proprietors essentially claim to have invented escape games themselves or where they come up with fancy terms to hide the fact that they’re part of what’s now a widespread tradition in game design. Clearly there is power in origin stories and trying to manage how they are told, and I have to say that I haven’t been impressed so far with the way many proprietors describe the medium, its origins, and its development to customers, the media, and so on. Maybe they themselves are unfamiliar with the history and development of escape games outside of the United States (or even outside of the few examples they’ve personally seen), but it feels to me — though I could be wrong — that this history is being obscured or ignored as much as it’s been unintentionally lost or remains shrouded in obscurity or multiple related developments.

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