A man solving (or testing) a puzzle at the Conundrum Escape Room.

An escape room video game, also known as escape the room, 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]


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]


  1. ^ a b divisionten (October 12, 2009). "Escape-the-Room Games: A History, A Catalogue, and an Explanation - Kino Diaries". Retrieved 2013-01-08.
  2. ^ a b c Brown, Kristine (September 4, 2012). "Reading Escape from the Blue Room - Digital Rhetoric and New Media". Retrieved 2013-01-08.
  3. ^ a b c 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 without your brain?". allpullupbars.co.uk.
  5. ^ Suellentop, Chris (June 4, 2014). "In Escape Rooms, Video Games Meet Real Life". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  6. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c d 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". Insideoutescape.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  14. ^ Gallaway, Brad (January 7, 2010). "Crimson Room: Reverse Review / GameCritics.com - Games. Culture. Criticism". GameCritics.com. Retrieved 2013-01-08.