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If you’ve never heard of escape rooms before, you may be asking “What is an escape room?” An escape room is similar to a video game, but played out in real life.  You’ll explore the room’s surroundings, solve puzzles, and maybe even find secret passageways with your team.  At The Escape Effect, we treat it as a family-friendly form of entertainment.  Here’s how some of our escape rooms feel.

When escape rooms were introduced years ago, the goal of an escape room was to escape the room.  But in 2024, as new themes and game mechanics were introduced, the goals have expanded to include other objectives like capturing ghosts or becoming immortal.

The Escape Effect is able to offer you a wider array of experiences through visuals, sounds, wits, and puzzles.  One great example is the 75-minute Sherlock Studies, which gives you an opportunity to solve a murder mystery!

Isn’t that exciting?  Your adrenaline will pump, your brain will scatter, and you’ll race against the clock with your teammates.  It is so much fun, and it’s a great family-bonding or team-building activity.

Skip the history and read on about your escape room experience…

History Of Escape Rooms

The history of escape rooms is a fascinating thing to study. Often marketed as real-life video games, escape rooms are puzzle-filled adventures. Players step into detailed sets and scour the rooms for clues. There may be hidden doors, secret passages, or treasures. They may be looking to escape from danger or searching for immortality. Dim lights and ominous music set the mood as a clock ticks down.

Escape rooms have taken mainstream media by storm in recent years. It’s easy to see why. Escape rooms can be just as immersive as theme parks. All of the hidden secrets and locks add to a rich feeling of exploration. Add in well-designed puzzles and you have a recipe for hours of fun. They’re addictive and engaging, so it’s no surprise that they’ve become popular.

The question is, how did this phenomenon get started? Let’s dive in and see what we can learn!

A rope runs the length of the dungeon wall from cell to cell.

An escape room is a form of entertainment where a group of people get together to solve puzzles and accomplish a goal. They combine aspects of puzzle games and exploration adventures. Typically, the goal is to escape from the room or scenario, but many variations and themes exist. The focus of the game is mainly on solving puzzles, though there is usually a story establishing why the players are there and what the goal is.

The rooms are decorated to suit the theme. In a dungeon-themed escape room, you’ll find rocky walls painted to look like an underground room. A Sherlock Holmes room will be decorated to look like a room in Victorian London. Some escape rooms give a brief backstory to the players at the beginning. The rest of the storytelling comes from the environment. Notes, newspapers, or symbols on the walls establish the backstory for the players.

A photo of Sherlock's desk with typewriter, magnifying glass, and pipe.

The game is simple. Once you’re given the scenario, you have to solve all of the puzzles within a time limit. Most escape rooms set a time limit of 60 minutes, though longer games exist. For example, The Escape Effect‘s shortest game is 75 minutes and the longest game is 2 hours!

When you play, you’ll hunt down codes, open locks, find secret passages, and make your escape. If you get stuck on a puzzle, you can usually ask for a hint. Some places limit you to three hints per game, but others don’t have a limit. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to solve everything within the time limit. You won’t actually be trapped in the game.

A screenshot of the island from the game, Myst, which plays a big role in the history of escape rooms.

Escape-The-Room Video Games

There’s a reason why escape rooms are often marketed as real-life video games: the history of escape rooms can leads right back to them. Secret panels hide important objects. Unusual items triggering an event elsewhere in the room. These things are common in puzzle-themed video games. They’ve become common in real-life escape rooms as well.

We’re big fans of video games here, and we’ve talked about other escape room-style games before. If you’re familiar with different game styles and mechanics, you’ll see the similarities between different games and escape rooms. Many real-life games took cues from puzzle-themed point-and-click adventures. Finding items in one place to use in another, and using the items only once, are elements that you’ll find in both those video games and escape rooms.

The idea of being stuck in a single room can be found in a lot of older games. Similarly, a lot of point-and-click games required players to use odd items together in interesting ways. Where escape-the-room games really seemed to kick off, however, was with Myst. This 1993 puzzle adventure became a massive hit. In fact, it’s still popular to this day. Its engaging puzzles and curious story have made it a classic in the genre.

While remakes have brought the game into full 3D gameplay, Myst originally used pre-rendered images for the setting. This design detail, along with its point-and-click mechanics, became a staple of later escape-the-room games. Many of these games got their start as Flash-based browser games.

A scene from the 2004 game, Crimson Room.

Adobe Flash was a staple of the internet until it was phased out in 2020. The introduction of ActionScript in 2000 opened the doors for many people to start experimenting with game development. In 2004, Toshimitsu Takagi created Crimson Room, one of the most well-known escape-the-room games of the era. This game featured simple graphics, a point-and-click interface, and very little story. Set in a stark red room, the player had to find the sparse items scattered hidden throughout the space and escape.

More games followed from him: The Viridian Chamber, The Blue Chamber, and The White Chamber. While it’s hard to find a site that can still play those games now that Flash is no longer supported, Crimson Room did get a sequel in 2016. Even today, Takagi’s games are considered classics among escape-the-room game fans from that time period.

Likely inspired by Myst and Crimson Room, many other escape-the-room games emerged over the 2000s–2010s. Many games ended up on sites like Newgrounds, where Flash-based browser games were collected. It’s easy to see why they became so popular, both to make and to play. The mechanics are simple: just point the mouse at the thing you want to use and click. Simple inventory systems were relatively easy to put together. Items didn’t even need to be hidden in the menu. A lot of the games had the item icons floating off to the side or at the top.

Very few games in this genre had characters other than the player, and the camera was typically in the first person. There was little animation required, and the scenery could be made from static images. In fact, they could be drawn in Flash as well. Items could then be drawn directly onto the background and turned into something interactive. That’s not to say that it was easy; it was just more accessible to indie developers.

Since making the game didn’t require as many tools, more people could get into it. They could even take advantage of the online aspect of the games for their puzzles; Crimson Room had one puzzle that required players to go to a URL in order to get a code. However, that site no longer exists, so players can no longer use it even if they can find the game.

A screenshot from the 2013 game, Don't Escape.

Over the years, as Flash and ActionScript evolved, the games became more complex. Since Flash was also an animation tool, more animations and complex puzzles could be added. Looping animations added some flavor to backgrounds. Horror games could animate jumpscares to trigger with events. Games like the Don’t Escape series from 2013 even changed the endings based on what the player did. Each advance in technology made the games even more popular.

Escape room-like video games have remained consistently popular. Even though the old Flash games can’t be made anymore, HTML5 advances and other web programming languages have allowed web-based games to continue. Those looking to make more advanced games have also used game engines like Unity to create unique puzzle games. New video games with similar elements, like exploration and puzzle solving, have emerged to kept puzzle fans entertained. The Room video game series is a great example of an escape room game. However, the cycle of escape-the-room games to real life has come back around to fiction.

Real-Life Escape Rooms

The host from The Crystal Maze.

We can trace the history of escape rooms back to more than just escape-the-room games. Puzzle-themed television shows emerged around the same time as the games did. In the 1980s and ’90s, shows like The Adventure Game and The Crystal Maze required contestants to solve different puzzles in order to win. The Adventure Game was inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, which was fairly young at the time.

For example, contestants on The Crystal Maze ventured into themed zones (Aztec, industrial, etc.) which featured different types of puzzles. Some puzzles involved mental challenges and others were more physical. The mental puzzles that one might find in the old game shows are not unlike what might be used in an escape room today. However, most escape rooms feature very limited (if any) obstacle course-style challenges.

Puzzle game shows had similar concepts to modern-day escape rooms. However, it wasn’t until the point-and-click games started taking off that the current idea of escape rooms started taking shape. In 2003, True Dungeon started its own real-life dungeon crawling experience. It’s not generally considered the first escape room, but True Dungeon is very similar to escape rooms as we know them.

The dungeon features a combination of puzzles and combat (in the form of a game), much like a game of Dungeons & Dragons might. They also have a form of currency for the game, to let players buy equipment for their adventure. True Dungeon also places importance on teamwork and problem solving, like escape rooms do. However, their D&D-inspired experiences lean a little closer to live action role-playing (though they don’t consider themselves a LARP experience). Despite some similarities, they’re more of an adventure experience than an escape room.

A photo from one of 5 Wits experiences.

Other entertainment venues, like 5 Wits, came up with their own experiences around the same time. 5 Wits markets themselves as an adventure rather than an escape room, but they do share some similarities. People venture into detailed sets and work through different puzzles and challenges. 5 Wits places more emphasis on the story than most escape rooms do. One draw to their experiences is how the players’ actions can change the outcome of a story. Most escape rooms put the focus on the puzzles, and players can either win or lose.

These television shows and early entertainment venues, while not quite escape rooms, paved the way for the first real-life escape room: Real Escape Game. In 2007, Takao Kato took inspiration from escape-the-room flash games and created what is largely considered the first modern escape room. Bringing video game-like puzzles into the real world, Real Escape Game took off. The company behind the venture, SCRAP, spread to the United States in 2012. From there, the American audience picked up on how fun the games are and started making their own.

Around 2014, not long after Real Escape Game made its way to the States, escape rooms started taking off. Since then, more and more companies have appeared, bringing their own escape room visions to life. In cities all over the country, and the world, rich sets filled with secrets have appeared. Puzzles of all types, hidden in various compartments or behind locks and codes, are drawing people into the games.

A player is entering a code attempt into a number lock.

Escape Room Evolution

Not only are escape rooms becoming more popular, they’ve also become more complex. Early games used more paper and pencil or simple locks. Small props gave away combinations or key words. However, it didn’t take long for the experiences to grow. Much like how the Flash game community learned from one another, escape rooms designers can take inspiration from what they see. New mechanics are developed over time and become widespread. Some developers might have even taken inspiration from puzzles that they saw in escape-the-room games.

The SD2000 device in the Fright Before Your Eyes escape room from The Escape Effect in Orlando, Florida.

Advances in technology have also made it easier to build new puzzles. Over the last decade, computers have made significant leaps in power and versatility. As small electronics like Arduino devices become easier to work with, more can be added to escape room puzzles. 3D printing and RFID devices have also allowed people to create new custom props and make puzzles more advanced.

An RFID reader might be used to tell if an object was put in the right spot to trigger a hidden door to open. Magnets and switches can initiate different effects. Lights can be triggered to reveal a clue. With so many options available, escape room designers are able to add more intricate puzzles. More sophisticated tools make the escape room experience even more immersive and fun!

To Real Life And Back Again

Promo picture of Zoe from the Escape Room Movie with portions of her face missing in a jigsaw pattern.

Nowadays, escape rooms are everywhere. In fact, escape rooms have become mainstream enough to have multiple movies made about them. They’re mostly horror movies, taking the fictional danger in some escape rooms and turning the rooms into real life-or-death threats. We wrote about Escape Room (2019) before, but there are other movies about escape rooms. Two movies, both titled Escape Room, came out in 2017. One movie was directed by Will Wernick and another was directed by Peter Dukes. There was another movie, No Escape Room, released in 2018. And, to bring the television-based inspiration back full circle, Jack Black hosted a celebrity escape room special in 2020. The puzzles once inspired by television are now inspiring television and movies!

But that’s not all. The cycle continues into video games as well. Games like Escape Academy and Escape Simulator have been released in recent years. These games seek to recreate the experience of playing real-life escape rooms, which themselves were intended to recreate the video games. They’ve brought with them many of the elements that escape room introduced. For example, not many escape-the-room games of old had time limits, but real-life escape rooms do. And, now, so do these real-life-inspired video games. Some of these games even feature hint buttons like we have at The Escape Effect!

A close up of the hint button, in the shape of a shield from th A Knight To Escape escape room in Orlando, Florida.
A screenshot of a hint button in an Escape Simulator room.

These games incorporate other elements of real-life escape rooms while expanding onto things that can’t be done in reality. Escape Academy includes complex puzzles with flooding water, fire, and other dangers that no real-life escape room would ever have. They often feature much larger sets, as well, since they’re not restrained by real-world limits. Multi-story buildings for a single room might have dangerous traps that require the player to climb all over the set. None of those things will happen in real life, but they make for great fictional challenges!

Escape Simulator includes a lot of other wild puzzles and unique sets. Some elements of the game are similar to real-world escape rooms, like having secret panels in walls, though they do it in a more fantastical way. Real-life escape rooms are not likely to have items dramatically rise from the floors, for example. Escape Simulator also allows the players to design their own escape rooms. It’s a lot of fun for people who like video games and escape rooms. You get to combine two of your favorite things into a single creative experience!

So What Comes Next?

The history of escape rooms is surprisingly rich and future is still being written. Technology is constantly evolving, which means game developers are still experimenting with new ways to challenge players. We’re always looking for new inspiration.

We hope you’ll keep coming by to see what amazing puzzles we come up with!

Sherlock and Watson looking at the mind map in order to solve the case.

What To Expect From Your Escape Room Experience

All escape rooms provide unique experiences, but there are a few common traits that you’ll find in many games. For example, many escape rooms use similar types of locks. To better understand what an escape room is, here’s an explanation of the traits you’ll most often see in the different escape room games.

You’ll Be Under The Clock

Escape rooms are not necessarily competitive, but they are assigned maximum durations to add some excitement and help facilitate guest planning. It’s very similar to the way that a theater runs the same film at specific times throughout the day. These time limits can add a little bit of pressure and competition to players looking to set personal records.

Although you may have heard that escape rooms run 60 minutes (1 hour) in length, the truth is that there’s no rule for how long a game can bejust like how there’s no rule for how long video games or novels must be.  The more you play, the more you’ll likely find yourself wishing that the experiences were longer. That’s exactly where The Escape Effect hits it out of the ball park with experiences that run up to two hours!

At Other Escape Rooms, Game Over Comes Too Soon!

If you’re like us, then you like getting into a flow state while solving puzzles. Nothing hurts more than being on a roll in an escape room when suddenly, bzzt! The timer goes off and it’s game over. That’s why our escape rooms are all games over an hour long. We want you to have plenty of time to really soak in that logical goodness! When they say game over, we say game on.

A group of players celebrate at The Escape Effect.

Escape Rooms Are As Diverse As Cuisines

We know that some people like Thai food and others prefer Italian, and many restaurants try to offer different dishes to suit individuals’ tastes.  In much the same way, “What is an escape room” can mean different things to different people, as they come in with different expectations. With that in mind, we try to make our rooms unique from one another so that we can offer something for everyone.  You’ll find a wide assortment of truly unique themes here, along with custom puzzles and technology that we know you won’t find anywhere else.

Lately, more new escape room-style adventures have shown up, such as Universal’s Great Movie Escape. It’s a unique theme park-led escape room experience, but it’s a not a traditional escape room. The Great Movie Escape has a different sort of game play, with a heavier focus on immersing players in the story. More experiences with escape room elements are sure to come as these games become mainstream, leading to more diverse types of experiences.

At The Escape Effect, some our escape rooms will be heavier on exploration, others on communication, and others on puzzle-solving.  With If you aren’t sure exactly which escape room cuisine you like, call our hosts. We’ll be happy to make recommendations based on what your group likes.

Escape Rooms Aren’t Just Locks And Keys

A photograph of a SD2000 device being held to contact spirits in Fright Before Your Eyes.

In many escape rooms, you can gauge your progress by how many locks you’ve opened or which rooms you’ve managed to access. However, escape rooms have a lot more to offer! Some games feature one room with a central puzzle and many smaller puzzles surrounding it, while others have unique types of locks and puzzles. Fright Before Your Eyes barely uses locks at all; the core of the game is the special device designed exclusively for the room. The diverse types of game design are part of what makes escape rooms so exciting!

A photograph showing the dressing room in the dark with only the vanity lights illuminating a shadowy figure in the doorway.

Not All Escape Rooms Are Scary

Our goal is for you to have fun!  Some of our escape rooms are brighter and more light-hearted, others are darker and more thrilling.  For those darker and more thrilling games, think of something on the level of Ghostbusters, not Saw. We want to make sure that everyone can enjoy the experience.

That said, if you still feel unsure, be sure to speak with your host.  We are here to make you comfortable, and we can adjust lighting or sounds. If someone wants to play but is claustrophobic, we can let you play with the door wide open if it’ll help.

And just to be clear, there are no flamethrowers or bottomless pits in any of our escape roomsthat’s something you’ll only see in the movies!

You Can Always Ask For Help

If you find yourself getting stuck on a puzzle, you can always ask for hints. Some escape rooms will limit players to three hints, or penalize the final score based on the number of hints used. However, The Escape Effect does things differently. We redesigned the hint system to allow players to easily ask for help, and to allow you as much help as you need to get the best possible experience. Ultimately, escape rooms are fun, and that’s what we’re aiming for.

A player presses the host button to request a hint. What is an escape room?

Escape Room FAQ

Will I Be Locked In The Room?

Not at all! Players are free to exit the room whenever they need to, for any reason. We will never lock you into the game.

How Long Is An Escape Room Game?

Our games range from 75 minutes to two hours, depending on the game you choose—the longest games you’ll find in Florida.

Are Escape Rooms ADA Accessible?

Yes! All of our rooms are ADA-compliant, and all players can access every room in the game.
To see more frequently asked questions, click here.

Will I Be Grouped With Strangers?

No. You’ll never play with strangers at The Escape Effect. Some places may group teams with strangers depending on the size of the groups, but our games are always private. When you book a game with us, your team will be the only people in the room.

How To Book Your First Escape Room

We’ve made sure that our booking process is as easy as possible.

  • First, look through our custom-built escape rooms and choose one to play.
  • Then, you’ll either call one of our hosts or choose an open time slot directly online to make your reservation.
  • Arrive here about 10 minutes before your game start time and a host will greet your party.
  • Your host will walk you through everything you need to know about the game, including demonstrate any devices you might need before starting the game.

If you have any questions during the game, or if you need advice on how to progress, we have a button in the room that you can press to speak directly to your host.

The Escape Effect was voted the #1 Entertainment Experience for the fourth time in a row!

Why Escape Effect Is The Best

The Escape Effect offers an attraction that is epic for everyone.  Although we are a small “mom & pop” business, we’ve been recognized in multiple publications including Orlando Magazine, where we were voted #1 Entertainment Experience four years in a row!

If you want to know more about us, read on to see why The Escape Effect is the best escape room in Orlando.

We hope to see you soon!

See for yourself what our escape rooms are like

If you’re ready to book a room, call (855) 426-3372 or book online today.

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