How the Capital helped launch the escape room phenomenon

Daniel Hill of Escape Edinburgh
Daniel Hill of Escape Edinburgh
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Four years ago, a friend visited Germany and told me about a game room he stumbled across where players had to solve live puzzles to escape.

As a self-confessed gameshow junkie, who grew up on the Crystal Maze and Krypton Factor, he knew it would be right up my street.

We agreed to visit an escape room in the UK when he returned.

But it turned out there were only four or five in the whole country – and not a single one north of Birmingham.

I was training in Stirling to be a maths teacher, but the idea of opening my own escape room seemed like a lot more fun.

It was a major gamble.

But one month later, in May 2014, Escape Edinburgh was launched at St Colme Street.

Forty groups had passed through the doors: families; friends; curious gamers; and businesses which viewed it as a team-building exercise.

In one of the experiences, teams started off quite literally in the dark, as the first challenge was to find out how to switch on the lights.

It was fascinating watching people trying to escape.

And one team even ripped up various parts of the carpet after struggling to solve a puzzle – they still didn’t escape.

The concept captured people’s imagination.

I decided to launch a second branch of Escape in Glasgow later in 2014 and opened our first themed game, the Da Vinci Room, in Edinburgh.

Escape recently marked its fourth anniversary.

Today, we have nearly 200 rooms across the globe, with eight locations due to open in Melbourne this year. The speed at which the business took off was remarkable.

I travel the world to help design rooms More than 300,000 customers have now visited Escape. In Edinburgh, Escape operates at three locations, and the challenges are far more exciting than when the first team of players was locked up.

There is the Magic Emporium and a Sherlock Holmes-themed room among others, delivering a significant tourism boost for the capital.

The success of Escape inevitably led to similar companies being launched and we purchased Can You Escape? in December last year, which has rooms here in Edinburgh and in York.

As designers make use of modern technology, adopt innovative ideas such as actors, or tap into popular movie and TV concepts, the concept is going to continue growing in popularity.

There is a huge demand for experiences as opposed to things and that is exactly what escape rooms provide. Rather than going to watch an adventure, it lets you actively become part of one.

Today, there is not a major city in Europe or North America where you won’t find an escape room.

I’m proud that Edinburgh played such a pivotal role in this worldwide phenomenon.

Daniel Hill is Manager of Escape Edinburgh where teams are locked in a room for 60 minutes and asked to complete challenges to move on.