Is Escaping Reality the Future of Escape Rooms?

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A dim light illuminates a closing door, enclosing both you and your friends. As the lights return you immediately see an abundance of items, possibly clues, sprawled about the room. A voice bellows from a loudspeaker “You have 60 minutes to find the key and escape.” In haste you navigate the room in search of a getaway, hoping that you don’t run out of time. Though it may seem like an excerpt from a horror novel, the adrenaline pumping experience provided by escape rooms has taken the market by storm.

Despite their well-established persona, escape rooms have only recently begun to see widespread adoption. As early as 2014, only 22 escape rooms operated in the United States. Today that number has grown to over 2,000 rooms. Their spread appears most prominent in coastal cities and regions of high population density, and this growing demand is projected to drive the market size even larger. Their scope isn’t limited to just the United States either. Escape rooms have entered the mainstream in both Japan and China as well. In both domestic and foreign markets, a central theme seems to be at play: escape rooms fill a cultural niche that prizes the novelty of new experiences over material goods.

The fun isn’t limited to just the clientele because owners too play a game called ‘who can design the best room’. Since escape rooms tend to cluster in dense areas, customers are afforded the option of many choices. The owners who pilot the most innovative and experimental rooms tend to take most of the market share. That isn’t to say conventional escape rooms don’t do well, but it’s the creatively immersive room designs that really draw the attention.

The growing competition in the escape room market has led to a broad diversity of room designs. Owners choose to individualize their companies by testing the waters with newer, more experimental layouts. Despite the many attempts to customize their rooms, one facet of design that has remained relatively untouched is technology. This illustrates a rift between what owners supply and what consumers demand; customers have vastly preferred more immersive escape room experiences, but owners take feeble steps to acclimate to this market need. They may provide interactive props or hand you a monocle as you solve the case, but many fail to realize the potential benefit of surface reality in developing a more immersive experience.

A surface reality configuration would hold many benefits over the escape room status quo. For current escape room owners, the time required to set up a surface reality room takes only a few hours. Additionally, at any moment the virtual game can be switched between a multitude of options and scenarios, allowing customers to choose their own escape room experience. Contrast these qualities with conventional escape rooms that require months of planning and preparation and incur extravagant design and prop expenses. Furthermore, the integration of technology meets the consumer need for more digitally immersive experiences. Reality altering technology is at the cutting edge, and consumers are lining up to try it out, or in some cases, escape from it.