In the United States, both Room Escape and Escape Room are used to refer to these games. Neither term has yet prevailed as the correct moniker.
It’s worth noting that outside of the United States they are also called exit games, escape games, locked room games, and adventure rooms.
As this industry grows, it will become known by one name.
In English, the modifying adjective comes before the noun. For example, we say big dinosaur rather than dinosaur big. The thing is the dinosaur. It is described as being big. The word order is thus big dinosaur.
In the example above, the words big and dinosaur are unambiguous. With few exceptions, big is an adjective and dinosaur is a noun.
Grammar Lesson Applied
Room is a noun. Merriam Webster offers its definition as both a noun and a verb, but not as an adjective. It can have multiple meanings, but its most often used as a noun.
Escape is less straight forward. According to Merriam Webster it can be a noun, verb, or adjective. In the English Language, escape already transitions between parts of speech.
Language is fluid. Friend wasn’t a verb until Facebook made it so. Now we can friend someone.
Room can be an adjective if Room Escape makes it so. What type of Escape? A Room Escape.
Or, Room can remain a noun. What type of Room? An Escape Room.
Given the already more flexible nature of Escape, the term Escape Room is more likely to prevail.
It should sound more natural to English speakers unfamiliar with either term. Its meaning should be easier to deduce from the components.
Ultimately, the growth of the industry will force the pervasive term. Language is dynamic; language will adapt.
Companies continue to build rooms for players to explore. A new game is physically manifested in a room. The goal of the game is to escape from this room.
We’ve already seen Mystery Rooms, Puzzle Rooms, and Adventure Rooms. The room is the constant here. It’s the thing. The industry is already growing to include different types of rooms.
That isn’t to say that we haven’t escaped a stadium. We have.
But when I look at where there is room to broaden the appeal, considering the physical limitations of building games in places, and what makes these games more interesting, fun, and entertaining, I come back to Escape Room.
Even if Escape Room prevails… I’m pretty sure that our Room Escape Artist will continue to make sense.