Farewell Flash Escape Rooms

Today Adobe Flash is officially dead, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to celebrate what Flash meant in the history of escape games.

As a community, we often recognize the television shows like Legends of the Hidden Temple and The Crystal Maze as well as the early 1990s video games such as Myst, The 7th Guest, or the catalogue of material put out by companies like LucasArts and Sierra Entertainment, that paved the way for escape rooms. However, there was a massive chapter in between all of those and what we came to recognize as real-life escape games.

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A Little History

In the pre-iPhone days, Adobe Flash was the go-to toolkit for amateur game designers. It was easy to learn, well supported, and you could make everything from animations to actual games.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Flash was the beating heart of the indie game scene (not that I can recall anyone calling it that). Flash became this weird behemoth of a platform that was serving enterprise needs and independent creators. It was resource intensive, but it was what we had.

One game genre that was relatively easy to get started in was the point-and-click adventure genre. Images and animations were generally static, and the interactions were straightforward. Creators told all sorts of stories, but over time one sub-genre that emerged was known as “escape the room,” a term that originated with Mystery Of Time And Space (MOTAS).

Before escape rooms were escape rooms, they were Flash video games.

A Fond Farewell

Flash had a ton of problems ranging from its dependence on Adobe, to performance issues, accessibility, and most importantly, security… but it was easy. While I had been guiding my design clients away from it since the pre-iPhone days, I still don’t believe that anything has emerged to fully take its place.

Flash has been on life support for a long time. Steve Jobs effectively killed it when he disallowed it on the iPhone, but by that point it was on borrowed time. Honestly, it borrowed a lot more time than I ever expected it would.

Flash had a good run. I wish that Adobe would have open-sourced it back in 2011. Maybe it would have had a fighting chance if a community that understood it could have improved upon it.

Tragically, with Flash dying out, we lose a lot of escape the room games. Most of them might not have been special, but some truly were, and they are all part of the history escape rooms. A history that will be largely forgotten.

If you have a favorite, please share it in the comments, or better yet, a video of a playthrough if you can find it.

8 thoughts on “Farewell Flash Escape Rooms

  1. One developer instantly springs to mind who went by the name “Neutral”. All of their games were top-notch, but one in particular stood out: a game called “Elements”. This was, by a very large margin, the single best Flash escape room I have ever played. For starters, it was absolutely enormous; it took me 2-3 hours (yes, HOURS) to complete it on my first go. In addition, the puzzles were some of the most interesting and clever I’ve seen, not just in Flash escape games but even in physical escape rooms. I sincerely hope someone has archived it somewhere where it can still be played, because if you haven’t experienced this absolute masterpiece for yourself, you’ve missed out on one of the best virtual escape rooms ever to exist.

    Video of “Elements”:

  2. I remember playing The Crimson Room back in ~2005. It was a simple game, mostly made difficult by its clunky camera design. But at the time it captured my imagination. I remember burning dozens of hours in Second Life (my addiction at the time), making in-world copies and variants. They never really caught on, precisely because the cameras in SL were better so searching was comparatively easy. But it was still a formative experience.

    1. I think that sentiment is true of a lot of these games. They captured our imagination in spite of their shortcomings.

  3. Is it the end of online escape rooms period? Or is there a new computer language people are still making them in? It really is a shame if this killed the entire genre of animated online escape room games.

    1. No, it’s not the end fo the road for online escape games.

      2020 brought about a ton of new innovation in this space, and this subgenre has continued to persist on iOS & Android.

      It is however the end of Flash and with they goes over a decade of games.

  4. FLASH LIVES

    A small nonprofit has created a free program called Flashpoint with just about every flash game (I’ve been going back through some of the classics, along with some…others…like “Justin Bieber Jigsaw Escape”, whatever that means). It’s not too good to be true, look for yourself and be grateful for this team protecting this important part of gaming history:

    https://bluemaxima.org/flashpoint/

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