The question “When can we dump the name escape room?” came up during the Q&A for our RECON talk last week.
And if memory serves, the same question came up in 2021. We get asked this a lot. I get why. It’s a good question.
It Feels Like We Have Outgrown “Escape Room”
At least, it feels like the high end of the escape room market has pushed past the original concept in some significant ways.
The most celebrated games in our community usually feel like more than puzzles and locks in a room. We have story, tech, performance, and sets. Even the gameplay isn’t tethered completely to puzzles these days.
Honestly, even the mid- and low-tiers have pushed past the core concept. Just having multiple spaces in a single game feels like it breaks the name “escape room” because that name implies one room. Full stop.
I get it. The name “escape room” feels like a relic.
But we are stuck with it.
How Did “Escape Room” Stick?
The name “escape room” didn’t emerge out of nowhere.
The first escape room company, SCRAP, called these things “Real Escape Games.” That name could have stuck, but there were other viable variants at the time:
- Escape Room
- Room Escape (which we obviously had an affinity for)
- Quest Rooms
There were others too, but they don’t matter for the purposes of this piece
Honestly, of the options out there, “escape room” was always my least favorite. To me, “escape room” always sounded like an action, not a thing.
The tipping point – in my opinion – was when Professor Scott Nicholson founded the “Escape Room Enthusiasts” Facebook group. My evidence for this being the tipping point is that I think that it’s also why we refer to the fans of escape rooms as “enthusiasts.” Sure, these could be spurious correlations, but “enthusiast” isn’t the most obvious or concise word.
But even if I am wrong about the origins (and I don’t think that I am), I still believe that we are stuck with “escape room.”
Why Are We Stuck With “Escape Room?”
Getting a small group of people to agree on where to get lunch can seem like an impossible task.
Building consensus in a large community of people to agree on anything is basically impossible. The name was “escape room” because that’s what it said on the top of the page in the most common place to go talk about this stuff. There was no need to build consensus. Change requires agreement and effort.
That ain’t happening.
If you want to demonstrate this, go post this question in the Escape Room Enthusiast group: “What exactly is a red herring?” The amount of disagreement will astound you.
But let’s say for a second that the escape room community can rise above. Let’s say, hypothetically, that we all magically agree on a new name. A decision is made and everyone in every corner of our community is eagerly embracing the new name. Long live the new name.
The truth is that the rest of the world won’t care. The billions of people that exist beyond the escape room communities… they will not give a 💩.
All of the muggles will ignore our pedantic nonsense as we try to explain to them that “we call them something different now… something more.” Because the name of the thing is what the general populace knows it as… not the nuanced names that insiders use.
It’s not like we’re going to spend millions of dollars on a communal rebranding campaign. Also, if we did, most people would ignore it and still call the puzzle thing that their friend took them to over the weekend an “escape room.”
No one cares. And honestly, I am on the side of no one.
I Learned To Tolerate “Escape Room”
You know what’s worse than the name “escape room?”
No one knowing or talking about them.
As escape room community troll Errol Elumir pointed out to me, the only successful community rebrandings are ones so niche that no one outside of the community cares about them.
“Escape room” is fine. People know it.
You know what other names are incredibly clunky: television and video games. And in both instances, the prestige versions of these things have blown away the bounds of the original concept.
The name “escape room” isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And if it does, it’s because our medium has shrunk in relevance to the point where no one cares about it.
“Escape room” may have been my least favorite option, but it’s the name that people know… and that’s good enough.