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The Differences Between Generation 1 and Generation 2 Rooms

When I first started hearing the term “Gen 2” as describing an escape room, I asked myself, “What the heck does that mean?” – and I own an escape room business! It didn’t take long to figure out the meaning, and now the terms Generation 1 (Gen 1) and Generation 2 (Gen 2) are being used as common terminology to describe escape rooms. This article will give you some insight into what these terms mean and whether or not they’re relevant to you as a player.

“Generation One” are the First Escape Rooms Built

When escape rooms first manifested into real-life games, room designers needed a way to lock up items so players would need to solve puzzles before gaining access to those items. This led to most boxes around the room being locked with padlocks or combination locks. Therefore, the solutions to the puzzles you were solving were mostly numbers.

Another common trait of a Gen 1 room is the decorations and story supporting the overall theme. The first escape rooms were entertaining because the idea was new and the act of solving puzzles to open locks was exciting. Sure, there was a story behind the room, but the designers didn’t bother much with making sure the players actually felt like they were immersed in that specific scenario. The decor was minimal and the story lines were just enough to make sure you had an objective.

Building a Gen 1 room is usually the fastest and cheapest way to get a room up and running, which is why most businesses created Gen 1 rooms as their first escape room.

The Differences with Generation Two Escape Rooms

Soon, room designers realized that technology can play a big part in escape rooms. Plus, they began to realize that with the help of a good set designer and trusted contractor they can make the inside of a commercial office look like a jail cell or Egyptian tomb. The goal of a Gen 2 room is to remove some of the physical padlocks in the room and to give the room a unique atmosphere so the players feel immersed in the story they are participating in.

In short, you can say Gen 2 rooms use more technology (or solely technology) to open boxes, unlock doors, conceal hidden rooms, etc. The puzzles tend to be more interactive and task-based versus solving a puzzle to get a number. The decor and props in the room are meant to be true to the story line, giving you a deeper feeling of immersion.

The building costs of a Gen 2 room increase substantially with the added technology and decor. This large expense can deter owners from building these rooms, but they can provide the players with an additional “wow” factor that a Gen 1 room cannot.

Is there anything higher than Gen 2?

Yes. Generation three and four rooms are beginning to pop up now. These rooms rely almost 100% on technology, and even start incorporating virtual reality. The hint systems are automated and can adapt to what players are doing in the room. You won’t see any padlocks in these rooms, and the decorations will really make you say “wow.” Building these rooms will take a vast knowledge of electronics, lots of software programming, and a good amount of money to start up.

What Generation are Hidden Key Escapes’ rooms?

I have experienced both good and bad Gen 2 rooms. I feel that technology can really enhance a room when used properly, but it can also cause your brain to go numb when those are the only puzzles in the room. My current rooms would be considered Generation 1. I use very little technology right now, so the process in my rooms is to solve a puzzle, then open a lock, then repeat. However, I’d like to think my decorations are well done and help enhance the storyline and immersion. In my opinion, if the puzzles in a room are well done and they fit with the story, than it doesn’t matter to me if the locks are padlocks or electronic; I’m still having fun – and I think a lot of players feel the same way. I strive to make my rooms unique and not worry so much about what sort of locks are being used.

That being said, I realize the demand for Gen 2 rooms is only going to grow. Therefore, my fourth room design is going to be a full fledged Gen 2 room. I will phase out my older Gen 1 rooms as the demand for them ceases, but until then, come try them for yourself and I’ll show you they can be just as fun as a Gen 2 room!


I’d like to make a disclaimer about the generalizations I’m making here. Some rooms can have a lot of technology, but poor decor. Some rooms can be decorated awesome, but still use padlocks. Some players enjoy opening number locks, while others think the electronic locks are much more fun. Defining a room as Gen 1 or Gen 2 is a murky task, and there are no hard-and-fast rules. Plus, the type of room a player enjoys is largely a personal preference. Everyone likes something different, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying a Gen 1 room over a Gen 2 room, or vice-versa.

Check out the following article from Room Escape Artist that goes over some more information about the different Generations of Escape Rooms.

Escape Game Technological Generations: Interview with Shawn Fischtein [Interview]

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