Hungary is one of the oldest but least well known countries in Europe. A unified state was established over a thousand years ago, and for much of this period it was a major European power, but today you might ask yourself “What has Hungary ever done for us?

Well, apart from goulash soup and a certain Mr Rubik, Hungary was the birthplace of Harry Houdini, the world-renowned escape artist. And escape is the name of today’s game, in the most recent Hungarian phenomenon to sweep the world, the escape room, or exit game. What is an exit game, you may ask? In 2011, Hungarian Attila Gyurkovics developed a commercial idea based on puzzle-solving, the aim being to escape from a prison or trap.

From Exit Game to Escape Room

Seeing how much time people spent on the computer playing such games, Gyurkovics translated the idea from an electronic concept into a real life situation, realizing how much more exciting it would be to apply puzzle-solving skills in a physical way. Instead of an hour or two’s mental escapism, people could ramp up the adrenaline, like Houdini, by actually placing themselves in an enclosed, challenging environment, and using their wits to get free as the clock counted down. OK, so you won’t be facing a hungry lion or a man-eating shark, but you might be locked in a freezer, or on a spaceship with limited oxygen. Exciting enough for you?

Budapest, Hungary’s ancient but now run-down capital, was full of cheap, semi-derelict properties, which Gyurkovics found to be an ideal environment for his project. Various hazards and puzzles were set up in cellars and basements, and teams of people paid a fee to escape from them within a set time. The first venue proved so popular in Budapest that more exit games quickly evolved, ranging in themes from bomb disposal to escaping a mental institution.

Translating the Concept

Hungarian is not a language that’s widely spoken outside Hungary, and it is not a member of the Indo-European linguistic group from which most western languages are derived. The good thing about reality exit games, though, is that you don’t need to speak Hungarian to play them. Gaining momentum by word of mouth (and, yes, that would have been in Hungarian), then via news articles and blogs, the idea translated its appeal across the world, and from a small entrepreneurial concept suddenly found itself a global phenomenon.

Escape Rooms Worldwide

From Algiers to Vietnam, Los Angeles to London, you can find an escape room today in cities the world over. If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare and you’re in the mood for an exit game, just check out the Escape Room Directory to find a game near you. Many cities have their own exit games listings, such as London’s famous Time Out, where you can find a selection of the best games to be had around town.

These include such treats as Pentonville’s ClueQuest, whose intellectual challenges are worthy of a national intelligence agency, including code-breaking and, as its name suggests, solving clues. Exit games are not just intellectual, though, but interactive, and many escape room operators are designing custom props and using complex technology to enhance the physical challenges.

Translating the Benefits

Like Rubik’s Cube and Houdini’s great escapes, Hungarian exit games have once more posed the world a challenge it can’t resist. From a small local idea to a global blockbuster, exit games show concepts translating swiftly across continents, thereby accruing much larger audiences and increasing the potential for revenue on a global scale. And the starting point for this kind of globalization of business ideas, of course, is top quality language translation.