Real Escape Game is the English-language brand that SCRAP, the pregenitor of the genre, use for their exit game activities. Their games have proved so popular, and so well-established, that they have extended the brand into the world of TV. My Japanese is not great, but Google Translate and the Wikipedia page suggests that 2013 (and the first three days of 2014) had four episodes of “Real Escape Game TV” broadcast in Japan. An English-language press release from TBS, the network on which the shows were broadcast, suggests the show “has been nominated for the 2014 International Digital Emmy Awards“.
The press release describes the show as “a real time viewer participation telemovie”, which is an unwieldy but accurate description. Imagine a race-against-time action drama in the style of 24, with a heavy emphasis on puzzles. Viewers can solve the puzzles, in real time, on a web site, hopefully before they are solved on-screen as part of the story. Solving early puzzles leads to later ones. A frequently-upated real-time display counts the number of participants and the much, much smaller number who have solved all parts of that episode’s puzzle.
A spin-off drama (again, use your favourite online translator on the Japanese Wikipedia page) details the progress of five girls through a series of much more literally-interpreted locked rooms, with much less time pressure on the play-along-at-home puzzles.
I speak little more Japanese than I speak Hungarian, by the margin of “a year of night-school classes long ago” to zero, but you may get a feel for the sense of event in the first episode, even if you – like me! – cannot crack the puzzles.
It’s delightful to see the TV companies of the world giving this sort of show a try at all!