Imagine being locked in a room. There’s only one way out. You’re given a mission and the countdown begins. No, you’re not being terrorized by the sadistic, vigilante Jigsaw from the movie Saw. And it’s not a movie plot. It’s an escape room. The question: Can you use the few clues given to you to make it out in time?

Escape rooms are soaring in popularity, and they are more than 70 in Florida alone.

These entertainment rooms offer movie-quality suspense experiences — especially when up against a team in an identical room. However, for a group of 15-year-old girls in Poland, a birthday trip to an escape room ended in twisted reality after they were trapped in a fire. Investigators believe a faulty heating system caused the incident.

“Public safety should be the top priority of every escape room. Each escape room should be regulated by building codes and fire departments,” said Jody Aramini, owner of Legends of Xscape in West Palm Beach.

Safety should be essential but that’s not always the case. Ariana Grande, for example, took a tumble in an escape room. Note to all, please don’t run in any escape room.

Despite safety concerns some may have, people continue visiting these “brain teasers in a box.” If they are so addictive, how can patrons protect themselves while there?

Are escape rooms safe?

Players should be certain escape rooms are maintaining safety while providing authentic experiences by doing the following:

1. Find a room with a watchful attendant
2. Make sure there’s a clear communication plan
3. Always locate safety equipment on site
4. Check for a visible exit button inside the room. Players should always have an exit.
5. Use props safely. Do not use a screwdriver on any electrical outlets.
6. Double check that you’re able to communicate with the room operator
7. Don’t participate while intoxicated
8. Wear appropriate clothes. Ladies, leave the heels at home.

The mental game

With more than 5,000 escape rooms worldwide and more being built everyday, there’s no denying their magnetic draw.

Multiplayer cooperative games have been popular for ages. They “capture our attention in a different way than competitive games do. The cooperation with others can give us a sensation of belonging that speaks to our basic psychological needs, and not many other experiences are able to provide that,” said Dr. Jens Foell, Associate in Research at Florida State University.
 
And then there’s the emotional connection. Have you ever watched a movie where a couple makes it out of a terrible situation alive and then they fall in Hollywood-love? Think Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Surviving an escape room can be a bonding experience that may even land you a second date.

Finding your way out of an escape room can “deepen social bonds as a group of people overcome a thrilling challenge together, sharing states of arousal, challenge, success, and relief,” according to Florida State University Psychology Professor, Dr. Paul Conway.

So what do escape room players have to say about what makes them come back for more every time? From avid players to nervous newbies, there’s equal interest in the idea of unplugging from reality and enjoying an alternate world.

In a world where everything digital reigns, “escape rooms are so popular because they are one of the few things in our culture where people put aside their cellphones for a while and actually spend time engaging with one another for a common goal,” said Josh Brickey, owner of Escape Plan Columbia in Lexington, South Carolina.

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