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'Escape Room' Games Growing in Popularity in U.S.


It may seem like a nightmare for some people. But for others, it sounds like a fun game.

Escape Rooms are becoming a popular form of group entertainment in the United States.

A story by the business website MarketWatch explains that Escape Room games began in Asia about 10 years ago. In 2012, they started opening in the U.S.

Now, according to the website Escape Room Directory, you can go to an Escape Room location in nearly every U.S. state, not to mention Australia, Asia, the Middle East, and most of Europe.

The idea is simple. Players enter a room with a theme. It could be a Sherlock Holmes mystery or something like the movie series “Mission Impossible.” The door locks behind them. The players then have 60 minutes to solve a series of puzzles that will help them find a key that unlocks the door.

VOA visited an escape room “lounge” in Washington, D.C.

One of the rooms is in the theme of the Oval Office at the White House. That is the well-known room where the president works and holds meetings.

The space is decorated to look like the real Oval Office. It even has the presidential seal woven into the rug.

When the clock starts and the door locks, anything inside the room can be a clue. Players look through the desk, look at the paintings on the wall, even see if an old-fashioned typewriter might help. The goal is to make it out of the room before time runs out.

There are hidden messages that can only be seen under a special light.

By one estimate, there are about 600 Escape Rooms in the U.S.

Timothy Smith runs the Escape Lounge in Washington. When he opened his business, there were two others in the area. Now there are at least 12. The Escape Room games cost about $15 per player.

Most of the time, players come in groups, but sometimes strangers work together. In this case, eight players cooperated to find the key. If a team is having trouble or getting off track, the game master who is watching on a video screen can call in to offer some advice or a clue.

The phone on the Oval Office desk rings, and the game master asks, “Would you guys like a clue?”

The tip seems to help, and the group is able to solve the puzzle, find the key and leave the room with seven minutes to spare.

It turns out, they did well. Smith said fewer than 50 percent of the players escape the room.

One of the players was Demetrios Psihopaidas. He said the game was stressful and the clues were hard to figure out.

“I was a little worried that we were not going to find all the clues and we weren't going to get out in time,” he said.

Smith said the games are fun because they are challenging.

“'Escape the Oval Office' is not an easy game. I think this game is popular because it gives an individual a chance to be a detective or to be a James Bond.”

I’m Dan Friedell.

June Soh wrote this story for VOANews.com. Dan Friedell adapted her report for Learning English. Jill Robbins was the editor.

Have you ever played an Escape Room game? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

nightmaren. a dream that frightens a sleeping person : a very bad dream

directory – n. a book that contains an alphabetical list of names of people, businesses, etc.

theme – n. the main subject that is being discussed or described in a piece of writing, a movie, etc.

mission - n. a task or job that someone is given to do

puzzle – n. a question or problem that requires thought, skill, or cleverness to be answered or solved

lounge – n. a room with comfortable furniture for relaxing

seal n. an official mark that is stamped on paper or on a small piece of wax to show that something (such as a document) is genuine and has been officially approved

typewriter n. a machine that prints letters or figures on a sheet of paper when a person pushes its keys

off track n. away from the main point, thought, etc.

tip n. useful or secret information

challenging - adj. difficult in a way that is usually interesting or enjoyable

detective - n. a police officer whose job is to find information about crimes that have occurred and to catch criminals

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