NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As businesses offering escape games gain popularity across the country, some are concerned about the effects on children and those with anxiety disorders.
There are different versions of the concept all over the country, but here in Middle Tennessee, tens of thousands of people have played.
The games begin with a group of people locked in a room. A timer is set and the group has one hour to get out by working together to solve puzzles and find clues.
Many of the rooms have different themes, like escaping a terrorist or a kidnapping.
To begin, participants are blindfolded and led into a dark room. Once inside, a video plays, explaining the game.
Breakout Nashville gives people an hour to break out and it’s a similar experience at the competing company, The Escape Game Nashville.
Jennifer Hibbs-Perry brought two 10-year-olds to play Breakout’s “the kidnapping.”
It’s supposed to be the businesses most intense.
Hibbs-Perry said she’s assured the children that it’s all a game.
“If we don’t escape in 60-minutes they’re going to let us out. It’s not like we’ll really be put in a trunk somewhere and carted off, so I think that they will be fine,” she told Media General contributors.
The games aim to challenge mental strength, but counselor Sarah Kmita wonders if they challenge one’s mental health, too.
“Being locked in a room, being claustrophobic, feeling like you can’t get out can elicit a lot of heightened physiological responses,” she told contributors. “It could potentially lead to panic attacks if that’s not something you have under control.”
Rooms at both locations are equipped with emergency exits as well as game leaders watching every move from a surveillance camera.
But Kmita is concerned the experience could trigger people with anxiety disorders or PTSD. She’s also concerned for children playing certain games.
“We do worry that situations like that tend to be glamourized and we become desensitized to issues that are actually very serious,” said Kmita.
Andi Mynstead and her husband took their three children to play “classified” at The Escape Game in Berry Hill.
The mission? Stop a terrorist threat.
Mynstead said she used the game to discuss terrorism with her son who has been asking about it.
“It’s best, I think, to address the fears that they have and it seems less scary for the kids if you can talk about it,” she told contributors.
Mark Flint created The Escape Game Nashville, and contributors asked him if the content goes too far.
“We were thinking of my then 13-year-old as we were building, so we weren’t trying to create a game that had fear or peril because we feel that devalues the experience our customers have,” he said.
Over at Breakout, they said the game is about spending quality time with friends or family.
Kmita said it’s for parents to decide what’s good for their child and for an adult, what’s good for them individually.