escape room: a space where a team of users pays fees to work through numerous clues, puzzles, lock combinations and stories to successfully solve or discover something in order to “escape” the room within a time limit.
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Up a flight of stairs in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, dozens or even hundreds of people a week pay $30 to be locked in a spooky Victorian-style chamber done up for a séance—and then figure out how to leave.
This is, of course, an “escape room”—one of the hottest forms of entertainment in the country. Here, groups of people explore closed spaces where they must find clues, solve puzzles and piece together stories to reach some objective, which usually involves getting out of where they are.
In this Belltown room, for instance, visitors have 60 minutes to move around chess pieces, pick up props, combine similar objects and look for patterns as they search for the last will and testament of “the recently departed Professor Firestone,” as well as an exit.
Escape rooms are adventure games in which teams of friends, family or colleagues work together to find clues and solve puzzles to escape a simulated danger before time runs out.
An escape room can make about $125,000 a year if it sells out most weekends, according to David and Lisa Spira, enthusiasts who review escape rooms around the world for their blog, Room Escape Artist. But entrepreneurs also face challenges like learning a new craft, a difficulty raising funds and an increasingly competitive market.
Originating in Japan, escape rooms have taken off in the United States in the last few years. In 2014, there were 22 escape room companies in the United States, according to the Spiras. That number has grown to 2,000. One of the most successful, Mission Escape Games, which opened in 2014 in New York and now has four other locations, says it attracted 140,000 visitors in 2017.
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