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Escape rooms bring the heat for summer

Can You Escape? in Tampa features rooms such as Escape From The Office that challenges a team to find clues and solve puzzles in order to escape the room. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Looking for something else to do besides going to the beach? Grab some friends and test your luck at indoor escape rooms. 

“It’s kind of like a live action video game,” said Kristen Livesey, a USF senior who works as a Game Master at American Escape Room. “It’s a cool alternative to going to the movies or hanging out. People want to check it out because it is a newer experience.”

Escape rooms have quickly risen in popularity over the last few years. USF alumna Kristi Collins posits that only 300 escape rooms were in existence when she founded Can You Escape? in 2015, but now there are upward of 5,000 nationally. 

“Escape rooms are a unique activity,” Collins said. “It’s a lot of puzzles and tasks that have more to do with a mystery, like (the movie and game) Clue. It involves analysis, reasoning, logic, tactile, audio, visual — all kinds of puzzles to interact with. And that’s why it has such a broad demographic.”

Can You Escape? currently offers five escape rooms, with its sixth escape room opening soon. The themes include “Medieval Adventure,” “Escape from London,” and “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie,” which has proven to be their most intense escape room.

“If the zombie tags you, you’re out because now you have mutated DNA and you have to go to quarantine,” Collins said. “But, it’s also like comedy improv because the zombies talk to you and try to pull you out of your shell so that you’ll engage and have fun.”

At American Escape Room, the focus is on three specific adventures: the “Mad Professor’s Asylum,” the “Zombie Apocalypse,” and the “Cold War Crisis.” Aside from proving to be great entertainment options, these escape rooms have been useful in improving team-building skills for companies and corporations, according to Livesey.

“We have a lot of companies that come in and they’ll bring their interns, or just team-build in general,” said Livesey. “I don’t think a lot of the time we do activities that make us think in different kinds of ways and sort of work together like that.”

The benefits to this type of bonding are not exclusive to professional settings. USF senior Kidany Camilo, Game Host at Rabbit Hole Escape Games, attests to the power of escape rooms in bringing even friends closer together.

“If you go with a bunch of people that you like and trust, you get to see another side of them,” Camilo said. “It helps you grow as friends because you learn all these things about them, such as how to work together as a group.”

Rabbit Hole Escape Games features cryptozoologically themed escape rooms centered on the Florida Skunk Ape myth. According to Camilo, Rabbit Hole Escape Games strives to make its company not just about the rooms, but about the stories and how participants relate to it and each other.

“What we have to offer is connection,” Camilo said. “We live in an era where people don’t connect. With these rooms, you are forced to interact with the people in your group and to find a way out, because once you go into these rooms there’s no need for phones or anything. It’s just you and your teammates. What we have to offer is a taste of what life should be.”