It is an apartment within an apartment, with a door behind the main entrance. If you don’t accept the challenge and pay for it, you will never know what lies behind.
People, mainly youngsters, spend nearly an hour locked inside an escape room. They must solve puzzles and find clues that lead them to the key. Only with the help of this key, will they manage to solve the puzzle, unlock the door and become free.
It is very much like being in a movie or computer game to many youngsters. The design makes them feel like they are in a Harry Potter scene solving riddles.
The ground and walls are covered with scary paintings and designs.
This is called an ‘escape room’, which is highly popular among teenagers in Poland. Regarded as an intellectual challenge, there are more than a thousand escape rooms in the country.
Escape room tragedy
A house of fun, however, turned into a ‘funeral home’ recently when a faulty heating system caused a fire at an escape room in Koszalin, northern Poland. Five teenage girls died while locked inside.
This tragedy has initiated an unending discussion in the country about the safety of this intriguing game. The government has already shut down 13 escape rooms in the country. Many experts argue that escape rooms, especially unsupervised ones, have become out of control and dangerous for teenagers.
Filip Szwejser, the owner of an escape room named Quest Hunt in Warsaw, told IPA News that there is a solution to keeping these escape rooms safe, although some politicians and experts do not agree.
“I know it was an unfortunate and a severe tragedy that happened in Koszalin, however, I have a safety section, including a fire extinguisher in my escape room. My playfield also includes emergency buttons on walls where players can reach when in danger to open doors immediately,” he said.
How to play
Szwejser let us inside the escape room to give us more information about the game and to allow us to observe how it works.
It is played with at least two players, to a maximum of six. According to the 31-year-old escape room owner, the age range of players is wide. “Sometimes parents bring their children and play together. Ages range between 10 and 60 years old.”
The duration of each game is approximately 45 minutes, in which players must rush to solve a puzzle and find the key. If players don’t find the key within that timeframe, the attendants open the door and declare a ‘defeat’.
Szwejser, when asked whether the debates over escape rooms has caused a loss in his business, says it is too early to comment on its impact.
“It’s hard to say if the number of players has decreased because the accident happened during an off-peak season. But I do expect that I will have more customers this year, although I think half of the Polish people don’t even know what an escape room is,” he said.
‘Absurd’ to close escape rooms
Savas Sahin, a 19-year-old student living in Warsaw, plays escape room regularly with his friends. He finds it ‘absurd’ to close escape rooms just because of one incident that happened because of a faulty heating system in the building as a result of negligence by the owners.
“Accidents happen at amusement parks too, but no one tends to close them,” he said.
Some families consider escape rooms as ‘dangerous’ for their children. Sahin’s family is not among them, yet. “My family’s okay with it. They don’t tell me anything negative about it,” he said.
Since the accident, Polish officials are still inspecting nearly one thousand escape rooms all around the country to make sure they are safe and suitable for teenagers and other players.
Szwejser stated that safe rooms are safer than ever, but he warns against playing if you are not a fan of riddles or if you feel claustrophobic when locked in a room.