Escape rooms are latest entertainment trend

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By Bekah Denny

Pondering the question, Sara Seibel, 11, prepares to enter “The Atelophobia” escape room at Countdown Escape Games. Photo by Bekah Denny
Pondering the question, Sara Seibel, 11, prepares to enter “The Atelophobia” escape room at Countdown Escape Games. Photo by Bekah Denny

Escape rooms are all the rage this fall, allowing players to experience mind games and fear in a safe, controlled environment. Players get to delve into the unlikely “Hollywood” movie experience of being trapped in a new and phantasmic scenario. “The Atelophobia” scenario was made just in time for Halloween, combining an indie horror movie and a real life nightmare.   

Though the drive to their building is a whopping 30 minutes, the terrors that Countdown Games has in store are worth the trek. Customers walking into the modern building of Countdown Escape Games, a slightly secluded building in Las Vegas right behind Circus Circus, are met with one question: “Can you escape in time?” An employee has liability forms on two iPads primed and is prepared to answer any and all questions.

After the employee guides the players into the escape room, they run through the rules, and the generic “blue collar” worker gives no inclination to what’s about to happen.They give a helpful reminder that the player is always being watched by cameras on the ceiling and will be monitored to check the player’s progress. Then, they start the countdown on the television screen, and it’s time to escape.

A locked computer sits to the side, and padlocked chests lie scattered and hidden, under tables and, in one case, inside another locked chest throughout the room. Unlocking each box carries the player closer and closer to the final escape. An out of place home phone sits next to the computer. The phone can be used up to three times to receive helpful hints from the employees, and if the players choose not to use it and are struggling, the phone will ring and the guide will ask if they need assistance.

In “The Atelophobia” room scenario, the only light source is one uncovered fluorescent bulb on the ceiling, allowing shadows to play tricks on the mind and make the scenario even more terrifying. Replacing the countdown, short clips of the antagonist are played periodically, instilling fear and causing panic among the teammates, and sometimes giving helpful clues.

Screams echo throughout the room when a person, cloaked in black and donning a mask, systematically pops out of hidden entrances or bangs on the door when tensions are high.

Countdown Escape Games opened eight months ago, catering to tourists and companies in need of “team building.” Chris Kinnally is the room creator, designing new rooms every six to eight months. The director for the movie on which the room was based, Joe Lujan, came to Countdown to create the escape room, donating props from the movie. “Atelophobia,” in the year it’s been available, has only a 40 percent escape rate.   

After either succeeding or failing to escape in time, the players are greeted once more by their guide and are photographed for Countdown’s social media.

Overall, the unique creation of the rooms and obstacles, as well as the light and safe atmosphere, generate an exciting and fun outing for all who dare experience it.