'Room Escape' craze is sweeping China

In China, people are paying to be locked in a dark room where they must solve clues in the time limit to escape.

Escape from plant room. (CC/Kevan Davis)
Escape from plant room. (CC/Kevan Davis)

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Based on a popular online game, real-life "Room Escape" challenges where people try to escape from a locked room are gaining popularity in China.

Omega Room Escape has invested nearly $82,000 to create destinations for college students and white collar workers to play the game.


The dark, sealed rooms have no apparent exit, and seemingly random objects -- in one case a broken chair, torn concert tickets and "cryptic" music. Trapped individuals have a set amount of time to figure out the clues and solve the puzzle to escape -- or face the call of death.

"You have to get out of the room within the allotted time. The sense of urgency forces you to forget about all the annoyance and trouble at work, and the sense of excitement and joy after you escape from the room brings you more confidence than anything," said Wang Zhuangyi, a bank clerk in Beijing. She says the game is a "great channel to relieve pressure and stress built up from everyday work."

Yang Xueli, a Beijing-based accountant, participated in the room escape together with her co-workers, and said the game promotes communication and trust.


"The escape requires a high degree of logical reasoning and teamwork, which could help promote group spirit and the relationships between colleagues," Yang said.

The room escapes have become so popular that Omega has partnered with Tsinghua University to create more difficult rooms, and English-language rooms.

"The room escape requires the operators and designers to have a high degree of meticulous arrangements, strategic thinking and planning," said Zhu Yumeng of Taoquan, another room escape operator in Beijing. "It's like an intelligence competition between you and the customers. No customer would be willing to pay for poor designs."

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