Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Amazing Escape: Teens Trapped in the Library!

The challenge is simple: you have 60 minutes to escape. However, completing the tasks, solving the clues, or being the first to escape is not simple at all...and that's why teens love escape rooms!

During the month of September, several of the CMRLS libraries are hosting escape rooms for teens. Using the library as part of the "escape," teens are given various challenges to complete within the 60-minute time frame. At the Forest Public Library, teens are divided into pairs and must complete ten stations to escape the library. The first pair to complete all ten stations and make it to the center circle of the library (the circulation desk) will receive two $25 gift cards and will be the winners of The Amazing Escape!

So, what is the appeal of escape rooms, and why are they rising in popularity? According to many online articles (and there are hundreds!), the stimulation of adrenaline along with the tick-tock of the clock creates a real-life gaming experience.  Having a game partner encourages a feeling of bonding and teamwork as the pair communicates and makes decisions during high-pressure challenges. 

Another reason why escape rooms are so popular is that they literally escape the ordinary. The idea of being trapped anywhere, even in the stacks of the library, is not part of anyone's normal routine. It is exciting to devise a plan of escape based on decoding a preset combination of clues. Add the adrenaline rush of out-competing others in the escape room environment, and it is game on! Doesn't everyone enjoy one hour of nonstop panic and mayhem during a normally boring day? Teens certainly think so.

Thinking is definitely part of the process, especially "fast thinking." According to Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, all of the running around, trying to decode clues, is a good thing. "There's a lot of benefit to activity on your mood. One of the things we know from research over the last 10 or 12 years is the faster you're thinking, the better you feel. And when you're in a social group working on a problem together, that energy makes everyone in the group think faster and that actually elevates people's moods." 

The simulated survival situation created in escape rooms also provides an opportunity for people to be directly connected. For teens, entering into this new experience allows them to think, laugh, move, choose, and trust. Who has the best skills to complete a physical challenge? Who would be the best choice to crack a code? How can two people work together to find the quickest solution?  The idea of being the first pair to escape - the "can we win together" mentality - creates a connection that might not be found at school, in sports, in clubs, or in other teen group activities.

The Amazing Escape at the Forest Public Library combines the concept of the escape room with the popular TV series, The Amazing Race. Only one pair of teens will be the first to successfully complete all the challenges at the ten library stations and make The Amazing Escape! The free escape room event is set for Tuesday, September 21, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The challenge is simple: you have 60 minutes to escape!