What Makes Players Tick: The Psychology Behind Fear in Escape Rooms

Escape rooms are a popular form of entertainment that combines elements of problem-solving, teamwork, and immersion to create a thrilling and challenging experience. 

The games are designed to test players’ intelligence and creativity as they race against the clock to solve puzzles and accomplish their mission before time runs out. 

As you may have worked out, every escape room experience has a theme, which sets the tone for the kind of feeling it’s trying to evoke in players.

It could be anything from a magical theme (such as an Alice in Wonderland-based adventure) evoking awe to a disaster theme (such as escaping a hurricane) evoking thrill and adrenaline.

One theme that’s proven quite popular and has earned a niche following among escape room enthusiasts is horror.

Such an escape room experience would bring in various factors that tap into our physiological and psychological responses to threat and uncertainty. 

Some of the angles that play crucial roles in prompting dread and fear among players would be the sense of being trapped, uncertainty, unpredictability, and social dynamics. 

In this blog post, we’ll unpack some factors that explain why some people find scary escape rooms entertaining while others find them terrifying. 

The psychology of fear in escape rooms

The Psychology Behind Escape Rooms  

Escape rooms are all about immersing yourself in the game. And while immersed, we become a character in the escape game story. 

All the elements in the room – design, props, time limit, sounds, visuals, and solving the puzzles to escape, release adrenaline that makes our brain focus and performs faster. It also triggers our body’s survival mode: if we fail to solve the puzzles, we lose the challenge. 

To solve the puzzles, you need to think out of the box. Your creative mind is triggered and is helping you find and solve the clues differently. 

The particular time limit stimulates your brain to work faster, finding shortcuts to solve problems quickly and delivering a result that will be helpful enough. It also helps you recall information from your past and find similar situations to make decisions on the fly. 

Also, this triggers a hard-easy effect that tends to complicate things when the answer is very simple or might just be right in front of you. 

Another thing that works in these circumstances – is selective perception. When you solve the clues, your brain notes a pattern and searches for those similar patterns in the room. This helps, but also you may overlook clues hidden in plain sight. 

When you plan your escape room strategies, you will often find that the plans don’t work accordingly. This makes your brain devise other methods, like thinking on your feet and changing strategies to help you solve the room faster. 

You may also feel stressed due to the huge influx of energy and adrenaline. This can affect your usually functioning brain. So remember to be calm to finish your game faster. 

How to escape an escape room

Adding Scares into the Mix – The Psychology Behind Fear in Escape Rooms 

Feeling trapped in an escape room (when you are not really locked) can activate the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ response that releases stress hormones and increases your heart rate and breathing. 

The uncertainty and unpredictability add up to your stress. It can cause a feeling of unease as you do not know what to expect next. The difficulty of the puzzles, time running out, and inability to solve the clues also add to your stress. 

Anything unpredictable or startling triggers fear inside you. But when you tell your mind that you are in a safe place and it is all a game, you switch back to enjoying it. That is precisely when you scream and laugh at the same time. 

If you are playing with your friends, there comes a social pressure of performing. Playing with others amplifies your sense of danger and enhances your escape room experience

Lastly, the immersion in an escape room – the sense of being in a different time and place is the key to your feelings. If a room feels too real, it can be hard to separate the game from reality. You are naturally motivated, and you will do whatever it takes for you to escape! 

But remember, the feeling of fear varies from person to person. Some might believe they are the superhero and need to solve the game faster, while others might find the entire setup triggering incidents from their past. 

A little scare might not scare the mighty, but for some, it might cause panic attacks for days until resolved and acknowledged. But that is the entire point! There is nothing to be scared of because it is a set up to make you feel the adrenaline boost when you are bored at home doing nothing for days. 

That makes you feel alive and is also the best way to conquer your fears! There is also a sense of accomplishment after successfully evading the puzzles and escaping the room in time! 

Inside an horror escape room

Our Approach to Scary Escape Rooms  

As a premier escape room in NYC, we at BrainXcape focus on atmospheric experience rather than jump scares.

In other words, we want to create a wholesome experience that’ll grip you to the core and become an unforgettable experience rather than just keep introducing sudden occurrences (jump scares) that can become predictable.

The experiences can be created through sound, lighting, set design, props, and visuals to create an immersive and believable environment. It helps to import you to another world or time period, creating excitement and challenge in the escape rooms. 

The BrainXcape escape room experience offers live, private, and scary escape rooms filled with challenging puzzles, immersive with spooky movie-set-like environments, where the only way out is by reason, logic, and your BRAIN power! 

We draw our storyline from well-known horror tropes, but hand-craft our experiences right from the stage of the storyline to make them unique.

Gripping narratives, high-quality retro sets, and real metal props with chilling atmospheric sounds and a game guide create the perfect setting for a enjoyable chilling experience. 

Among our current scary escape game room themes – ‘Rikers 1932’, based on escaping a prison cell on Rikers Island, and ‘The Haunted Hotel’, which’ll see you try to survive a stay in a haunted hotel room.

BONUS ROOM: Fans of TV shows based on mythical kingdoms will enjoy our escape adventure called ‘The Game of Gold’ in which you must venture into a castle to recover a powerful tree. 

We also provide birthday party rooms or special events with team building activities and other corporate parties. 

Visit us at 160 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10038, United States, to find out! 

Approach to Scary Escape Rooms

So when are you visiting an escape room? 

If you are in New York, drop by our facility and say hi! You are sure to conquer fears and achieve feet in the long run! Book our online escape room games

If you have specific issues such as claustrophobia, are pregnant, have anxiety disorders, or have any other reservations, contact us to learn more and decide whether to book a room.

Otherwise, go ahead and book, and we’ll see you in our escape rooms. 

Until then, cheers! 

Aug 16, 2023 | Escape Room

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