Lessons from An Escape Room

July 13, 2019

I'll go straight to the point: the heaviest take away that I had from this experience is that --- any activity that involves signing a waiver means that you are about to partake in a high-risk activity. I was late to realize that Escape Room games are included in that category. Based on a template waiver on an escape room, participants should --

"understand the nature of the Activity and that they are qualified, in good health, and in proper physical and emotional condition to participate in such activity."

Welp. I guess I was not in my best condition when I played the game. 😅

Escape rooms have become famous all over the world. Each establishment that offers this activity have a variety of themes for their rooms. I guess the reason that line is present in the waiver is due to the presence of stressors inside the room. Every person reacts differently with stress. Some factors of the Escape Room might unintentionally trigger emotional attacks, that's why there's a means to contact the staff outside in the case of emergency so that any participant in the room can leave in case they feel uncomfortable already.

It's the second escape room that I got to participate in (and I'm proud to say that my group was able to solve it in the two scenarios). I know it's just a game, but I guess because of the kind of material that was unceremoniously presented in front of me for this specific one, it's affecting me in a different way. Since part of the content of the waiver that I actually signed was a non-disclosure agreement about anything inside the room, I will give as little of information as I could about the room that I got into.

Let's just say I'm having some kind of anxiety attacks. I've played that escape room game with my colleagues four days ago, and I haven't slept well since. I slept with the lights on and had bad nightmares (even during afternoon naps! whaaat). As the days are passing by, the effects are getting more intense. Friday night was the worst so far. I've never cried like that after a nightmare. Am I getting paranoid? I turned the lights on and just sat on the bed all curled up while hugging my pillow. My chest was hurting so much because of the emotional stress that I was feeling. The events in that nightmare were highly possible to happen, and that just actually made it even scarier. I was afraid to fall asleep again. I'm scared that my dream would continue.

I don't know why I am actually having this kind of reaction. I was really happy when our group was able to finish the game (we were only a minute away from the time limit so adrenaline levels were at peak when we finally unlocked the last door). I was even chatting merrily about our team's bloopers amongst my other friends. I noticed I just felt eerie scared the night of that day, as specific scenes from the escape room replayed in my head. Maybe it's a factor that the scenes presented looked realistic and true-to-life. If you are of the faint of heart, the images presented might somehow affect you negatively.

I remember this specific Youtube video with a disclaimer that it was not approved for the general audience for viewing because of disturbing content. It was a cute cartoon with a scene of a girl very seriously studying in her room at night. At first I thought -- why does this video have that kind of disclaimer? And then out of nowhere, I watched as the girl held a knife in her hand and attempted to cut herself. The video was apparently promoting mental health hotlines that are available to call.

Another similar material that I could think of is Doki Doki Literature Club. It was a game categorized as 'psychological horror' and I was really curious why. There's also a similar disclaimer at the start of the game that this game is not for children and for those easily disturbed. Well I knew my tolerance level on these matters, so I just chose to watch a Youtuber's gameplay of it instead of me personally playing it. And so I just watched it being played by another player. Even though there were witty comments throughout the gameplay, I still got goosebumps during the part where the twist was revealed. Now I understood why the game can be a trigger for people who have suicidal tendencies. The game stuck with me for a few days after.

Anyway back to escape rooms. I was wondering if I was the only one having this kind of reaction. I tried googling to find blogs or articles that I could relate to for this specific situation. I didn't find any. In contrast, those that I found actually said that participating in Escape Rooms can improve mental health because it exercises the mind's wit and strategy skills in stressful situations.

Oh well, maybe this emotional stress I'm feeling is similar to the effects being experienced by viewers who just watched psychological horror movies. Heck, I don't even need to get far -- this is similar to the disturbing feeling I get after a Black mirror episode, just quadrupled in intensity. It's a bit more disturbing because I experienced it in real life.

Lesson learned: Watch out for triggers even from unlikely situations. CONSTANT VIGILANCE! (which is Mad-eye Moody's favorite motto by the way).

I hope to go back to normal soon.

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