Escape Rooms offer group bonding amid challenge

(REUTERS) - A group of 18 co-workers trapped in this small room, with just 45 minutes to solve a series of puzzles and win their freedom.  

Sounds a bit torturous, yet it is  an entertainment craze popping up across America.  

Briana Nobles, an Escape Room participant, says: "I didn't think it was going to be this much fun. When they told me where we were coming and I looked it up online it seemed childish and kiddie like but it was a lot of fun. We worked together and I loved it."  

It is a bit like being inside a video game, which is in fact how Escape Rooms began. In 1988, a game called Behind Closed Doors trapped a person in a room. A real-life version of the game opened in Kyoto in 2007 and the trend soon spread throughout Asia, Europe and now the US.  

The team playing at Escape Room Live in Alexandria, Virginia solved their mystery with nine minutes to spare.

Shawn Flemin, another Escape Room participant, says: "I think teamwork is the key. You have to work together. There's a lot going on and it seemed like a very small amount of time."  

Escape Room Live owner Ginger Flesher-Sonnier learned about the entertainment venues in Europe. She thought they would appeal to people who want to communicate in person and share experiences.  

She points out: "It really is part of the experience economy the millennials are part of where they want to experience things rather than just purchase things. They want to do something they can share with friends and family, share on Facebook and social media ... People want to do things they don't want to just buy things."  

The Escape Room is a challenge, so if you go, expect to work hard. Only 20 percent of players actually solve the mysteries in time without hints from a game master.