New Tourist Craze: Locked Rooms
From Budapest to New York, it's a bona fide craze
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2014 3:30 PM CDT
Visitors are seen in a bunker built for Hungary's 1950s Communist leaders, which was briefly opened Thursday for members of the public, in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008.    (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

(Newser) – The latest tourist trend comes via Budapest, where visitors are flocking to locked rooms and struggling to get out. Sound weird? Maybe, but the city's 50-odd room-escape games are like video game puzzles where the clues—like a laminated stamp in a metal box, or numbers etched on wrench handles—are all real, as is the locked door, the New York Times reports. "At first, people looked at me like I was crazy: 'You want to open a place where you lock people inside?'" says Attila Gyurkovics, inventor of ParaParks, the first room-escape game in Budapest. Now ParaParks is expanding and companies like it are popping up worldwide, from Hong Kong to London to the US.

Cities also make the game their own: In Budapest, the theme is timeworn post-Communist nostalgia; in Berlin, there's a game in a tunnel running from east to west. So why the craze? Gyurkovics puts it down to something called "flow theory": "You’re not standing outside yourself saying, 'Oh, I have to call my mom' or 'My boss is watching over me,'" he says. "You become completely absorbed by the game." It can get tense, too, the Times notes, with players sniping at each other as they try to beat the clock. But for about $40, it's a unique way to spend an hour: "I think it just taps into something everyone likes, puzzles," an Australian room-escape designer tells Yahoo. (Read about another kind of game, that archaeologists dug up from the remains of ancient Turkey.)