Sex and Escape Rooms. Yes you read that right. - Flummox'D Escape Rooms
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Sex and Escape Rooms. Yes you read that right.

Sex and Escape Rooms. Yes you read that right.

If sex sells… then wouldn’t we want to write escape games that leave participants with the same feelings that sex does!  Sound crazy? You can accuse me of having my mind in the gutter but the way I see it, escape rooms and sex have far too many parallels to be ignored.
Having played 38 ER games (and counting) in 13 states and 3 countries, written games, interviewed many owners, and now operating a facility (with my handsome partner) we know what a “great” game should be. That being said, after attending Transworld and speaking to the presenters who have proven to be movers and shakers in the industry, I feel further validated in my notion of what a great game should be. And to be frank, since this is my blog, I get to choose my definition of a great game anyway :).
For starters, great games are fully immersive utilizing visual AND audio stimulation. The rooms also pay close attention to details such as theme driven puzzles and decor. BUT most important and perhaps most widely neglected is by way of thematic puzzles that are designed to provide well timed emotional ups and downs. Throw in a climax and big finish and my friends, you have the recipe for some good lovin! I mean great escape rooms! (insert devious grin)
Do you see how this makes since?!  Don’t you want to experience an ER that makes you want to put your phone away and forget the outside world?  How about a room that leaves a lasting memory and gives you a feeling of elation and accomplishment?  Let us not forget those “wow” moments that take you by surprise and leave you wanting more.  HELLO!!!  Sounds like good sex to me! Well believe it or not, when looked at from a purely chemical perspective, “good” sex and “good” escape rooms can accomplish the same thing. Eureka!  How awesome is that!?  Finally a way to provide the same chemical response without the risk of an STD!  Hit me two times!
Now let us break this down a bit.  There are 4 chemicals that make up the “quartet of happiness” if you will.  These chemicals are, Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. All of which are chemical components found in the body in elevated levels after sex.  As inspired by Mr. Marty Lee Parker, the serial entrepreneur and man responsible for the successful “Trapped in a room with a Zombie”, understanding these chemicals can serve as a guide in writing ER experiences that can also trigger the release of these chemicals. This notion could prove paramount in creating an incredible escape room experience and leave people with the desire to write those highly coveted 5-star reviews. This is a sentiment that I absolutely support and have witnessed first hand by the structure of our current escape games.  But putting the self promotion aside for a moment, bare with me as we take a look at our new chemical allies.
1.) Dopamine – Dopamine motivates us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them.
In the words of an ER room junkie, Dopamine makes us want to solve the puzzles and overcome obstacles. Then, once we achieve victory, it is this chemical that gives us a surge of the warm-fuzzies and leaves us with the desire of wanting MORE!!!  Whether you are trying to please a sexual partner or conquer an escape room, the chemical response you stimulate can be the same. But wait! There is more!
2.) Serotonin – Serotonin is most well know for its role in the brain where it plays a major part in mood, anxiety, and happiness. Illicit mood-altering drugs such as Ecstasy and LSD cause a massive rise in serotonin levels.  Serotonin is released in the body through exercise, massage, sex, and even remembering happy thoughts.  Did you know that an act of victory can also elicit a surge of serotonin? Apply that to the feeling you get when you finally solve that puzzle and the lock opens, everyone is dancing and clapping… Hello serotonin we have been expecting you!
3.)  Oxytocin – Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and builds healthy relationships. It’s released by men and women during orgasm, and by mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding.  Best of all, Oxytocin can be stimulated by a mere hug or hand holding!!  Andrew (my partner) and I most recently played a game where they forced us to hold hands as we went inside the room, a practice strategically used by Marty Parker in Trapped in a room with a Zombie, and the results have been proven time and time again.  By implementing this, you could be stimulating the “love hormone” and creating an environment that stimulates trust and improved mood.  It is speculated that the same thing happens when groups are placed in smaller rooms or perhaps only given 1 flashlight and told to navigate their way through a dimly lit scenario. This creates a since of closeness that is required when building trust. All things considered, escape rooms can create an environment that forces human connection and thus releasing oxytocin.  Wouldn’t you go back for more if an activity made you feel that way!??!  (PSSST, perhaps that’s a reason why sex is so popular  …and escape rooms are growing so fast.)
4.) Endorphins – Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression. Ever heard the old adage, “there is a fine line between pleasure and pain”? This is actually very true! The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runners high” during and after a vigorous run or exciting sexcapade are a result of endorphins.
Along with regular exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release.  Give your participants a good giggle and it will go a long way!  Perhaps all the way to Trip advisor for that 5-star review.
In summation, what a wonderful business we are in.  To be able to elicit the same chemical responses as sex!  Perhaps more importantly, what an incredible framework for creating memorable games/experiences for our customers.  I challenge my fellow escape game owners to keep this information in mind while designing games. Ask yourself, are you beginning your game with a puzzle that will stimulate dopamine and leave your players with the desire to conquer and achieve more?  Will you add those “wow” moments that stimulate happy thoughts and give a surge of serotonin?  Will you give them the feeling of trust and closeness that go along with Oxytocin by encouraging hugging, hand holding, clapping and victory dancing? Finally, will you give them a little giggle or a second wind after they come down from their previous emotional highs?  If so, then prepare to watch our industry soar!  Very rarely does one have “good” sex and walk away saying “na, no thanks, I have no desire to ever try that again!”  So why would we let our ER customers ever feel that way? 😉



1.) Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins and Oxytocin
10/20/2014 11:56 am ET | Updated Dec 20, 2014

2.) Serotonin: Facts, What Does Serotonin Do?
Written by James McIntosh

3.)   By Loretta G. Breuning PhD

4.) Chemicals That Fuel Your Sex Life:   By Oskar McHendry

5.) J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007 Nov; 32(6): 394–399.
PMCID: PMC2077351   How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs
Simon N. Young


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