Room Escape, an interactive game where groups of people are locked in a room and have to solve puzzles and to escape within 60 minutes

David Spira's team is ready. No need for inspirational speeches—the adrenaline (aided by plenty of caffeine) is flowing. They cross the threshold, and the door locks behind them. The seven men and women briskly attack the room, tugging at drawers, trying to lift a print off the wall. Spira flips the rug over, shouting out his discovery into the swirl of an increasing din.

Room escape games lock players in a room where they must seek clues and solve puzzles tied to a story or theme to escape before time runs out, usually in one hour. Already a worldwide phenomenon, room escapes are suddenly hot in America, even capturing the attention of university researchers and corporate marketers. Scott Nicholson, director of the Because Play Matters game lab at Syracuse University, praises the games’ interactive nature. “They allow people to leave the world of screens and engage face to face,” he says, adding that “because room escapes offer different types of challenges, each member on a team has a time when they are able to be the hero.”

In Spira's group, Lindsay Froelich and Lisa Radding thrive on word puzzles, Jason Lisnak is the numbers guru and Jason Cascio is “the hacker” looking for ways to circumvent the designed sequence of puzzles. Spira, the leader of his group of friends, has also become what seems to be America’s first room escape blogger and reviewer.