LAS VEGAS — There’s nothing like bashing a computer monitor with a sledgehammer to pulverize the stresses of everyday life.
That’s the concept behind so-called “rage rooms” that allow visitors and locals alike to take out their frustrations on various materials otherwise headed for a dump.
They’re part of a larger trend across the United States of businesses that provide safe environments for participants to destroy electronics, furniture, glass bottles and other household items. At last check, more than 60 such facilities can be found across the country.
Las Vegas has three spots where you can release aggression by destroying stuff when you travel here.
One is part of Axe Monkeys, a destination where you also can throw axes at a target.
Another, Wreck Room, allows up to six ragers at a time.
Sin City Smash offers a chance for participants to wield chain-wrapped baseball bats or lug wrenches and shake off gambling losses by destroying blackjack tables and poker chips.
“It’s great form of stress therapy,” says Anna Guiao, owner of Sin City Smash. “A lot of people come in here worried about something and leave feeling better, calmer and free.”
Rage as release
Fans of the 1999 movie “Office Space” might remember a scene in which three of the main characters take out work-related aggression by destroying a finicky printer/fax machine that has contributed to some of their stress.
Rage rooms essentially provide the same experience, only in a controlled environment.
Owners say the philosophy behind the experience has roots in destruction therapy, a stress-management technique that began in Spain in the early 2000s. They say the facilities empower guests to express anger in positive ways. Some of their websites even cite studies that list long-term physical effects of pent-up anger, such as increased anxiety, high blood pressure and headaches.
Still, many mental health professionals aren’t convinced. Catherine Jackson, a psychologist and neurotherapist in Palos Heights, Illinois, says that while rage rooms can be helpful to release and reduce frustration and anger, they do not provide participants with the tools to deal with those emotions on a broader scale.
Deborah J. Cohan, associate professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, says rage rooms only repress difficult feelings, and ultimately they may contribute to greater rage down the road.
“We have gotten to a point in society where adults will pay to have a temper tantrum rather than openly, directly and compassionately try to have a conversation with a partner, ex-partner, family member [or] colleague with whom we are having difficulty,” she says.
“Sure, it might feel cathartic to beat the hell out of something or shatter an object into a million little pieces, [but] while it gives a short-term high for an individual, it likely leaves the society at a long-term low.”
One indisputable benefit to rage rooms: waste management.
Most rooms across the country accept donations of stuff to smash. Others obtain smash materials from local recycling centers. In every case, clean-up is included in the cost of the session; when all has been smashed, rage room representatives bring destruction detritus to dump sites, reducing the burden on garbage facilities across the board.
How people get their rage on
In Las Vegas, most rage room experiences follow a similar formula.
Participants can book anywhere from five to 30 minutes in the room. When you arrive on-site, you check in and select a weapon from arsenals that include sledgehammers, lug wrenches, golf clubs, baseball bats and maces.
From there, a rage monitor leads you to an area where he or she instructs you to don a full-body safety suit, gloves, a hard hat with ear protectors, face shield and steel-toed boot covers.
A safety talk follows, with warnings never to position yourself downswing from a fellow participant and never to take off the hard hat. Next, you select music for the session—heavy metal, gangsta rap and classical all are popular choices.
Finally, the monitor leads you into the room, where you come upon a makeshift table adorned with material to smash. After a brief pause for pictures, the music starts playing and the timer begins.
Swinging weapons with abandon
What happens next varies by session. Some participants unleash a fit of fury right away, swinging weapons with abandon. Other guests are more methodical, taking time between swings to recharge muscles and catch their breath.
“People underestimate the heft of certain items, like printers,” says Corey Holtam, owner and manager of Wreck Room.
The act of raging is surprisingly exhausting, and most participants emerge drenched with sweat. “Even certain bottles sometimes can take significant effort to break,” Holtam says.
When the raging is over, when the last bits of metal, plastic and glass hit the floor, the monitor returns to take another picture before ushering you to a cool-down area.
Some spots offer water and free snacks such as Twizzlers and M&Ms.
As rage rooms get more popular nationwide, offerings likely will increase. At Tantrums, for instance, a room outside Houston, groups can sign up to take turns destroying entire cars or trucks.
Owner Shawn Baker says she dispatches ragers from these groups in pairs; depending on how many people participate, the destruction process can take up to half-a-day or more. (Curiously, Baker does not require her customers to wear helmets — only long pants, closed-toe shoes, eye protection and gloves.)
Even in Las Vegas, competition is prompting the three businesses to diversify. Axe Monkeys allows participants to bring their own stuff to destroy — a popular option for people throwing breakup or divorce parties.
Sin City Smash recently added a zombie-themed package with fog, special lighting and images of the undead on the walls.
“Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world, and we see this as just another thing for [people] to do while they’re here,” Guiao says. “People go to the spa to unwind. There’s no reason why they can’t smash stuff to feel the same way.”