Rage Rooms: Is breaking bad actually good for you?

Nov 26, 2018

Rage rooms are new businesses where people are invited to break things like bottles and old electronics. The idea is to relieve stress, work off a little tension. One recently opened in Henrietta, outside Rochester, and another will soon open in North Tonawanda. But is smashing things actually good for you?

In Henrietta, off a Jefferson Road shopping plaza, there’s a little shop with a big sign out front that says SMASH THERAPY - GRAND OPENING.

Smash Therapy is full of private rooms with metal-plated walls and giant wooden tables. Clients are given glassware, electronics and other assorted breakable items - as well as bats, sledgehammers and crowbars. Then, well - I think you know what happens next.

The man behind this whole operation, Steven Shortino, admitted, "I’ve destroyed my share of inventory."

There are quite a few people here for Steven’s opening weekend. I linked up with a group of four, prepping for a group smashing session. They don’t want me to use their names, because they’re skipping out on work.

Veronica Volk: Can I ask you guys a question while you get ready? What inspired you to come down?

Manager 1: We’re all managers and we all manage people and expectations. And instead of being in a meeting and talking it out, it’s better to just smash some things.

Manager 2: We were talking about on the way in, it’s called smash therapy. It probably is a little bit of therapy that you get to relieve stress doing it this way.

V: Do you think that’s a good impulse ,though?

M2: I guess, to be determined…

I ask Steven why he thinks people like smashing things. He said, "Well, it’s just because, breaking stuff makes you feel good. It gives you a sense of control."

Kevin Bennett, a doctor of psychology and an assistant teaching professor at Penn State, wrote an article about rage rooms for Psychology Today. He’s not totally convinced of the benefits.

"It feels good. There’s an immediate satisfaction. There’s chemicals in the brain being released and so it does feel good at the moment," Bennett explained, but, "When you go to a rage room it’s quite possible that you’re conditioning yourself to be more aggressive the next time you feel those."

"I don’t particularly agree with that," Steven Shortino said. "I think a lot of people just come here to have fun. You don’t have to be some kind of crazy mad stress psycho. It’s just normal people looking to have a good time."

After thoroughly destroying their items, the group of managers emerges from their rage room, smiling big toothy smiles.

V: How’d we do? How did it feel?

M2: Great.

V: Do you feel like your stress has been relieved?

ALL: YES!

Kevin Bennett confessed, "I would love to try it out and see what it’s like, I’m totally curious."

Steven says he hasn’t had any clients that made him nervous - yet - and he says like sports or violent video games, most people are just in it for a good time.