Age Limits in Escape Room Games

2021.06.29.

When we think of escape room games, we don't picture young children playing, even if it is a family game. When we think of "family" it tends to be mum and dad along with more grown-up kids. The main reason for this is that the clues suited for adults are too difficult for the little kids, and vice versa. So whenever there's a family booking, the question always arises, about the age limits for escape room games. 

There's no easy answer. The sheer number of different game designs coupled with the level of puzzles and clues means that everything is possible. Even within a single company like Exit The Room, we have many different types of games being played in various locations. it's quite possible that you can find two similar games, but if even the smallest change is made to one of them, then it will end up with a completely different outcome. So, though it's possible to admit that escape rooms all contain a simple pattern, or dynamic when you drill down into the details, you'll find a different kettle of fish.

A Design For Adults

I'm afraid that the vast majority of escape room games are first and foremost designed with adult players in mind. Essentially, the stories, puzzles, clues and gameplay is suited to adults, in the sense that children play as children when unsupervised. So we are catering to the adult taste and we can safely assume that adults will play as adults. To that end, you'll find that most escape room games cater to customers over 16 years of age.

Excitement and Intensity Are Major Elements For an Immersive Game

Most escape room games businesses will have a minimum age policy of 12 years old. In this age of helicopter parenting, sometimes this seems to be a push, as there are children out there who freak out at the idea of being in a darkened room even at 12. On the whole, if the family is all involved, then at this age they are able to contribute to the game, as opposed to being bored and demanding themselves. We're sure there are some more mature 10-year-old kids out there who would have an absolute blast playing escape room games, but most businesses don't want to take the chance with kids that young. Nothing erks quite as much as seeing a review left by parents complaining that their kids were bored thereby implying that it's the fault of the same and the business running them. Why take that chance? 

Game Story and Content 

All escape room games will have a background narrative to set the scene. These stories are as wide as they are varied in content and context. There can be anything from escaping a zombie invasion to disarming a torpedo in a submarine. But the story doesn't exist in the ether, as it needs grounding in order for it to appear as realistic as possible, and thereby make the game totally immersive for the players. As adults, we know zombies don't exist, yet we still feel the stress and pressure of the possibility of them breaking into our room during the gameplay. Just like watching an intense scene during a movie presentation at the cinema, we feel real emotions, with the tears flowing at particularly sad scenes and our adrenaline pumping during exciting ones. 

To that end, we need to be careful as to what storylines we are planting into the minds of kids. For example, there's a good reason why kids can't see movies 18+ movies. The concern is not so much the actuality they're seeing on the silver screen, but more how it affects their development and world-view when they are not mature enough to process those images and ideas. Of course, the escape room narrative sounds much worse than it is in reality. This is all part and parcel of setting the stage for the action that will later play out. But for the mind of a child, there may well be some confusion about what's fact and what's fiction. When you add in the props, sound effects and plot twist, then even adults can become stressed, so you can imagine that the effect on a child would be even greater. The idea is to leave the game behind in the escape room, as opposed to bringing it home in the form of recurring nightmares.

Some rooms will be set within the context of violence and gore. The narrative may mention deranged scientists, the undead, murders and kidnappings, torture, the occult and deeper dives into subject matters that might not be really suitable for children. Though non of these things are actually shown, the seed of an idea relating to these themes is firmly planted into the minds of the players before the game starts. Often times, such is the intensity of the game along with the total immersion of the player, that they become highly stressed and fearful. This is never a good thing for a child to see of the parent.  

Of course, there are plenty of escape room games that don't necessarily involve adult themes. But even for these, we don't recommend bringing kids under 16 years of age. There's a number of good reasons why nearly all escape room games will insist that 16 years is the lowest age to play within a group, and 12 the youngest if accompanied by the parents. It could well be argued that surely the parent knows the child best and so should be left to make the decision. On this matter, we have to agree to disagree. Though the parent might well know their own children, the escape room game scenario is something completely new to them. They have no idea how their kids are going to react. We've seen kids freak out at the background music! Remember that all the games are designed to provoke a strong visceral response from the adult players, which would be amplified in the immature minds of children.

Another factor that's often overlooked is that of time. The game requires considerable concentration for the period of at least 1 hour. For a 10-year-old this is going to be a struggle, more especially so if they don't understand half the clues and puzzles. It'll just be a huge bore-fest for them. If you are thinking of ring a child of that age, then we strongly suggest that, rather than making an assumption, you reach out and contact the room to ask about the suitability of the games for youngsters.

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