With the 46 places in Ontario, a large majority do not have the target demographic of kids and families. In many cases, I can see why this makes sense! I like kids, but some this hobby does have certain aspects that would not synergize well with children. I’ve definitely seen some puzzles that are on the more fragile end. Another aspect might be the themeing of rooms. Though many of these places are only very loosely themed, serial killers and murderers might still not be appropriate subject matter!
To my knowledge, only two places in Ontario specifically cater to children and families: Locked-In in Markham, and Escape Room Niagara Fall (in Niagara Falls, of course). With a large amount of tourist intake in the Niagara Falls region, it seems like a great approach.
Hmm.. What approach does one take when trying to design for small children? I think the first consideration is probably that what you’re designing for is families, and not small children (in particular). Children have to be supervised, so there has to be something to do for everyone (even if the focus of the room isn’t on the adults).
Rather than puzzles, I think I would put in a focus on tasks. I differentiate between the two in that puzzles often require figuring out what to do with all the components, while tasks are usually more clear in their objective, but the execution of it might be difficult (eg. retrieving a key using a remote control car). One task that I’ve seen many places (over)use is scavenging/searching. More or less, items are hidden throughout a room. I think it’s very lazy to build a room around this task, but I do think it can sometimes fit. I think it’s a suitable task for a room targeted to families because it’s a great way to get children involved and feeling useful! You could even cater more to children this way by placing things closer to their eye level.
In terms of overall design, I think a non-linear design is more appropriate. A design where several puzzles might be available at once is probably better than a linear design. For children, I think a game made of several smaller puzzles serves better than a design with ‘bigger’ puzzles with bigger payoffs.
Nothing I’ve stated so far really involves the theme. I’m not certain what theme appeals to children, but I think magic/wizardry/harry potter might be a good choice. Three quarters through the game, players will unlock a wand. I would try to jam in as many RFID and NFC tags as possible. My aim with the wand is essentially have it interact with the rest of the game. The game wouldn’t be over, but the rest of the tasks would be quite simple (could be as simple as unlocking a chest by waving the wand over it). I think it would be a neat payoff, and it lets the child(ren) end the game as the hero of the story.
What kind of room would you want to see out there? Email me at EscapistTO@gmail.com and let me know.