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Several generations, one amusement. Escape rooms as intergenerational entertainment

Several generations, one amusement. Escape rooms as intergenerational entertainment

Hanna Kwaśniewska |

There's no need to prove to anybody that escape rooms are a kind of entertainment, in which, along with its development, all boundaries are being crossed - it mainly concerns such aspects as technologies used, attitude to the interior design or ingenuity in puzzle logic. But what does it look like when it comes to crossing the age limits of the users?

So, are there any limits or can we consider puzzle rooms as intergenerational entertainment?

Escape rooms provide us with entertainment so varied that every player will find something for himself. Strong impressions like from a horror movie or rather calm passage through the room as if through a story coherent adventure? Fully electronic riddles or maybe countless padlocks, which specifically click in your hands when you enter the correct code? A room done with great architectural flair or rather an ingenious use of the smallest possible space? There you go - apart from the fact that every player may follow individual guidelines and tastes, the escape room market can accommodate everyone.

It turns out that this versatility is also reflected in the age of the participants and makes it possible to adapt to all generations. It's no surprise that depending on the age, players look at this type of entertainment in a completely different way - life experience makes the point of view depend not only on individual preferences, but also on the age of the player.

The first time - how it starts

One of the most important elements which will help you find out if escape rooms are your cup of tea is the first time - the first visit is important, because it often determines whether there will be another visit. Such a visit should be governed by its own rules. Choosing this kind of room is not an easy art because you should pay attention to several elements:

  • the room should not be too difficult, so as not to create a false impression that "escape rooms are not for me, because I do not know what they are about";
  • the category should be appropriately matched: even a horror movie lover may not know if the presence of an actor will not be too much of a shock for him, because he does not yet know how to combine the thrill with a focus on the puzzles, and therefore it is better to choose an adventure experience or light detective story for the first time;
  • there should be no separation of a beginner from the rest of the team: such a person not only doesn't know yet how to “move” in the escape room but in addition, in the beginning, he/she is often put to a test, which may discourage him/her from further visits;
  • there should not be too many people in the room so that the novice has a chance to participate in solving the puzzles.

Escape rooms have this in common despite different tastes, a common vibe and goals can do a lot in favor of the players. Taking the average out, in this case, brings a positive effect in the form of time well spent by both younger and older players. Under what circumstances do different generations of gamers come across this type of entertainment at some point in their lives?

The youngest players, who can be classified as minors, go through their first escape room usually on the occasion of the whole family visit. They come to the room with their siblings or parents or other parts of the family as a part of weekend entertainment, sometimes also with friends during special events, such as a classmate's birthday party. Their main goal is not so much to integrate as to have a nice time among people they already know. Often they do it in the company of people who are already somewhat familiar with this type of entertainment, thanks to which they are drawn into the topic and guided through the puzzles by more experienced people. However, more and more often they are guided through the riddles already at school - many teachers use elements of escape rooms to create scenarios of lessons, which are then used during material interpretation or to check the learning of the material. Following this way of thinking, we can assume that every school test is a kind of escape room (quiet laugh).

People who are already of age, taking their first steps on the job market (and thus have their funds to pursue their interests), have an additional opportunity to get familiar with escape rooms thanks to the more and more frequent form of integration at work. Some companies also use puzzle rooms as recruitment tasks that not only test logical thinking skills but - above all! - show whether a potential candidate for a given position can work in a team, how they organize their work, and whether they have leadership skills. Many people become familiar with puzzle rooms just in these circumstances, although even more often they are “infected” by this passion from their colleagues (not necessarily from work) or life partners.

It is worth mentioning that a frequent phenomenon among the players is "returning after years". It happens that a young person goes to an escape room and doesn't fully understand what it's all about (it's not a bad thing), but years later comes back with completely different people. And with different baggage of experiences, which is connected with age or generation.

My first exposure to Escape Rooms was around 2014, but at that time I was still too young to fully enjoy solving puzzles and understand what it was all about. This wonderful adventure with the world of escape rooms started in late 2019 when I suggested to a friend to go to a puzzle room. I told him that I have been to such a place 2-3 times and I associate it with good fun. When we left the room we both felt that we had found a new passion. And so it began. When we had some free time and cash, the only entertainment we chose was the escape room. 
Igor Król, 22 years old

People with children can form a subcategory among adult escape room users and quite a separate generation. It's not uncommon for them to come across this type of entertainment when preparing attractions for their children's birthdays (younger children) or to be taken by older ones (often already adults) to show them "something new" in life. Quite a high percentage of people aged about 35+ come across escape rooms in such circumstances. Often, people who draw players from this age group into the world of puzzles are directly related to the industry, e.g. work as a game master in one of the companies.

And what does it look like in the case of people 60+? Very similar - they are taken for the first time by their children or grandchildren. In their case, the first contact with escape rooms usually takes place during family outings, when younger family members want to show them that Sunday doesn't have to mean only chicken soup and thinking about Monday duties.

In the aspect of getting familiar with this form of entertainment, a kind of ‘frame composition' is visible - the youngest and the oldest get to know it thanks to someone experienced from the family circle, while the "middle" generations add to it further opportunities connected with the reproductive age and belonging to the job market.

Quantitative and qualitative issues

It turns out that the aforementioned frame is also visible in quantitative terms. The youngest and the oldest players, because of the moment when they go to the escape room for the first time, have few rooms to their credit. Escape rooms appeared on the market a few good years ago, however, they are mostly taken by people between 18 and 35 years old. Both younger and older generations have much fewer opportunities to play, thanks to which their counter does not increment so quickly and in the initial phase does not indicate other than a single-digit number.

Of course, this is not a permanent issue - as there are players who break out of this pattern. There are many groups of people, who despite their generational affiliation let their passion run wild and their social conditions allow them to visit puzzle rooms more often than on holidays. Such people usually have some kind of impulse in the form of an older brother working as a master of the game in an escape room or a granddaughter who wanted to show her grandmother what modern youth does nowadays. This makes it easier for them to visit escape rooms or even practice escape room tourism.

The number of visited escape rooms in correlation with age can be easily represented by a sine wave (although there will be exceptions to this rule of course). Minors, as a rule, don't have much opportunity to go around the rooms compared to adult players - since they don't earn and must be under constant adult supervision, their "point" will be close to the axis line. Earning and working players have many opportunities to visit rooms on numerous occasions, so the number of rooms they visit can shoot up, away from the axis. On the other hand, older people (for the article let's assume that we mean people 65+) again treat escape rooms as "something festive" and don't visit them as often, so the number of rooms visited by them as they get older again approaches the line on the axis.

Escape rooms and age

Already at this stage, we can say that there is a kind of sine wave in the attitude towards escape rooms. The youngest and the oldest players more often perceive escape rooms as usual entertainment they take part in from time to time. The generation in the reproductive age, on the other hand, often subordinates their free time to visits in escape rooms with friends. This is another frame composition in the analysis of different generations' attitudes to the same topic.

While collecting material for this article, several people of different ages (and thus from different generations) were asked about what puzzle rooms mean to them and their perspectives on them. It is very easy to notice the difference in attitude to escape rooms as entertainment, which fully confirms the previously stated thesis.

My brother worked in an escape room. One day he took me and our mother to one of them. I did about 10 escape rooms in different cities in Poland. The puzzle rooms are a normal entertainment for me, I don't go to them often, once a year my brother takes me on a trip. 
Olivier Kalicki, 12 years old

In this case, we also get confirmation of the fact that younger people tend to go to escape rooms only occasionally, when persuaded by one of the family members, without establishing a strong emotional bond with this form of entertainment. In a considerable number of people, this attitude changes with age, new acquaintances and changes in the environment (new school, new job, new friends). By the way, the earlier assumption that in the social environment of a person from the youngest generation there is often someone connected with the industry, which makes it easier to enter the world of puzzles, is also true here.

A completely different view is represented by players who have just become adults and are developing both their professional and social lives - with time, completely different elements of human interaction become important to them. Favorable environmental and financial conditions cause many people aged 18+ to grow a passion towards escape rooms as a form of spending every free time. Statistically speaking, this is the most numerous age group and it drives the market in many ways: socially (engaging in the game not only with their peers but also with younger and older than themselves), economically (paying for the games and other escape room products) and professionally (often being employed in escape rooms as a game master, manager or creating their own business).

Definitely escape rooms are not just entertainment for me. I have a great fondness for them, with a smile on my face I recall trips with my former girlfriend. Thanks to visits to the puzzle rooms human bonds are getting stronger. Thanks to escaping rooms I have made two friends who are now part of our team, not only for ER trips, but they are part of my everyday life. Escape rooms, in my opinion, are a time where you can get to know someone better, get closer to someone while solving puzzles together. 
Igor Król, 22 years old

At some point, there is a kind of stabilization that often occurs in people who have already built a family and thus escape rooms are not an aspect that takes up most of their lives. However, they still play an important role in it. Such people, usually aged 35+, already have children of their own, who they willingly take with them on trips to escape rooms or - depending on their previous contact with escape rooms and if there were any - are invited to play by their children.

Many a time, the very stage of planning an escape room trip or an outing to an escape room becomes an inseparable element of this entertainment, which can "set the rhythm" and set a positive attitude to the whole experience. This occurs in both young adults and slightly older players.

It's a great way to spend your free time. In addition, trips to the escape room are a nice excuse to get together with friends. It's not just about the time spent in the room, but also the preparation before, determining the strategy, and ways of doing things, as well as what happens after - discussing how it went, what could have been done differently, what we liked about the room, etc. For us, as a family, it is also about sharing hobbies and spending time together, which unfortunately we don't have much of. We also have a growing daughter who already has her hobbies, her friends and things, so it makes me even happier that there are still things she wants to do with us. 
Katarzyna Myśliwiec, 36 years old

It is also interesting that older players perceive educational values that are connected with this form of entertainment. Mature escape room customers often use escape rooms as a prelude to discussions on the topics raised in the rooms, which usually become a kind of impulse. This is especially evident with parents of school-aged children. This advantage indicates that escape rooms are a good diversification of education - both school and "home" education, conducted between the child and its parent, i.e. representatives of different generations. It's also an element bonding those two, quite different worlds.

When [daughter] was younger, a visit to the room was often a pretext, or perhaps better, the beginning, for an educational activity related to the topic of the given escape room, e.g. after a visit to the room whose topic was the history of an art forger we talked about painting, and soon afterwards we visited a museum, the history of pirates and their customs after a visit to a pirate ship, or learning about the character of Sherlock Holmes after his themed room. Of course, it is not always possible (in the sense, that it is not about doing something by force), but each visit to the escape room stimulates curiosity and it is worth taking advantage of it, we also learn interesting things ourselves. I think escape rooms are much more than just entertainment though - at least for me. It is also an opportunity to break away, separate from the "normal" life, difficulties, problems, etc., at least for a moment and direct your thoughts in another direction. Such a moment of breath and, paradoxically, the possibility of "clearing your head", calming down, reducing the stress associated with, for example, work. A valuable aspect for me is also the very formula, forcing an intellectual effort, creative thinking, exercising cooperation and communication skills - for me, ER is also a form of mental training. 
Katarzyna Myśliwiec, 36 years old

Over the years older users of puzzle rooms start to look at them again in a similar way as young players - classically, treating escape rooms as an unusual escape from reality, without excessive emotions. So what are escape rooms for people over 60? How do such people look at them?

It turns out that they appreciate the educational aspect - something which is willingly used by people with small children. Logical values thus often influence the decision to visit the room as a leisure activity. However, the sentiment towards the form itself does not disappear, as it uniquely bonds family ties and can integrate not only people within the workplace but also families.

Escape room for me is first of all an intelligent form of fun. It requires thinking, cleverness, perceptiveness but most importantly engagement. Nowadays most proposed entertainment is "mindless" and the escape room is its total opposite. 
Piotr, 64 years old

For me an escape room is first of all a chance to spend time with my family in an unusual way. Our differences (character, way of being, knowledge) let us have more power in the escape room and teaches us unity and cooperation. 
Beata, 60 years old

An interesting fact about the selection of rooms in terms of generation is that both the youngest players and the oldest ones prefer adventure-themed rooms. Younger people on the other hand are interested in horror and thriller-themed rooms. It turns out that we are very eager to play in rooms enhancing the feeling of anxiety, until... We have children and want to take them to an escape room. Then the frequency of visits to adventure and story rooms comes back in favor. 

To say it short and to sum it up a bit - older generations treat escape rooms as an addition to everyday matters, and younger ones live in them.

Who likes what - generations and the importance of particular aspects

Does belonging to a particular age group determine the qualities that appear within the interest of players? It's hard to say without repeating that everyone has their tastes, which can both belong to a certain set of guidelines, as well as completely deviate from the canon. However, it's impossible not to notice that particular age groups have their common features also in the aspect of looking at the whole experience, which is a visit to an escape room.

The youngest players, taken to the rooms by their parents, older siblings or peers organizing birthday parties in companies with escape rooms in their offer, pay special attention to the following aspects:

  • scenery, which can be film-like and resemble the place described in the plot (e.g. the jungle becomes a real jungle thanks to the use of real wood, stones and plants);
  • electronics, which create immersion through their use as magic or supernatural forces (a child solving an electronic puzzle does not wonder on what mechanism it is based, but only on the fact that ancient Tutankhamun has just opened the gate to his tomb in the pyramid);
  • the atmosphere created by all the props and special effects.

It is worth mentioning that for the youngest generation of players such elements as the logic of the puzzle or linearity of the room become completely less important. The child will remember faster that the blue button opened the gate than the path of deduction, which his older guardian had to go through, playing with him in the room. Therefore, for the little ones, in most cases, it will be much more attractive to use full electronics than traditional padlocks.

What the puzzles look like from behind the scenes and what their logic consists of, starts to interest slightly older players. Curiosity about how the room works from the technical and organizational side comes with experience, which is acquired more often and faster by the next generation. Then, the interest in escape rooms may also be deeper in the emotional sphere, as not only do riddles and decorations begin to count but also treat escape rooms as a place to make new acquaintances and cultivate old ones. This also opens the way for other generations to get to know this unique form of entertainment.

What I like most about escape rooms is that every single one is different, you can see something different and experience a completely different adventure. Besides, escape rooms are a great place for different generations. Some time ago my Grandma let herself be persuaded to see "what her grandson is so excited about". She came out delighted, told everyone in the family how much fun she had and asked when I would take her to a puzzle room again. It is a place where we cut off from everyday life for a while and we can enter a completely different world. No matter how many ERs one has been to, each can delight with something different and evoke different emotions. 
Igor Król, 22 years old

The above statement is a very good example of the versatility of escape rooms in terms of generations and proves that they can be boldly considered multi-generational entertainment.

Apart from the educational aspect, adult enthusiasts often see the effort of the owners, which was put into not only creating a given scenario but also using the space. It is no surprise that many companies use unusual locations to create a unique place, which often has a function consistent with the cultural and regional values of the place. Younger generations are very rarely interested in this aspect of escape room tourism, while adults not only see it but also appreciate it.

It's nice when the rooms are somehow connected with the place where they are located (e.g. region, city, history), e.g. Bebok room [a supernatural being connected with Silesian history - ed. note] in Bytom, Poland. Once when we were on vacation abroad we played in a room that was created in one of the rooms in the hotel where we stayed, really great idea! 
Katarzyna Myśliwiec, 36 years old

Appreciation of the creators is an element that characterizes the next generation as well - in this respect, the bracketed composition in the inclusion of things that are given special attention does not occur.

What I like most about Escape Room is the element of surprise. Even though we have read the history of the room before we go there is always some element that is not obvious. I also admire the great imagination of the room creators. 
Beata, 60 years old

Older generations traditionally approach this entertainment - over time they appreciate the fact that behind everything there is a creator. On the other hand, the youngest don't pay much attention to it, because it's the final effect that counts, among others the visual one.

Several generations, one entertainment

The most important thing is the beginning and not to be discouraged during your first visit to the escape room, e.g. by the wrong choice of difficulty level. Nevertheless, adventure with escape rooms can begin at any time of life and have just as much fun. The fact that depending on our age we may pay attention to different elements has no negative influence on the whole and good fun.

At what age do we usually start the adventure with escape rooms? It turns out that there is no clear answer to this question. During collecting the test group we had players of all ages - both 12 years old (and under) and people 60+. It's a very positive accent, which proves that escape rooms are entertainment for everyone, regardless of age.

Does age influence how the room is perceived? Yes. But only in positive aspects - although customers pay attention to different elements, the delight remains the same. Love has no age - also this one for escape rooms.

Hanna Kwaśniewska

Hanna Kwaśniewska

All-in-one

Lock.me team member. Germanist and scholar of German literature - German language is also her superpower. Besides escape rooms and board games, she loves Dragon Ball, Star Wars and cynology. After work she likes learning foreign languages, writing texts and planning her next trip to escape room, probably with rap music in the background. Totally extrovert.

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