The typical escape room company is located in a hard-to-find corner—somewhere with small windows, ill-suited to shopfronts or homes. There are usually stairs, and almost always darkness.
MADAM ALCHEMIST, my portable magical steampunk escape room, is designed to be suitable for most ages and abilities. It is G-rated and has no physical challenges.
This blog post is a fluid document that will evolve as I find better ways to serve a diverse group of customers. If your own physical or mental challenges are ill-suited to the game let me know (privately, if you like, at MagicInTheMailStories@gmail.com) and I’ll see if I can figure out a way to make the room accessible to you.
MADAM ALCHEMIST isn’t scary, unless a player is particularly disturbed by darkness or stress or vaguely-defined monsters.
This is a photo of a large poster representing a window outside as soulless monsters attack.
I can leave out the poster and/or keep lights on if younger/more imaginative/anxious people are playing the room.
Having said that, escape rooms take around an hour of focused attention and part of the experience is frustration (not to mention problem solving). Most kids under ten will struggle with focus, and find most of the puzzles too difficult.
Kids 10-14 who are able to deal with frustration will be useful team members, but should have adults with them (at least 1:1).
Kids 14+ are often as good or better than adults, but could have a bad experience if they are already low in confidence, especially academically. (There are some simple maths problems that any 14 year old could solve but if they panic and recoil at the sight of numbers then this will just confirm their bias.)
People aged 16 and above will, in my opinion, be just fine, and can act as the adult for kids aged 10-14 (if they’re willing).
My own children are 4 and 7, and helped play-test the game (with lights on, and assisted by their dad). Although they enjoyed the edible clues, the frustration of the game made them behave badly (snatching etc) and they were not rational in their problem-solving attempts (eg they believed they could guess the padlock combinations). But a well-behaved younger child can certainly tag along if their guardians can’t arrange babysitting (and are confident their kids won’t break anything).
I’m still working on making the game accessible to those with sight/hearing limitations.
Those who are slightly sight-impaired or dyslexic can have a typed version of written clues (rather than the twisty scrawl of the mad alchemist).
The lights can be left on or off, the props can be laid out on a single large table to make searching simpler, and the number of torches can be increased or decreased. I have a friend who’ll be play-testing the game in March and will help me identify aspects of the game that need adjustment. Not all the clues are visual, so if the team has a range of abilities cooperation is always necessary and will help here.
No clues require good hearing (although communication within the team is essential). I can improve access for hearing-impaired players by simply turning off the sound effects. My father has significant hearing issues that didn’t impair his enjoyment at all since he played with my mother, who is an expert at talking with him.
Anyone who has trouble moving around/standing/crouching can play MADAM ALCHEMIST, depending on the venue.
My personal mobility isn’t great, so I’m pretty good at arranging things for chronic pain conditions. The simplest step is to have all the props and clues placed on a single table, so players can simply sit around and pass objects to one another. Someone without the use of their arms will need an assistant.
The gazebo in my yard in Macgregor is accessible by wheelchair. There is some lumpy fake grass but no steps (other than a one-inch foam ‘carpet’ within the gazebo). I usually leave the gate open but sometimes the wind blows it shut (in which case it needs someone to reach up quite high to unlatch it).
Capital Pancakes has a very long flight of stairs and no lift.
Other venues (such as the home of the host) will vary dramatically.
My backyard is not an option, as the cat is difficult to contain and is sure to snuggle up to whoever is most allergic. But of course there are plenty of other venues.
Food/scent allergies or intolerance:
There are 3-4 edible/drinkable clues in the game. None contain nuts of any kind.
The ingredient list varies by availability and location, so if a player has a serious allergy other than nuts, please let me know so that I can ensure they don’t come into contact with anything that could harm them.
If players have a range of food intolerances/allergies, I can cater to you specifically or adjust the edible clues into written clues as needed.
People with epilepsy/migraines:
The possibility of flashing lights can be eliminated by keeping ‘normal’ lights on rather than depending on torches.