“I like sex themed escape rooms. Why don’t we have more of them?”
-Diane from Texas
Not Much Sex
You’re certainly right that we don’t have much in the way of sex-themed escape rooms.
I’ve only played one in the United States: Komnata Quest’s 7 Sinful Pleasures.
Overseas, in Berlin, Germany, we played House of Tales’ Kowloon Walled City.
Every once in a while someone shares a story with us about a sex-themed game that was gross and mediocre… and we certainly cannot judge a genre by poorly executed ideas.
However, none of this answers why there are so few examples: If I have to speculate, I think it’s because there is an assumption that players either can’t handle or won’t comfortably pay for sex-themed escape games.
Violence > Sex?
In the United States we get weird about sex. We treat sex as worse than violence.
I find it absolutely baffling that we’re collectively outraged by acts of love that feel good, have measurable psychological and physiological benefits… and are the only reason that any of us exist.
The issue of appropriateness comes up increasingly often in escape rooms. What themes are “ok” is as deeply cultural as it is individual.
Personally, few themes and stories make me uncomfortable. When executed intelligently, themes like violence, horror, death, destruction, drugs, and sex don’t bother me. The only reason I’d hesitate to book a game would be the feeling that the escape room is deliberately bigoted.
For example, I wouldn’t be bothered by a game where I’m fighting Nazis and there’s a swastika as decor. If someone were to create a game sympathetic to the Nazi cause, however, I’d be disturbed by that.
As another example, a game about a made-up serial killer or a serial killer from a century ago doesn’t give me pause. A game based on the murder of a local family from a couple of years back would piss me off. If the friends and loved ones of the victims are still around, then strangers shouldn’t be gamifying the death of the people that they cared about.
While I’ve never once held it against a game, I don’t love escape rooms that center their story around violence against children.
The same goes for sex-themed games. I’ve heard tale of a now-closed game where players were basically told that losing teams are sexually assaulted by the mysterious serial killer character who had abducted them. I’m just going to assume that the stupidity of this is obvious and not bother to parse out why this is classless, dumb, and cruel.
What We Flag
We do our best to help people understand what kind of narrative and experience they are getting into.
We don’t normally do this in the form of a content warning (unless something gets extreme or unusual). We typically handle this in the story description and let the reader decide if the murder dungeon, hijacked airplane, or a demonically possessed church is the kind of adventure that they want to undertake.
Escape Rooms Can Handle Sex
I think that sex is dramatically under explored in escape rooms. I am certain that there are some cities that could comfortably produce sex-themed games.
“Sex sells” is literally a marketing cliché.
I’d strongly urge creators to:
- make sex-themed games private ticketed
- avoid sexual violence
- be creative, thoughtful, and playful with your narrative
- be upfront about the nature of the content and/or setting
- never mislead players in marketing or pre-game materials
- build these games in markets that will have an accepting audience
If everyone wants to be there, why not have a good time?