Starting this month, Bandai Namco is lowering its age restriction for its VR Zone Arcade in Shinjuku to 7 years old on many of its VR games. The information was released late last month in a press blurb on Bandai Namco’s website (Japanese). Before the change, all activities using a VR headset were restricted to 13 years or older.
A total of 9 games are available for kids 7+, including Evangelion VR, Dragon Ball VR, and even the room-scale Ghost in the Shell: Arise Stealth Hounds PvP shooter. Children between 7 and 13 require a guardian’s permission to play. Sorry tweens, Mario Kart VR is still for 13 and up.
HTC hasn’t taken a concrete stance on age limitations for using its Vive headset, which is featured exclusively for Bandai Namco’s VR games and experiences in both its Shinjuku-based VR Zone and its many smaller-scale VR Zone ‘Portals’. HTC has merely stated in its safety and regulatory guide that the Vive “was not designed to be used by children,” and that if older children are permitted to use the headset, an adult should monitor them closely for any negative effects during and after use.
Speaking to HTC China President Alvin Wang Graylin at World Mobile Congress last week, Road to VR was told that the common age restrictions seen on other VR headsets aren’t actually based on recent studies, and that the only major factor at play for children as young as 7 is the actual size of the headset and its interpupillary distance (IPD). Simply put, children’s heads are too small, and their eyes are too close together to accommodate current headsets, Graylin says.
Sony has appended a 12+ age restriction for PlayStation VR. Oculus has included similar warnings, as their guidelines for both Rift and Gear VR is set at 13+, although Oculus ex-CEO Brendan Iribe admitted back in 2015 that Oculus adopted Facebook’s the 13+ age requirement when they were acquired. Reaching back even further, we’ve seen early drafts of Oculus guidelines from the DK1 days (pre-Facebook) mentioning a 7+ age restriction.
Bandai Namco says in its guidelines (Japanese) that kids should take a break for 10 to 15 minutes per use, and that VR games should stop if uncomfortable symptoms occur such as eyestrain fatigue, dizziness, loss of equilibrium , nausea, or other motion sickness-type symptoms—basically the same thing you’ll tell anyone playing VR for their first time.