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What is the age rating and/or recommendation for Dwarf Fortress? Could a 7 year old learn to play? 10 year old? 14 year old?
Is it suitable/safe for those ages?

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Do you want a rating based on difficulty or one like the ESRP (blood, violence, sex) etc? Or Both? –  C. Ross Jul 20 '10 at 23:11
    
The question body implies difficulty. –  Macha Jul 20 '10 at 23:23
    
@C. Ross @Macha both would be useful, though I had the former more in mind. They're similar enough. –  antony.trupe Jul 21 '10 at 0:16
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5 Answers

up vote 29 down vote accepted

As for difficulty I think an interested thirteen year old should be able to learn to play. Oftentimes it seems children are better at learning interfaces than we adults are. As far as content dwarf fortress contains the following.

  • Fantasy Creatures
  • Cannibalism (Elves)
  • Kidnapping (Goblins)
  • Torture and torment of captives
  • Brutal law enforcement
  • Violence
    • Blood spatter
    • Overly descriptive organ damage
    • Vomit caused by stomach damage
    • Protruding organs
    • Failed surgical procedures
    • Permanent mutilation from violence (lost eyes, hands, etc)
    • Violent death of children and infants
  • Madness and emotional torment
  • Corpses which need to be moved
    • Graves, mass and otherwise
  • Ghosts of the fallen haunting the living
  • The need to clean up vomit and blood
  • The ability to kill unicorns, and mermaids for their valuable body parts
    You can still kill good creatures, but their body parts values have been lowered to make the practice less attractive
  • Totems made from the dead
  • Alcohol and alcohol dependence
  • Monsters kidnapping people and turning them into monsters for procreation

Dwarf Fortress does not contain:

  • Drug references, aside from alcohol.
  • Mention of sex, nor sexual topics. Creature procreate, but the mechanism is not specified.

What tempers the excessive gore of the game is the fact that it is text based. Very gruesome things happen in game, but are not visualized, only described in prose. You would have to determine from that how appropriate it is for the child in question. I'm fairly sure the ESRB would rate it at least 13+.

It's also worth nothing that the community around Dwarf Fortress can be quite gruesome and disturbing, including the official forums.

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and also the need for the dwarves to constantly drink alcohol! –  Axarydax Oct 8 '10 at 8:16
    
@Axarydax I always forget about it, because it's all they drink. It's like Kool Aid for crying out loud. –  C. Ross Oct 8 '10 at 17:58
    
A++ would upvote again. –  badp Oct 8 '10 at 18:26
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Depends on the 7 year old, but some could definitely. Whether they'd care enough is a different matter, but that's down to personality, not age, for the most part. I learned Simcity quite well at that age :P A 14 year old definitely would be able to play it. As for the learning curve, I started playing the game lately, and it's learning curve isn't as hard as it's made out to be, once you have a good tutorial. After Action Reporter has a good tutorial.

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While children may be able to play it, they may not be ready for the random behaviors of Dwarf Fortress. "My friend died in combat leaving behind his possessions! I clearly need his shoes immediately." Your child will learn that mad elephants frequently destroy civilized cultures, elves will drive you mad, and often migrant workers bring you skills you don't need. Be prepared to explain to them why this is so.

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Sounds frighteningly like explaining real life, or worse yet, politics. –  C. Ross Jul 21 '10 at 16:23
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The game should be good for anyone around 12 years old, just as long as they understand that the game isn't done yet, and as such common sense will have to be suspended to workaround bugs in the game. They should also be okay with failing terribly the first few times, but still be willing to try again - because "Losing is Fun!"

A willingness to read the wiki is very important, as sometimes common sense must be suspended, or because you lack a minor in geology(can't remember what rock is good for what).

If you don't want to use the ASCII styled graphics (all text) I recommend the Mayday tileset.

On the topic of blood and gore, its not that visually gory (see Left 4 Dead) but you still get limbs lopped off by axes and goblins exploded into walls by hammers and such. Of course all the visuals you get are some bones strewn about and some red tiles. So nothing too bad.

In terms of what version you should use, the most stable one is listed as DF22 on the Mayday page I referred to earlier, the latest Mayday should also be listed higher up on the page.

I hope this is helpful, as I'd love to see more people getting into this amazing game!

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A number of reviews on the Internet mention it's steep learning curve. One review mentioned that it's "Safe for Ages: 13+" so I would go with that.

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