BreakoutEDU is an extraordinary hands-on education activity based on the popular "escape room" phenomenon sweeping the world! If you have never done an escape room, you are missing out! It is one of our favorite date night activities, and we have a blast spending an evening puzzle solving!
I don't want to get into details about what Breakout EDU is. If you're not familiar with it, you can visit this video or their website for more information. I would like to spend this blog post concentrating on how to build an original game. While I am a certified "puzzle nut" and love a good escape room, I found myself floundering a bit when I tried to create my first original game.
I knew our AVID classes were interested in running BreakoutEDU for their classes as a general team building activity. So I set to work trying to create an original game for them because I wanted to go through the process of creating a game. Once my kits arrive (ANY DAY NOW!!), I am excited to run a workshop for teachers where they can experiece a Breakout in action! I wanted to be able to give them tips as well to creating their own game.
So here's what I discovered along the way as I created my first original BreakoutEDU game. . . . .
The idea was that the students were being recruited by Sherlock to become part of his investigative team, but they must past one last test. . . . .get into this box! After I figured out that theme, it helped when I went to figure out what puzzles I wanted to use.
You can search either "BreakoutEDU" or "Room Escape Puzzles" to uncover all kinds of interesting ideas from codes to ciphers to using technology in a Breakout. So explore Pinterest and pin some puzzles that seem interesting to you.
Tip #3: Use a brainstorming tool like Popplet
When I started brainstorming, I use the tool Popplet to be able to put all my thoughts for the clue paths in one place. Take a look below at what my final Popplet looked like for this BreakoutEDU Game: Sherlocked. Click on the picture to get a larger look.
You can see that Popplet allowed me to color coordinate my clue paths to specific locks. While this is the finished version, I was definitely NOT what my Popplet looked like on a daily basis! This Popplet morphed everyday into something new. What's also great about using Popplet is that you can share it with another person. So you and a collaborator can work together on the same puzzle, which I highly recommend! My husband helped me on this one.
Tip #4: When brainstorming, throw all interesting ideas up there
As you start to brainstorm, just like our students, it may seem difficult where exactly to start with creating your own original game. Your first step should be to put up there which locks you would like to use. Beyond that. . . . .where do you start? Well, for me I started with just throwing interesting puzzles I found on Pinterest or elsewhere up on the board in a different color. I used grey as a color on this Popplet for ideas I thought I might want to use, but I wasn't sure where exactly they would connect. Take a look at a few of the picture of my Popplet in different stages of development below.
As you can see from these images, my puzzle changed A LOT from the first stages until the end. It all started with just throwing ideas up there and moving things around, eventually connecting puzzles. Quite a few of my ideas were thrown out by the end of the process, and that's okay. I'm proud of the final version!
Tip #5: Make a good combination of physical and online puzzles
In the end, my game ended up having a blend of about 50-50 using online materials and physical materials in front of them. It can be easy to use the multitude of online puzzles, but one of the powerful parts of BreakoutEDU is getting them to use their observational skills. What is right under their nose? If they just looked at something a little more critically, what will they see? While having them do an online jigsaw puzzle might be efficent, why not have them do a physical one?
Tip #6: Make one puzzle easy, make another more difficult
While it might be easy to get caught up in these looooooooooooong clue paths that eventually lead to that one code they need, make sure that at least one or two of your puzzles is quickly solved. It gives students the satisfaction of getting that first lock open! It makes them want to continue. On the opposite end of the spectrum, have an idea of what you might want to have be the last lock they open. Make those clue paths longer. If you look in my clue paths, it's obvious that the 5 letter word lock and the small lock box are the easy and immediate boxes they will be able to open. However, the paths of the 4 digit lock and the directional lock will take them a much longer time!
Tip #7: Beta Test!
Make sure to beta test any games you do on a group of students or coworkers before you start running an original game with an entire class. I plan to beta test my game out on my assistant and IT guy once my boxes arrive. I have all the materials prepped and ready, and they are jazzed about being my guinea pigs! Beta testing your game will help you see if your clue paths are too long, if it's too difficult, if they end of going down the wrong path. . . .and you can get feedback on how to make your game stronger.
However, going to Room Escapes helped to prepare me for making clue paths. I even borrowed an idea from a room I've conquered for my Sherlock room escape. That test tube and liquid idea? Not mine. Totally a Room Escape steal. . . . .
Tip #9: Look at example games. . . .then alter them
The first BreakoutEDU that I worked on was a reworking of the Back to the Future game. I originally pulled the game thinking I could just use it as-is. However, as I examined it a bit futher, I began to come up with my own ideas that could work within the game. In the end, a couple of the clue paths were left untouched, but I managed to create at least one totally original clue path within the game. It was a nice stepping stone to creating my own original game.
Tip #10: Collaborate!
Two heads are better than one, right? This is especially true when it comes to building clue paths! Make sure to have a collaborator when creating your game. My husband was great about letting me bounce ideas off of him, and he helped me to declutter some clue paths.
All in all, I'm sure I will add to this list as time goes on, but I'm excited to try my first original game! I'll make sure to update you all as I beta test it and eventually run it with students!
Jennifer Zimny has been a teacher librarian at Ponderosa High School for the past three years and previous to that, she was the drama teacher for 9 years. She holds a BA in Theatre from CSUS, a teaching credential in English, and a teaching credential in Library Media Services from Azusa Pacific University
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