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October 24, 2019

DIY Breakout Rooms

DIY Breakout Rooms

By: Julie Armstrong

So you are a lover of games. You and your family play board games, video games, mind games (no, not those!) How about breakout rooms? They seem to be all the rage right now and they are incredibly fun and challenging, but they can also be very expensive. It turns out that you can create your own though for a fraction of the cost. The downside-you, as the creator of the game, won’t be able to play the game. But just watching your friends and family play your breakout game can be very rewarding. Here are some steps to help you create a fun and original experience!

First, you will need the essentials: a box, a hasp and various locks. A toolbox from a dollar store works just fine for the box. The locks can be anything from a key lock to a 3 or 4 digit number or letter locks to a directional lock. You can even use old locked briefcases, fake books with locks or even locked diaries. I would start with at least four or five locks of various kinds.

Next, you need a theme. Think about what you or your children are currently interested in. Do you all have a favorite TV show? What about a video game that you can’t seem to pull your kids away from? Favorite books, movies, games or even a specific place or time in history all make for great themes for a breakout room.

Now you get to make up your story. Start with something like this…”It was a normal Monday morning until… (Insert something epic here) the zombies showed up!” Keep in mind that you will want to know what the goal of the game is at this point. Do you have to save the world from the horrible virus that is turning everyone into zombies? Make sure you think through your story so it makes sense. You’ll also want to know your audience. Will your game be for kids or grown-ups? Or a combination of both? You’ll want to ensure that the theme is appropriate for all players.

Next comes the fun part…the puzzles!! You’ll generally want to have 1-2 puzzles that go with each lock. There are so many puzzle choices to choose from, but I’ll highlight a few here:

  • You can use an actual jigsaw puzzle with a message written on it in invisible ink. You can then hide the black light elsewhere in the room. To make it extra tricky, you can remove the batteries from the blacklight and hide those around the room as well.
  • Using a locked diary, you can create fake entries with clues hidden in the text.
  • Cipher wheels are always popular, and writing a message backwards with a mirror hidden elsewhere in the room is a unique clue.
  • Hiding papers and keys in jacket pockets, taped under furniture or to the back of chairs are all tried and true strategies.
  • Web pages like Educatorstechnology.com and fakereceipts.com have free templates that will help you create your own fake newspapers and receipts with clues sprinkled throughout.
  • If the clue is a riddle written on a piece of paper, cut the paper into pieces and hide the pieces throughout the entire room.

The internet has a multitude of free ideas when it comes to puzzles. Be creative and sneaky with this part. You certainly don’t want to make it too easy!!!

Finally decorate your space and set the scene. Use your theme to reimagine an ordinary living space. Use posters on the walls and props on the shelves and tables that are centered on your theme. Using things that you already own or buying props from garage sales or Goodwill are great money savers as it can get expensive to reimagine a space. Put items around the room that would seem to fit naturally but then hide clues inside, under or taped to these props. Create clutter and lots of diversions. You want them to have to search for the hiding places.

And if they get through all the clues and open the locks before time is up, don’t forget to have an awesome themed “We Broke Out!” Sign for a photo opportunity.