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Creating a virtual escape room

First page in Jessica’s creative Escape Room Challenge.

In the beginning of February, Team Care Force collaborated on a service event with the City Year HQ Development Team. We showcased four kinds of virtual service projects for potential corporate partners to share with their companies in order for us all to continue to serve during the pandemic.

To prepare for this event, Care Force members were separated into teams to present different service options that we have done during past virtual events. I was part of a team with a completely new service project for Care Force: virtual escape rooms. Virtual escape rooms are online activities that children and adults use to solve puzzles, break codes and unlock rooms. The virtual escape room idea intrigued me because it would be a completely new service concept for Care Force. The idea was that volunteers would work together to come up with sets of challenges that could be woven together with a story to create the completed virtual escape room. By adding the escape room project to our virtual service repertoire, Care Force can engage volunteers across the globe in a zero-touch, completely virtual event.

To get started, Care Force sent a poll to our partner school, John Welsh Elementary School in Philadelphia. The fourth and fifth grade students directly voted for the escape room themes that interested them most. Some of the most popular themes were art, music, animals and the online game Among Us. Next, I needed to familiarize myself with escape rooms. I used a few resources to find different escape rooms and I played through them. Initially, I felt overwhelmed. The creators put so much thought and effort into their stories, and the challenges of their rooms seemed to flow seamlessly together. Through my research, I learned that half the fun of an escape room is playing all the way through the story, so to get in the mindset of presenting the materials to volunteers, I needed to make an escape room myself.

I used online websites and resources to create a foundation of understanding to build upon. We decided to utilize Google Forms to create our escape rooms because the platform was easy to edit and it would be simple to send the school, so I started my practice there. Once getting in the right headspace, it was fun to add challenges to the escape room that fit with the theme I chose. I decided to theme my room around one of the most famous art museums, The Louvre, in Paris. While creating challenges, I had fun learning more about The Louvre and some of the art that makes the museum so special. I dedicated more than an hour and a half to researching, brainstorming and creating my escape room that first day, and it was nowhere near complete. I learned that escape rooms need a lot of fine tuning in order function properly. It was fun to create, but I had to make sure that it was user-friendly and had all the necessary steps to guide players through the story. This meant that many text edits were needed for the story to make sense, and various extra sections were added in case players picked wrong answers and needed a prompt to get to the right answer. I scrolled and scrolled through Google Images in order to find the perfect pictures to fit my theme. Fine tuning takes time and patience in order to prepare for players, but I had fun working out the kinks and creating something that other people would enjoy.

A question in Jessica’s Louvre escape room challenge.

For the event itself, my escape room partner Eric and I used The Louvre escape room I created as an example to help volunteers familiarize themselves with the layout, challenges, questions and format of escape rooms. I realized that it was necessary for Eric and I to have first-hand experience creating an escape room so that we could properly answer questions from volunteers and provide them an example. The volunteers were able to use the interests provided by students at John Welsh Elementary School to start working on a great escape room idea about zoo animals.

In the end, I was happy with my final product. I was proud to share what I made with the escape room team, Team Care Force and our event partners. I marveled how much creativity and thought I put into each challenge. I was interested in what I made, and I am glad to be donating it to a City Year partner school in Philadelphia where students will get to use our virtual escape rooms during their afterschool programs to learn more about topics they are interested in. I encourage everyone to test their online skills by making an escape room for themselves and to share it with others.

To get started making your own escape room, these are the resources that I used:

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