How to Use 'Escape the Room' games

An Escape the Room game is a type of adventure game that lends itself well to the language classroom because they are very difficult to complete without help. The objective of such games is to (surprise! surprise!) escape from a room (or a series of rooms), and this is usually done by completing a number of puzzles.

ADAPTING THE GAME FOR CLASSROOM USE

Best exploited in a computer room, with the learners playing in pairs, Escape the Room games usually present a wealth of opportunity to the teacher for live listening practice (link to pdf). One of the advantage of this is that you can adapt the level of difficulty to your class.

Twenty minutes is usually enough time for this type of activity. To prepare for it, you should have chosen a game (an example is below) and its walkthrough. A walkthrough, as the name suggests is a step-by-step solution to the game. You can usually find a walkthrough to any popular Escape the Room game by searching on ‘the name of the game‘ + walkthrough.

We suggest choosing a game /walkthrough that has vocabulary which is relevant to the needs and level of your learners. Remember too, you can simplify / adapt the walkthrough to suit your learners (either by adapting your language when you tell them what to do or by rewriting the walkthrough previously).

Once the learners have played for a few minutes, because of the difficulty of the game, you can start to tell them the solutions to the puzzles. They will listen to you because they want to progress in the game.

You can also take adavantage of a situation when a learner completes one of the puzzles and ask them to stop and tell the others what they did. This way, all of the learners will be at the same stage in the game.

Continue playing until you finish the game or (more likely) you run out of time. A good follow-up activity is to give the learners the walkthrough and tell them they can finish the game at home – they won’t think of it as homework, but they will be getting reading practice while they use the instructions to finish the game.

Now, let’s look at an example Escape the Room game and its walkthrough, ready for use in class. You can find more examples of games to use (with links to walkthrough) on Kyle’s wiki.

AN EXAMPLE: ROOM FAKE

Room Fake is a popular ‘Escape from the Room‘ puzzle game that is perfect for use with language learners as it is almost impossible to do without the walkthrough, which I have added below.

COMPLETE WALKTHROUGH:

  1. Click on the dresser, click underneath it, and get the battery.
  2. Back out, turn right, get the number 4 tile and the wadded paper out of the garbage can.
  3. Examine and uncrumple the wad of paper.
  4. Back up so you’re looking AT the can, click on it to lift it, and click it again near the base to find the color for the letter O.
  5. On the desk, near the left side of the plant, will be a green 3 cylinder. Get that.
  6. Click on the bed, turn back the blanket, and get the number 6 tile from the edge of the blanket. At the bottom of the bed is a red 3 cylinder, get that as well.
  7. Back out, turn right again. Between the bed and the cabinet on the floor is the number 7 tile.
  8. The top drawer of the green cabinet has a clue but nothing to get. The middle drawer has a safe that we don’t have the combination for yet. The bottom is locked. Open the cabinet at the top and get the battery from the right side of the second shelf, and the scrap of paper from the top shelf. That should tell you the color of the letter C.
  9. Turn right again, open the curtains. On the curtain rod will be a blue 3 cylinder.
  10. Next to the curtains is a diagram for the magic sqare. Click the bottom corner: Taped to the back is a scrap of paper that has the safe code (196 – it’s shown upside down).
  11. Go back to the green cabinet – put the combination in the safe, and get the number 7 tile and the screwdriver. Examine the screwdriver and pull the cord to extend the bit.
  12. Turn right, click the wall plate, and use the screwdriver to remove the cover. Take the screws.
  13. Turn right again, and look at the SIDE of the small wooden dresser. Unscrew the screws (and take them!), return to the front, and open the stuck bottom drawer. Take the battery charger and the red 3 cylinder.
  14. Examine the battery charger and put the batteries in it, then go back to the left to the outlet. Plug the charger in, click away, click back, and take the charger and charged batteries. (That was fast!)
  15. Turn right again, click on the little dog statue, and put the batteries in the holders. Press the button on the front to turn its head and get the number 9 tile.
  16. On the desk is a magic square puzzle – put the tiles in so the grid becomes:
    8 3 4
    1 5 9
    6 7 2
    and press the button. This will give you the color of the K.
  17. When you back up, the picture will have fallen. If you turn left, two circles of light on the side of the dresser will give you a time, and the controls behind the painting are to set the clock. Set the short hand to 5 and the long hand to 6 (30 minutes).
  18. When you turn left again, there is a small box extended under the clock. Click it and get the silver key and the blue 2 cylinder.
  19. The silver key opens the bottom drawer of the green dresser. Open it and get the pink tissue and the small red sword.
  20. On top of the small wooden dresser is a vase – knock it over and use the pink tissue to absorb it. Turn left, open the curtains, and clean the window off with the tissue. This will show you the color of the L (on the right), and a secret about the door (on the left).
  21. Return to the dog statue, put the red sword in its neck slot (as marked) to get a red 1 cylinder. Pull the string left over to get the gold key.
  22. Turn to the door, click on the bottom left corner to zoom in, and again to take off the panel. Plug the door into the wall outlet. Get the blue 3 cylinder.
  23. The gold key opens the safe behind the paper to the right of the window. Open it, and get the doorknob, and the green 2 cylinder.
  24. Click the door, use the doorknob on it, and the screws to secure it. Pressing it will open a panel with the word “LOCK” above it.
  25. THE COLORS CHANGE, but the puzzle works like this: Any two colored cylinders of the same value will blend (blue and red become purple, red and green become yellow, blue and green become teal). If you kept note of the colors each letter should be there will only be one combination of the cylinders that will fit and make the right colors for each letter. Place the cylinders so the colors are right, and OPEN SESAME!
    Now you can exit through the cabinet, OR, find the REAL exit…
  26. Clicking the bottom right of the green cabinet should show you the side – get the hammer out from behind the drawer.
  27. Turn around, break open the vase to reveal the color of the letter A.
  28. To your right, the magic square on the desk can be clicked and turned over – that reveals the color of the backwards K.
  29. The back of the cover from the electrical panel will give you the color of the letter E.
  30. Believe it or not, with this, you have enough information to re-solve the puzzle for “FAKE”. Go back to the door, and solve the puzzle again. FAKE will turn to TRUE, and there will be one gold cylinder now – a token with a dog on it. Take that.
  31. Return to the dog statue, detach the head, put the dog token in the neck slot, and reattach the head. He will open the TRUE exit for you.

The end!

* Note: The walkthrough (above) is the original – I have not adapted it.

Do you know of any other Escape the Room games that would be good to use with learners? Have you had experience of using them? Please let us know by adding a comment. And if you use these ideas with a class, why not come back and tell us how it went? Have fun!

Posted on September 5, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Brilliant. And thanks for the new blog!

    Sean

  2. Thanks for your kind words, Sean

  3. Thank you for always sharing your knowledge. Now ESL teachers will be able to teach and play at the same time.
    Congratulations on this wonderful blog 🙂
    Jennifer

  4. Thanks Jennifer – your encouragement is much appreciated!

  5. Me and my college roommate used to challenge each other with this sort of puzzle game, trying to get the fastest first run time.

    I had never thought of using them for language learning, though. I think it would be better for the student participants to collaborate on the solution (in the target language) rather than read the solution. However, your idea saves teacher time by taking pre-existing content and re-purposing it for learning.

    With a quick search I found the following “escape-” game where the solution involves a science experiment (somewhat). http://www.escapetheroomgames.net/play-11710-biologylabescape.html

    I think it would be even better if we had a game platform that required collaborative communication to effectively solve problems.

  6. That’s a good idea too, Chris – if you have more time, then this is definitely worth doing. The idea of providing the walkthrough as a reading or a listening activity introduces language in a more structured way, for times when you’d want to do that.

    Thanks for the link and the ideas – definitely worth exploring in more detail – perhaps in your blog? If so, I’ll look out for the post.

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