Breakout Games are all the rage and with good reason. This puzzle format encourages engagement by providing something for all of the Player Types.

  • Free Spirits are encouraged to explore the area and find unlockable content.
  • Achievers get some hard fun and challenges to overcome.
  • Players might get some points or rewards (candy?!) that are locked in the box.
  • Socializers benefit from the teamwork and/or competitive aspects.
  • Philanthropists are able to share out their knowledge with others, earn access, and (if there is a good narrative) derive a sense of Purpose from the challenge.
  • Disruptors will find liberation in the choice and voice anarchy of the innovative student centered nature of the breakout.

My first experiences with the format were with the physical breakout box games from (@breakoutedu). I enjoy puzzle games and quickly tried my hand at developing my own game with the same locks and boxes as in a typical breakout game. It was just as fun making the breakout as playing one. It was also more fun watching students figure out my hidden blacklight message and various red herrings than when they were trying out a stock game that I downloaded.

At the beginning of this school year digital breakout games emerged as a new twist on the format. I was excited about the format but was a bit overwhelmed when I attempted to create my own. The key (sorry about the pun) to digital breakouts is understanding the digital lock system.

Google Form Lock – EdTech PowerUp

Creating a digital lock begins with creating a Google Form. I like to label my forms with the Unit Name or Standard and in the following screencaps I am showing the opening salvo in my Standard 7 Cold War Digital Breakout. This is actually a mashup of my “Launch Codes – Badging” activity. As students accomplished tasks for this unit they received “launch codes” which were encrypted with a modified Masonic code. When broken, the Launch Codes will give a clue and the answer is the “key” to the digital lock I am showing here. Since this is my first real attempt with digital breakout creation, when unlocked the “submitted” message will lead to a pre-made Cuban Missile Crisis digital breakout with a 45 minuted timer.

Here are the steps to creating your very own Google Forms Digital Lock.

  1. Create a Google Form. Yes, its obvious but needs to be said.
  2. Hit the Plus (+) button to add a new question. It will likely default to a “Multiple Choice” type of question. You will want to change this to “Short Answer”


3. In the Question section write your clue. As an example I have written “Lock Clue”. This is one part you can get creative with.

4. Be sure to hit that little button on the bottom right to make this a “Required” question. The rest of this won’t work without doing so.


5. Click on the Three Vertical Dots near the Required button and it will pop up this menu. Then Click on “Response Validation”.


6. Once the Response Validation is selected the question will look like this.


7. Click on the drop down triangle next to “number” and several options emerge. The “key” can be a number, text, have a certain length or be a regular expression. So far I have only used text and that is what is demonstrated below. So, select “Text”.


8. Then if a specific word or phrase is required for the “key” select “contains”. This will require an exact match to “unlock” this question lock.


9. The word of phrase key should be written in the space third from the left with the light grey word “Text”. The question will only unlock with an EXACT match so be careful with capitalization and spelling. As an example this key is “lock combination”.


10. Place a clue or special message in the space furthest to the right marked “custom error text”. This example has “write hint here” but at times I will give an extra clue or remind them to capitalize or not capitalize the key.


11.  Once the hint is added the lock is set and either another digital lock can be added or the Google Form can be shared. The next picture is from the Google Form as the student would see it. The red star shows it is required and the key should be written in the “Your Answer” section.

10 preview

12. If the lock is started and then cleared a message will appear to remind the person filling out the form that the key is required.


13. Just a heads up – as the key is entered the hint or error message will automatically appear below the answer.


14. Once the key is correctly input the lock is automatically “opened”. This will be indicated by the light red box disappearing and the error message / hint going away. If there are multiple digital locks all of the locks must be opened before the “submit” button will take them to the next screen.


15. Once the submit button is accepted then the Confirmation message will appear. I like to use this to add to the challenge, tie into the theme, or both. For example, in this Launch Code puzzle breaking the locks leads to a bigger challenge! This is what my confirmation screen looks like.


16. To change the confirmation message go back to the Google Form creator and click on the settings button (looks like a gear shape in the upper right hand corner near the Send button. The message can be changed in the text box under the “Presentation” tab. Hit save and you have your new message.


17. Depending on what you want to do with the Google Form Lock there are a few other tools. Since this is a Google Form you can collect some data and pull it out into a Google Sheets. In the Google Form creator page you can click on the Response button and see the responses. Since these are all locks the responses will all be the same; however if you turn this into a Google Sheet by clicking on the little green button in the upper right hand corner you can get some interesting data.


18. Back on the Settings page in the Google Form creator you could have clicked on the “collect email” button. This would have let you automatically collect the email address of anyone that hit the submit button. Convenient if you want to send a return email address (maybe with a secret message?). It also creates a time stamp if you want to add a timer element to the game. In the questions setting you can also create a “Name” question which would make students add their name. Combine that with the time stamp and there is a layer of accountability. Here is what the Google Sheets looks like for my St 7 Launch Code puzzle with the example “Lock Clue” question.



In the end, this Classroom PowerUp will add a layer of novelty while also providing an easily embedded activity that touches on all of the major player type motives. When this is a tool combined with required content students have a more interactive and engaging way to learn that material!