This is the first of many guest posts where we profile members of the Puzzle Break team. Creating world-class content requires some sharp folks, and they have great stories that I’m excited to share.
Of all the changes brought about by the pandemic, one of the most impactful for Puzzle Break was our pivot to virtual experiences. Moving to an entirely new modality entailed recruiting a team of designers who could help us realize our vision; we’re proud introduce you to the principal designer of our newest virtual escape experience, Andrea Chin! We sat down with Andrea to talk about the process of developing our newest escape experience, her personal journey to game design, and her influences and inspirations.
Prior to joining Puzzle Break Andrea had worked in several fields, but aside from some hobbyist interest in designing puzzles, game design was new ground for her. “I actually don’t have formal training in game design! I’ve been a pastry chef, I worked in HR and recruiting and it was actually while working in recruiting that I got a certificate in graphic design,” she tells us, laughing all the while, “I felt like I was losing my soul a little in recruiting, and I had always really wanted to do something more creative, but never felt like I had the means or the time, you know?”
So how did developing escape rooms become that creative endeavor? “My boyfriend Ben actually got me interested in board games and indie games. Through him I met some local game designers, and we’d playtest for them from time to time, and that sort of introduced me to that side of gaming. While I was in school for my certificate I made an escape room for Ben – just for fun as a birthday present for him,” she says, “Afterwards I just put it away and sort of forgot about it. I told people about it though, and because of that, one of my classmates I told referred me to this job opening at Puzzle Break. I didn’t really expect to get it – like, at all. These jobs are always so in-demand and quick to fill, you know? But when I got the interview I decided I would just do my absolute best to get this job, because it sounded so cool, and…well, here I am!”
While Andrea has been a part of our design team for more than a year now, and helped co-founder Dr. Lindsay Morse develop School for Spies, this new game is her first time as principal designer. We asked her how the process went, and how it compared to her previous work. “On School for Spies, Lindsay and I split the work 50-50. I helped generate a lot of story ideas for it, and we created the puzzles together,” she explained, “For this one, Lindsay just asked, ‘What do you want to do?’, and my first thought was, ‘I want to do everything’! I had way too many ideas at first, but I’m really happy with how it has turned out.”
Although we aren’t quite ready to tell you all about our newest experience (that news is coming sooner than you might think), we asked Andrea to talk to us about the general themes and style she decided to incorporate. “A lot of the game is about investigating a mystery while solving puzzles along the way. I really wanted to have the mystery-solving aspect, and identifying the culprit is always a big part of that – the best part of a mystery story, in my opinion! Also, a cast of colorful characters is an important part of a mystery story to me, so I wanted to make sure this game was filled with memorable characters for the players to interact with.”
As she refined and polished the story she wanted to tell, some interesting mechanics began to take shape as well. “Coming in there were some concepts I knew would work really well…people have to divide and conquer to find clues, they have to rely on teamwork and good communication. Our previous game, School for Spies, has a certain amount of adjustable difficulty, and I wanted to include that in this game too,” Andrea explained, “So depending on how well players do, they can actually get a cool bonus puzzle and a special ending where they get to chase down the culprit. I love Carmen Sandiego and the globe-hopping aspect of those games, so I wanted to capture some of that.”
Alongside Carmen Sandiego, Andrea credits several influences in her creative works. For game design, she gives much credit to game designer and friend Mike Selinker, creator of beloved games like Pirates of the Spanish Main and Betrayal at House on the Hill. “I really look up to Mike, he’s one of the people I playtest for, and it’s been an on-and-off thing for at least five years now. And of course, I’d be remiss not to mention some of my other creative influences on the art and graphic design side as well – Yusuke Nakamura, Yayoi Kusama, Naoko Takeuchi, Kasey Golden and Sanna Annukka, to name some in no particular order.”
Thanks for sitting down to talk to us, Andrea! We’re so thrilled to get to share a little more about the people who make our incredible virtual experiences, and we can’t wait for you to get to see Andrea’s work firsthand. Stay tuned for more stories about the brilliant team behind our games, and definitely keep an eye out for the official announcement of our newest virtual escape, coming soon.