You are at work and receive an email. It is asking you to save the date for a 1920’s themed celebration. The invite is in the art-deco style, not saying much, but hinting that there will be more revealed. And that there will be a good dinner. Beyond that, details are scarce. However, you know your boss, so you are expecting a unique party.
Then, a couple of days before the event, you get a letter from the Dean of Investigative Studies at Victoria College. The letter tells you need to complete some field work to pass your exams, and become a qualified Criminologist! It also gives the location and time of the exam. This ties it in with the previous invite. Intrigued, you read the enclosed Daily Colonist from 1926. There’s a story in it about a film maker being killed in his house in the same area as you letter pertains to. The game is afoot!
Obviously, you’re not an investigator, or enrolled at college, and it’s not 1926. Someone is creating a whole scene for you to play in, to explore and discover. So, you dress up, dig out your 20’s flapper dress, or top hat and tails, or the Indiana Jones revival costume. You want to play along. On arrival you’ll find the entirety of the Nourish Restaurant has been re-envisioned into a 1920’s household.
After you arrive, you discover each room has been beautifully dressed with floral arrangements and period furniture. There is a cast of suspects to interview. For instance, there is the cook in a side kitchen and a sketchy film maker in the lobby. Each has something to share, and may be each has something to hide as well. So you ask them some question. Furthermore, the English Butler seems to know something as well. He keeps handing out notes to people as the night goes on.
You get to wander the rooms, speak to witnesses and ask them whatever you want. You get to look for the murder weapons and share clues with fellow guests. Piecing together the murder takes a little bit of effort, but you are starting to see the picture emerge. And there is the chance to have a drink and eat tastefully crafted appetizers. You get to see the suspects interact: arguing or consoling each other over the loss of their mutual friend/family member. Careful observation reveals more about the complex nature of the household. Perhaps it might uncovers motives and alibis?
Finally, before the formal dinner, you are asked to make your educated guess on who the guilty party is. You need to help the local Police make an arrest, and pass your field test. You submit your paper, stating who did it, and with which weapon. Then, in a grand finale, the police come and make an arrest… but was it the right suspect? A postscript helps reveal (mostly) all. Then it’s time to dine over some great local food, and dissect the mystery with your fellow guests.
A fully immersive mystery takes a team to pull off. I was incredibly lucky to be asked to help Rock Paper Square to produce ‘A Murder in TechniColour’. Marika Beise staged the restaurant, Nourish created exceptional food and drink, and Paper Street Theatre provided six talented improvisational stars to play the suspects.
Enigmatic Events created the murder, using a mix of fact and fiction. In 1926, Victoria College, the forerunner to University of Victoria operated out of Craigdorrach Castle. Sadly, there wasn’t Criminology course, but Victoria Police Department in the mid-20’s was adopting a lot of new techniques. The murder was not a real case, but the Daily Colonist for the day in question was otherwise real. All the suspects had details drawn from Victorian residents in the 1920’s, taken from news articles and history books. Though they were also hugely inspired from another source which I’ll keep a surprise in case you come along and play the same mystery in the future.
Immersion creates engagement
We believe that creating a really immersive game requires some basis on reality. Using real events helps provide a truth to the game that creates interest in what is going on, and leads to a long-lasting memory. If you’re creating a unique party for your friends or your work team, the more stories they get from it, the more details they have to talk about, the longer they’ll be thinking about it. Which means you’ll be remembered for the great event.
“I just wanted to personally thank-you for all the incredible hard work you and the team of fabulous actors put in making the event an incredible success. The entire evening was truly a success and a very memorable event that I’m sure they’ll all be remembering for years to come. I just loved how it was all pulled together” – Stuart Bowness, VP Learning, Workday.com
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