You might think murder mysteries have been around for ages (Imagine Marie Antoinette and her court dressing in costumes and playing at palace intrigue), but as a game genre, it’s only been around since the 1930s (the same time period as our Hollywoodland Murder game). Take a trip with us through the history of the mystery, and then join in the fun with our virtual games!
You can’t have a murder mystery game without a murder mystery! Astonishingly, the first detective appeared in fiction before they existed in real life - Edgar Allen Poe created the role in his 1841 story The Murders in the Rue Morgue, a full year before the first detective force in London! From there, the world grew more and more fascinated with the idea of solving a mystery, leading to a brand new literary genre featuring Sherlock Holmes and, later, Agatha Christie’s famous investigators.
But we still didn’t have a way to put the thrilling drama of the murder mystery into a game. By the early 1900s, the parlor game Wink Murder grew popular, where a secretly chosen “murderer” would “kill” other party guests by winking at them, while the rest of the guests tried to correctly identify the killer. The game is still played today, and feels like a spiritual ancestor to the modern games Mafia and Werewolf. Wink Murder introduced the idea of catching a killer, but it still didn’t involve solving clues or gathering evidence, just careful observation.
That changed in 1937 with a game called Jury Box, which included six case files with stories, evidence photographs, and sealed envelopes marked “Correct Verdict”. One player was the District Attorney, presenting the cases and evidence to the “jury,” made up by the rest of the players. Each jury member then came up with a verdict for the cases; correct guesses earned points, with bonus points awarded if they correctly described how and why the crimes were committed. Unlike Wink Murder, Jury Box didn’t involve much interaction between players - in fact, jury members lost points if they spoke or made any noise while trying to solve the crimes!
A few years later, a new board game used classic murder mystery characters and settings to create a new kind of game that involved logic and deduction. In 1949, Clue introduced the now household names of Miss Scarlet, Mrs. White, and Colonel Mustard - or, in our loving send-up Murder...Without a Clue: Rouge LeDodo, Maid Blanca, and Colonel Grady Poupon! Interestingly, the creator of Clue (or Cluedo, as it’s known outside the US) said he based the idea off a childhood game: while their parents threw weekend parties, he and his friends would sneak up on each other in the hallways playing “Murder,” complete with dramatic, shrieking deaths!
It was only a matter of time (about 30 years or so) before someone took all these ideas and turned them into the classic murder mystery party game we know and love today. Murder mystery boxes sold in the 1980s included brief character descriptions and simple premises, which became more detailed as the games became more popular. Today, “murder mystery games” can refer to anything from DIY hosted dinner parties to public shows with hundreds of guests and a cast of actors, like our live shows at the Marriott in Anaheim.
We are proud to continue this long history of intriguing entertainment with our murder mystery shows! We firmly believe that the best murder mysteries are interactive, intriguing, and inclusive - equally fun for avid puzzle solvers and first-timers alike. And with 2020’s move to virtual entertainment, we are thrilled to offer a virtual version that keeps all the interactive fun of the live event, for shows of all sizes, from intimate to office-wide. Contact us to set up a private show and be a part of mystery history!