Adam Parrish
Adam Simon
Jeff A Sable
Ruth Sergel

The Invention of Murder

A mystery game based on the real-life unsolved murder of Mary Rogers, played in the streets of lower Manhattan at the actual historical locations of the events surrounding the crime.

Big Games,Redial: Interactive Telephony

The Invention of Murder is based on the death of Mary Rogers in 1841, which was one of the first widely reported murders in the popular press, helping to shape crime reporting for over a century. The game is the offspring of Clue and alternate reality games, with a touch of The Amazing Race: players visit locations, search for clues, and trade info with each other in a race to solve the crime.

The year is 1841, and players are working as cub reporters for the New York Herald, racing to be the first to uncover the truth behind the crime of the century - the murder of Mary Rogers, the beautiful cigar girl whose body had been found floating in the Hudson days before. As they visit the places Mary might have been on the day of her death, they call in to the news desk to check their suspicions against the mounting evidence, and search for other players to determine which of the possible murder weapons have been found.

The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Murder by Daniel Stashower was our main source of information & inspiration.

User Scenario
Players gather at the fountain in City Hall Park. Each player is given a booklet which details the story of Mary Rogers, lists the cast of characters, provides a map of the critical locations and a check list for suspect/location/weapon. Each team also receives an envelope w a single weapon enclosed.
The editor of the NY Herald (top hat included) gives a brief description of the murder & tasks the cub reporters w solving the crime. Teams go to the locations listed in the book. At each location they must search for the sign of the rose which has a number printed on it. Calling into the homebase they will press a number for their location. They will be told the significance of the location in the Mary Rogers murder. Then they will be asked who they suspect. In response they will be given one piece of information (either the suspect has an alibi or the location is not the scene of the crime). In addition, if the players run into another team they must exchange weapons.
The first team to determine the correct suspect, location & weapon wins the key to the city.

The backend of the game is an Asterisk dialplan which interfaces with several PHP scripts and a MySQL database containing the possible locations, suspects, and weapons. Players call in and enter a code, found on a sticker hidden at the specified addresses, which gives them information about what was at that location in 1841, and then make a guess as to who might have killed Mary. In return, if their suspicions are wrong, they get information on one of the two categories. To find the murder weapon, they must find other players and trade the physical objects they were given at the beginning of the game, trying to discover which one is missing. When a team thinks they have the answer, they call in an accusation - if they're right, the game is over and everyone returns to the park for a debriefing; if they're wrong, they're fired from their beat for the Herald and are out of the game.

In our 3 play tests one of the most enjoyable aspects was wandering through old New York in lower Manhattan. We want to play the game once more but this time at night to add to the mystery & sense of time travel.