This was part of my thesis, in which we conducted user research with several families for inspiration in the concept phase of a video game for families to play together. We came up with tons of ideas based on the research, which was fantastic. We then narrowed the ideas down to a few which we would develop into prototypes, and this was one of them.
The game was inspired by one of our research families who was interested in Sherlock Holmes. This led us to brainstorming about detective, film noir and police themes for some game designs. I was also influenced by CLUE, one of the games we played in this phase of our thesis. In CLUE, the clues each player receives at the beginning of the game are completely divorced from any real “evidence” – how does a player simply “know” that the murder weapon wasn’t the pipe nor the rope, and the murder certainly didn’t take place in the study? And couldn’t anybody tell from examining the body that it was killed with a revolver as opposed to a knife?
Mechanically, CLUE is wonderfully simple, and it can be shuffled again and again into a new mystery. However, as a narrative, it doesn’t work. I wanted to make a mystery game that functions and is coherent as a narrative. This means clues would have to be highly specific and unique, and static in relation to other clues in the game. The Detective Game grew from this.
This is a collaborative game, in which the players must work together to solve the mystery of the stolen Emerald Necklace by the notorious antiques thief known as the Fox. Players take turns deciding which location they will go to and who they will talk to in the city. After obtaining clues, they can then take those clues to other characters in order to progress in the game. The clues are detailed and lead to a natural progression of “following leads”. Certain clues can also be combined to create a deduction. This involves the players discussing and possibly having to negotiate which clues they should try to combine.
As this game is a mystery to unravel, it is really only playable once – just as finishing a mystery novel means that you can never really read it again. At the same time, this game is meant to make the players feel that they are actually figuring out what happened and pursuing the Fox. Playtesting indicated that players did enjoy the mystery and going about solving it.