🕵🏼 January: Reinventing the Murder Mystery – #12ProjectsIn12Months

12 startups in 12 months

This year I want to build more stuff 💪

So, I’ve set myself the challenge of launching 12 startups in 12 months.

I’m not expecting any overnight successes, but I am hoping to build up some useful skills and have fun while I do it 🙂

Here’s what happened in month one…

January: Reinventing the murder mystery

TL;DR 🏃🏽‍♂️

We built a chat bot powered murder mystery experience in just a couple of weeks, then ran an awesome event for paying customers!

The idea 💡

One of my best friends writes awesome murder mystery stories. We discovered this a couple of years back at a university reunion, several of us huddled up in a cottage in the Welsh countryside. Jonny led us through the story, throwing in extra clues and mini-games, until we all eventually landed on our suspects. We each made our accusations, and then the winners were revealed.

I didn’t catch the murderer – but I had a blast.

What made the experience so fun was how well the story, characters and clues had been tailored to our group. In-jokes, funny stories and subtle personal references were peppered throughout. It worked really well. A custom, murder mystery game.

I’d always imagined murder mysteries to be a stuffy dinner party games for our parents’ generation. This was something different.

So we thought: could we turn this into a business; could we package this thing up and share it with other groups to enjoy as much as we did? We did a bit of research, and the answer was yes.

The game plan 🎯

Armed with the idea of creating a custom murder mystery game, we started thinking about how we could use technology to do it.

The two key parts we had to nail in our proof of concept phase were:

  1. Pre-game: gather information about the players to allow us to customise the game to each group and make it really memorable
  2. During the game: keep players engaged and support the host in driving the game forward, even if we weren’t there to host it

For the first part, we whipped up a quick Google Form with questions for the host. “Tell us a bit about yourself and the group you’re hosting and we’ll do the rest” was the gist of it. With the info we captured from our first host, Jonny got to work on the story line and characters ahead of the first event I had pencilled in with some school friends.

The second part was a bit trickier. During our game in Wales, everything was paper-based. Hand-written clues in envelopes, handed out at set points in the game. It worked well, but could it scale? Probably not. Equally though, we didn’t want to lose the personal touch. The solution had to be something simple, that anyone could pick up and run an event with – minimal effort. So we turned to technology – specifically, a chat bot.

The solution 📱

Using Flow XO, we created Gordon: a simple chat bot to interact with.

Players register with Gordon via Facebook Messenger a couple of weeks in advance, then once they arrive on the night, the host sends a text to Gordon to kick off the game. Players can then message Gordon from their phones to receive clues throughout the game.

At the end of the game, Gordon captures each player’s accusation and lets the host know who guessed correctly.

Super cool.

As well as supporting the host, the chat bot allows us to add to the experience with multimedia clues, audio recaps, and other (top secret!) features that go far beyond the old-school murder mystery… but would it work in practice? Would our customers actually enjoy playing what we’d created?

The result 🏆

On the evening of our first event, I was super nervous. I stayed up late the night before tinkering with the chat bot and I honestly didn’t know how it well it was going to work.

Luckily, with some last minute tweaks and a bit of manual intervention – this was just a proof of concept after all 😉 – the evening ran without a hitch!

It was super exciting to see everyone engaging with something we had built in a matter of days, and we got some great feedback – plenty of positives with some great suggestions on how we could improve.

I’m really proud of what we achieved. In a short space of time we were able to establish a presence online, find customers, write an engaging story, build (and repair) a chat bot, and… (*drum roll*) make a profit!

Most importantly though, we learned a lot.

As well as figuring out how to build a chat bot, connect webhooks and design conversations, I learned to let people play to their strengths and trust them to deliver.

Thinking back to that first event, our product wasn’t – and still isn’t – perfect. It does, however, have a lot of potential. As for the future? Well, it’s a few weeks until our next event, but with a backlog full of ideas to develop, we have plenty to get on with.

To everyone who has supported us so far – thank you!

To anyone who wants to host an event  – check us out on Instagram @SessionMysteries or our website.

Now taking bookings for March 2018 – contact us on Instagram or email us: hello (at) sessionmysteries.com


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