Who wants to play a game?
For this Creator Conversation, I talk to the creator of the murder mystery party game series, Moonlark Mysteries. Creator, Caleb McCoy, shares about what sets Moonlark Mysteries apart from other murder mysteries, how it’s played, and who killed Mr. Boddy.
Caleb, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an Oklahoma City native, the middle of five boys. Our parents forced us to turn off the TV and video games, which instigated my love for creative and interactive games. Now I’m a corporate attorney by day, married, and have a little two-month-old boy. We are finally getting some sleep, so I can also finally say he’s a real joy!
What is Moonlark Mysteries?
Moonlark Mysteries are mystery party packages anyone can purchase that has everything you need to host a mystery party in your own house, with your own friends. You and your friends will dress up and play a role as you enjoy a night of mystery and fun.
How did you end up creating Moonlark Mysteries?
Back in 2012, my girlfriend (now wife) and I hosted a traditional murder mystery party at my house, and the consensus among all of us afterwards was, in a word, “meh.” It was disappointing and, frankly, anti-climatic to get dressed up for a party where all you did was read, re-read, and re-re-read the same words from a card to everyone all night long.
I thought I could make a better party that focused less on scripts and infused more interactive fun. Four years later, after countless play tests, development, redevelopment, and a lot of help from family and friends (and even strangers), I’m proud to finally claim we’ve created the best mystery party available.
How does one play?
It’s pretty easy, especially now that we have a free app available on any iOS or Android device. If you’re a guest, you just download the app, dress your part, and show up. During the party, you’ll enjoy three rounds of progressively revealing character clues, scripts, and engaging party games that are all wrapped around the mystery of the night. It all builds to the grand finale with a surprising reveal and a lot of laughs.
What sets Moonlark apart from other murder mystery games?
A lot. Traditional murder mystery dinners rely solely on redundant re-readings from the same script to every guests at the party. Which, obviously, makes for a pretty lame party. Besides, the murders are all cliche and it really isn’t fun if you end up being the victim. Who wants to play the dead guy?
With Moonlark Mysteries, we created a new dynamic that allows your friends to actually enjoy the party. To do that, we took some elements of the childhood game of Mafia (or the more recent game Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow) to create 4 or more secret culprits, rather than just one murderer. The central mystery of the night revolves around trying to identify and oust the 4 secret culprits among your friends.
You’ll still have some character clues and scripts to reveal and envelop you into the mystery of the night, but the majority of the time is spent playing tried-and-true party games like charades and pictionary. The more successful rounds you complete, the more clues you’ll receive about the identity of the 4 secret culprits. With every failed round, you’re left wondering if the round failed because it was a difficult prompt, or because it was subtly sabotaged by one of the secret culprits.
In other words, you actually have a chance at solving the mystery based on real-life, real-time interactions with your friends, all the while laughing as you play games.
What kinds of themes do you have for people to play?
We created 9 packages that touch on all the major themes: speakeasy, fairy tale, casino, Halloween, pirate, post-apocalyptic, superhero, fantasy, and time travel. But we divided our themes into 3 categories to perfectly fit the expectations of your friends. The Basic themes are for those who want to just play some games with a light mystery. The Large Group themes divide your friends into 4 factions to compete for clues. And the Advanced themes (our most popular category and my favorite) are packed full of secret missions, code phrases, and a surprise twist no one at the party will see coming.
I wish I could say more about them but, you know, mystery is literally the name of the game!
Why should people play a Moonlark Mystery?
You should host a Moonlark Mystery if you want to have a fun party made for the 21st century. That’s not possible using the traditional murder mysteries that haven’t changed since the 1980’s. Like I said, using our free app makes it easier than ever because you won’t have to print, cut, seal, and label any character clues. Plus, playing party games will actually match the level of your friends’ excitement as the dress up and come to your party.
How many people were killed in the making of this game?
Ha! Maybe ironically, more people die in a Moonlark Mystery than the traditional murder mystery. The grand finale requires the guests to vote on who they think the secret culprits are and usually do some act to take them out, like making them drink poison, tying them up to be left behind as the bomb explodes, etc. So let’s just say many good men and women lost their lives to bring you Moonlark Mysteries.
Who killed Mr. Boddy?
Can I say attrition? I loved the movie, the game, and even the lesser known Clue: The Great Museum Caper board game. But the idea is over-used and over-stretched now. Saturday Night Live actually had a pretty funny skit with Jim Parsons that summarized how cliche, boring, and often confusing the traditional murder mystery can be. You should check it out.
What else do you want people to know about Moonlark Mysteries?
We have a free 10-minute mini-mystery you can download from our website to get a feel for our parties.
And how about pricing? Going to a murder mystery theatre often costs $100 or more per person. You can buy traditional murder mystery dinners online for around $50. Moonlark Mystery themes can be bought on my website for just $34.99, which amounts to roughly $2 per guest. Now, that price is for a digital pdf download, but with our free app there isn’t a need to print much. You can find out more about our products at www.moonlarkmysteries.com.