Suitcase Mystery Origins Part III: The Next Generation

Table of Contents

This is the third part in our series of blog posts on the development of our Suitcase Mystery dispatch game, where you. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking on the links. 

Our original Suitcase Mystery is our signature program at Invite Japan, and has been played by teams that represent a wide variety of cultures, disciplines and every other measure of diversity found in today’s workplace. We have adapted custom-made editions of Suitcase Mystery for companies looking at creative ways to engage their new employees. We have created versions that end in mission statements, farewell messages, and other declarations of purpose. The individual puzzles in the game even make appearances in some of our other programs, like Puzzle Bazaar. The organizers that we have had the pleasure to work with over the years since Suitcase Mystery debuted continue to commend us for the how much their teams make stronger connections with each other as a result of the program 

Following up

Suitcase Mystery 2 is a fully-formed modern story full of travel, art, aspiration and celebration. Players take an active role to help the owner of the suitcase complete their final step in a long expedition. The game will end with your team putting all the pieces together to unlock the answers to the mysterious journey the suitcase is on.

There is little doubt that the practical logistics of our single suitcase format, which contains an hour’s worth of mysteries and puzzles, is highly attractive to our clients. We decided to stick with the suitcase design, but move the “setting” and materials into the present. We started with a typical modern suitcase that, unlike the previous version, would blend in with any number of similar bags found at an airport.

Game flow

The game starts off with a locked suitcase. Simple enough. There are very few clues or places to start except the luggage tag. There is not much information there… but just enough to get a sense of the path forward.

This is the first point of divergence in approach from the original version of Suitcase Mystery. Our games are often rare opportunities for teams to be fully present and free from distractions. We normally do not allow cell phones or electronic devices to be used with our games. 

This is usually an easy decision from a game content perspective, since many of our games take place in the past. If you are helping Samurai protect the castle, finding a path to ZEN enlightenment, or finding a missing bride from 100 years ago, it goes without saying that smartphones would take players out of the story, and possibly give a technological advantage over players not using these devices (not to mention that we don’t want players taking cell phone pictures of the many secrets in our games!) 

But for a modern story, we wanted to try something that includes a few “modern” surprises online. The narrative of the main character unfolds with a name and a password. The subsequent message reveals a dramatic mistake that threatens to end the hopes of the suitcase owner. But with the team’s help, success can still be achieved. 

The mystery continues with Suitcase Mystery 2.

On hint systems

Because we decided to open up to the advantages of using smart devices, we took things one step further with our hint system. In the world of escape games and team building, there is always a big decision to be made about how – and even if – to give hints. 

For the original version, our goal is usually to have all teams finish as close together as possible, in order for all the participants to come together for the last step. In order to do this, the facilitator for the event carefully monitors groups and gives hints to keep the pace similar for all groups. But no matter how hard we try, teams are competitive! Who finishes first is always a point of pride, even when the goal is for everyone to win together.

For our escape games, we used to let teams use hints at their own pace–by providing envelopes that could be opened at any time. This had the advantage of giving each team control over how they perform and the difficulty of their game. This kind of system became another interesting measure of a team’s priorities. Some teams were quite strong-willed, challenging themselves to solve every puzzle without hints.  Other teams had no reservations about opening all the hints right away!

Suitcase Mystery 2 uses a system whereby players can use their smartphones to send a chat message asking for a hint about the specific task they are working on at any time. Hints are designed to start out very vague and then gradually get more specific and detailed. By putting the ability to use hints in the hands of teams, the success or failure for each part of the game is subjective and open to analysis later.

Will teams need hints? Probably! Suitcase Mystery 2 has more challenges than ever before. We took advantage of the many nooks and crannies that our suitcase contains, giving players lots of reward for being nosy. Our puzzle content for this program is diverse. Players will have to use all parts of their brain while engaging with an ever more surprising set of props and curious objects relating to fashion, art, travel, even Japanese flower arrangement! There is something for everyone. 

Towards the future of teamwork  

At the time of launching Suitcase Mystery 2 in mid-2021, we are looking at a world where connecting to others is more important than ever. After a period of major disruption to office culture, companies are looking for clues on how to promote teamwork in the future. Connecting online is certainly one piece of the puzzle, but when it is time to get people together in person and build the foundations of trust and intimacy that are key to successful collaboration, a little extra magic can kickstart the process.

Suitcase Mystery 2 is the perfect program for teams looking to bridge the distances that have grown between us. For conference organizers, Suitcase Mystery 2 will be ideal either as an icebreaker at the beginning of the meeting, as an activity to shake up the mid-afternoon program, or as a celebratory ending to a project or full-day conference. For corporate managers, Suitcase Mystery 2 will be a welcome surprise for employees returning tentatively to an office setting and in need of a little warmth and joy. For human resource managers and trainers, Suitcase Mystery 2 gives new employees an opportunity to show their personality and interpersonal skills.

We can’t wait to see what your team can accomplish with Suitcase Mystery 2!

Suitcase Mystery 2 will be released at the end of July!

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

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