Just over a year ago, my cousin Natalie emailed me and told me about a great new game “HintHunt”. She had played it and thought that I shouldn’t just play it, I should apply to work there. She was right, I loved the game and it was a pleasure to work for the company.
The idea (strange as it sounds) is to lock a team of 3 – 5 people in a room in Euston and give them an hour to escape. They have to search all around the room to find keys and clues to help them get out. My job was to sit outside to send in hints, which would appear on the screen. I could also watch the teams on CCTV, which was often quite entertaining!
For over a year HintHunt were the number one London attraction on Trip Advisor, which is no mean feat. They are still in the top three of the rankings, unfortunately a single review of 2 stars was all it took to knock them off the top spot!
Their popularity got me thinking, why not open more, similar games? I went away to develop a whole new game, which would become Agent November. I called on my woodworking skills that I haven’t needed since primary school to knock up a prototype device that would be the centrepiece of the game. I also researched the parks around Euston and found the perfect place to set the game. I decided to set the game outside as this reduces the complexity of setting up the game (in theory at least! As you’ll see, there are additional problems I hadn’t expected). I tested this game on several groups of friends, and to my delight they really enjoyed playing.
The basic story of my game is that an evil genius is trying to destroy London, and teams have one hour to stop him! Clues and items are hidden all around the park, which combine to defuse the nuclear device. I’ve had some great feedback from playtesters, which has helped me to add some really interesting features to the game.
With a workable game concept set up, I sent my business plan to HintHunt, to see if they would be interested in taking on my ideas. Sadly they said that they were tied up with franchising their existing game rooms and couldn’t take on any additional projects. At this point I had to make a call; abandon the project or keep going. On the one hand it had always been my plan to work with HintHunt, and losing them was a major blow. On the other hand, I had worked so hard on the project that I just couldn’t leave it there.
Since then I’ve continued to refine the game design and have got quite a bit of interest from the media. It seems that puzzle games are a real growth market in London, and I’ve been surprised how many there are. It makes me think that there may be the possibility to link similar games together into a network, where complementary businesses can recommend each other. After all, most of these games can only be played once, so it would make sense to pass on customers to each other.
I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the project, and had 26 backers, which was a great result. My friends and family have been brilliant at supporting me, with their time and money, and I’m looking forward to repaying their trust with a game or two of Agent November once it’s all ready. One of my first backers were Go Make It Happen, who I met about this time (May) last year. Back then I was still trying to set up my own business, working for myself as a tour guide. Although that plan hasn’t happened (yet!) going through the process did lay a lot of the foundations for this new project. The best part of that process was meeting GMIH, who agreed to pay for part of my Blue Badge training course if I passed the exam (which I didn’t!) however they are now helping me with Agent November.
I’ve also been speaking to Camden Council about getting permission to play the game in their park(s). It’s quite a challenge dealing with the bureaucracy, and will take a few weeks at least.
It’s frustrating not being able to move forwards with the game, as the final product may cost several hundreds or thousands of pounds and I don’t want to spend that before I am sure I can actually run the game! In the meantime I’m keeping busy; I’ve spoken to a few local pubs, who are keen on acting as a meeting point for players prior to my games, which will be a nice feature. I’m also working away on the website, making sure it looks sparkly and wonderful, and is set up and ready to take bookings when the game itself is ready.
I’m also planning a big launch party to set things off with a bang, so watch this space for more details on that…
In the meantime, Keep Calm and Trust November