Free murder mystery games
By Steve Hatherley
I occasionally receive requests for free murder mystery games. (Certainly a lot of people search the Internet for "free murder mystery games".) Usually people are asking where they can download a murder mystery party game for free. Sometimes, people genuinely can't afford to pay for the games, or want to use them for charity - but even so I inevitably disappoint them.
This whole business of paying for the games isn't straight forward, however, so here's my take on the issue
First, the games on Great Murder Mystery Games aren't mine to give away. They belong to the publishers - I am merely the middleman and earn a modest amount of commission if you buy the games having first clicked through from this site.
So hassling me for a free game really doesn't work - and it's not something I recommend you try with the publishers either.
Second, I don't know anyone who has made themselves rich from writing and publishing murder mystery games. Instead, the publishers, authors and affiliates (like me) are making a modest living and by asking for a free copy of the game, you are denying someone part of their income.
Third, I believe that these games are already very reasonably priced. I think that you'd be hard pressed to find better value evening's entertainment than a murder mystery game. Take The Auction. It costs £30, but if you have 30 players, then that's £1 per person. As the auction typically provides an evening's worth of entertainment, that cost drops to 33p per person per hour. Not bad, eh?
(Note that I'm not including other costs such as food or costumes or venue. Those costs can be significantly more than the cost of the game itself, but even if you got the game for free, you'd still have these costs.)
There's another aspect to value which I think bears mentioning, and that's your investment. The games are there to be hosted and played - but they do require some time and preparation by the host. If you got the game for free, you haven't "invested" in it (you didn't make the up-front commitment to buy the game) and there's a chance that you won't care if you don't host the party at all - because you won't have lost anything. (And if you do host it, you're probably more likely to make a half-hearted effort. And I think I speak for all of the suppliers when I say that I'd rather your murder mystery party was a roaring success!)
So given that, do you still want a free game?
Yes? Well, there are a couple of ways to get one. Read on...
Write your own murder mystery game: You could write your own murder mystery game - and apart from your time (and some paper and ink), it will be completely free. However, I've never liked valuing my time for nothing - to me, my time is the most precious commodity I have. So let's say that I value my time at £5 per hour (that's a lot lower than I really value it at). And let's say that I want to write a Hollywood themed game for 20 people. If I spend more than 5 hours writing, then I would have been better off just buying Hollywood Lies.
If I value my time in the terms that I'd pay a mechanic or plumber, then I have less than an hour to write the game. And trust me, Hollywood Lies took a lot, lot longer to write than 20 hours - and you have the additional security that it's been tried and tested before it was released to the public.
£25 for Hollywood Lies suddenly seems very cheap to me!
Review copies: You might have a bit more luck getting a copy to review - or if you can generate some other kind of publicity. However, I know that if I was a publisher I'd want some evidence that you really were going to write a review, and you might want to refer to where you have written other reviews.
Playtesting: Some companies (Freeform Games, for example) are looking for external playtesters. The job of a playtester is to try out a game before it's published so that any kinks can be ironed out. Usually the games are pretty close to publication before going to playtest, and the significant problems should be sorted out. If you do playtest a game, you will need to provide feedback to the publishers - but there's usually a simple form to do that.
So if you're looking for a free game with no string attached, I'm sorry but you're out of luck. But don't despair, hopefully I've shown that the games here do offer astonishingly good value for money and you shouldn't begrudge the publishers trying to earn a living.