London puzzle hunt theatre: “a door in a wall”

"a door in a wall" logoThe process of learning about new projects is exciting: a passing mention of something unfamiliar in a Tweet here or there, which leads to something unknown to explore. Sometimes you turn up something very exciting that you never knew about. Maybe it’s an exit game, maybe it’s a contest, maybe it’s something like this.

Since 2008, event company a door in a wall have been organising treasure hunts and other interactive games, mostly in London. Sometimes they’ve run for a single night, sometimes they’ve been season-long engagements so that people could attend the performance of their choice. I very much enjoyed this photo essay by Alexa Loy of their “Sheikhs on a Plane” game in 2012; it’s clear that some of the clues involve code-breaking or are otherwise explicitly puzzle-y, making them likely to be of interest to readers. Interviews with principal Tom Williams (The Londonist in 2011 and Little London Observationist in 2012) lead me to like the way he thinks.

However, it’s clear that puzzles are only part of the hunt experience; even in Larry Hosken’s notes from Ian Tullis’s recent “Advice for a Puzzle Snob” talk at the 2014 Game Control Summit, “Talk around the water cooler next week will be about a gadget or a location; not about your puzzle“. The reviews for a door in a wall‘s work indicate that their actors, scenarios, locations and interactions are well worth the money. The fact that the same game is being run many times means that many more fixed costs can be amortised per player. (Arguably, it de-emphasises competition, too.)

Coming up in May and June is their new murder mystery game, The Diplomatic Corpse. “In the ever-volatile country of Paudaguay, you’re never too far from danger […] the Paudaguayan ambassador, Emilio Ninkash, has been murdered within his own embassy. […] In this time of peril, will you answer your consulate’s call to investigate the crime, restore tranquility to our diplomatic community, and bring the killer to justice?” The game will run every evening from 2nd May to 15th June, with additional afternoon dates on some days. It’s a game for teams of ideally 3-6, each team with one video smartphone and a willingness to explore central London. Teams can be formed in advance or on the day and up to fifty tickets are sold per show.

Tickets are now on sale. The standard price for a 4½-hour experience is £30 per player, plus booking fees, though there are still a couple of tickets available at £20 per player for the preview show and Twenty Something London have a code for 20% off on the first three Tuesdays.

It’s tempting to consider a door in a wall to be akin to a British Ravenchase, Shinteki or Mastermind Hunts (etc.) with their mix of public and corporate games. Resemblances can also be drawn to the Walking Shadow Company‘s “theatrical game with puzzles” tradition; their Saboteur game is wonderful to read about and I hope their Cabal game makes it to the stage some day soon.