The Joy of Murder (Mysteries)
By Jesse Mullins
My friends and I stood in haphazard bunches, staring at one another with a mix of intrigue and distrust. The source of our consternation? It was simple, there had been a murder.
Every month, our friends gather together to participate in cookoffs, scavengers hunts, and gameshows, a fun hobby we’ve shared for over a year now. However, no activity inspires as much zeal as our murder mysteries. When the time comes, we are all assigned a role, which includes character information, a timeline, and unique objectives. We then have a set period of time to complete our goals, which typically requires us to cajole and convince our fellow players to aid us.
Besides being a ton of fun, these activities are monumentally draining. They’re often stressful, especially for the hidden murderer. Yet time and time again we come back to our peculiar hobby for a reason many of you might relate to: getting the chance to step into someone else’s shoes.
When the games begin, we get to become someone else and revel in their fantastical history. I’m surrounded by a cast of characters plucked from familiar archetypes and comical imitations. Whether it’s a wealthy Victorian widower or an outlaw, a terrifying killer or a stalwart detective, we all get to see things from another perspective, and forget ourselves for a brief while. Within the pages of books or my murder mysteries, I can let go of the stresses of the day and focus on something new.
The marvel of these games is that during the few short hours in which they take place, every word and action seems magnified to the most extreme importance. Terrible betrayals and covert alliances are the stuff of epic drama! Frequently, hushed voices in corners are drowned out by a cacophony of arguments and in-fighting between our friends. Yet as soon as the curtains close, and the game is finished, we laugh and joke and compare strategies. We talk about the characters we liked, the fun choices people made, and whether the ending was satisfying.
It’s during the games that I am also reminded of how intensely creative people are. Often people dress the part, with elaborate outfits complete with props, makeup, and stylized hair. Others will endow their characters with such wonderful emotion and story that you can’t help but believe they’re absolutely real. Though the games themselves provide infrastructure, the participants provide the fun and entertainment.
I chose to talk about our fun tradition mostly to highlight the incredible importance of having a cathartic hobby. To me, it is incredibly critical to have something, anything at all, that allows me to forget the outside world entirely. When all too often I’m surrounded by the intense pressure of deadlines and high expectations, it can be relaxing to give myself fictionally high-stakes, only to shed them soon after. In a way, it helps put things in perspective, and reminds us that we should always take time like this to cut loose and have fun.
That being said, we certainly understand the importance of moderation. Our fun-loving mysteries aren’t an every-weekend sort of event. They take time to plan and run, and as I’ve said, they’re unbelievably draining. Besides, there’s only so long we can push off the impending threat of work and responsibility. But without fail, we always catch ourselves looking forward to next time we can throw off our own names, and add a new story to our ongoing anthology.