Londoners you work too hard! Monday to Friday slaving away in your office, giving all your energy to the man and how does your city reward you? With cheap cinema tickets on a Monday and a side of stale popcorn. Well I don’t know about you, but I would love something a little more thrilling to do after work and I’m not talking another tedious trivia night. We want more, we deserve some ridiculous, let your hair down kinda fun and the guy who’s got our back is Ben Tucker, immersive game creator and owner of Handmade Mysteries.
Ben is the genius entrepreneur behind the riveting games night called ‘Lady Chastity’s Reserve’. Described as ‘Crystal Maze on Crystal Meth’ it will have you and your team mates shrieking, panicking and just straight pissing yourselves with laughter. The concept for this electrifyingly immersive experience is based on the story of Lady Chastity. You and your team will need to stay calm, break codes, solve riddles and find hidden clues all in hopes of winning Lady Chastity’s legendary wine. I met with Ben and had a chat about Lady Chastity, his creative journey and what we can expect next from Handmade Mysteries.
So Ben, what did you do before you started your company Handmade Mysteries?
I did a few things but mostly advertising. In this notebook I have my old illustrated CV and I’ve done it all like a comic book. So I used to do drawings, played a lot of video games, did art and design and advertising at university. Then I joined an advertising agency, started a music production company, played more computer games and made viral video content. Now all of this is relevant to what goes on in there (inside Lady Chastity’s).
When did you decide you wanted to start your own brand?
So all this was leading to something but I didn’t know what. I reached this stage after I’d been working in Amsterdam, I came back to London and wasn’t enjoying the advertising world and wasn’t enjoying London so I knew I had to do something else. I had this game idea after visiting Thailand and going to this thing called an Escape Room. These people told me about it but what they told me was better than what I did. In my head it was going to be like being in a computer game, you’re moving parts around the room and things are happening as you do it. But when I went to the escape room I thought this could be so much better, I wanted to make what I saw in my head, using the sound element and the immersion side of things like Punch Drunk or Secret Cinema (other immersive theatre experiences). I wanted to use proper actors and create a little world that is completely different to the world you were in before.
When did Handmade Mysteries officially begin?
It was November 2014. So Lady Chastity, the game is in its fourteenth iteration. The levels have changed and we have a very silly part of the game now where she helps you but you have to do something for her first. There are lots of tasks for the players and we get them completely out of their comfort zone.
How was it, leaving all you knew in advertising and going into the unknown?
For me to leave advertising and move away from my kids to Brighton to start this adventure it was really quite scary and daunting. As many entrepreneurs do, I began to get very nervous and unsure. I mean it wasn’t like I was opening a donut shop, where if people asked “what do you do?”, I could just say simply “I sell donuts”. But with this I can’t explain to people what I do or what I want to do until I’ve done it. Now it’s up and running and happening! But I still can’t give too much away because the whole idea for the game is that it’s a secret.
So the description I read online for your immersive games night, Lady Chastity’s Reserve, is that it’s like ‘Crystal Maze On Crystal Meth’. Would you say that’s an accurate description?
Crystal Maze is something I think every British person can recognise, I wrote that line because I used to write adverts so that was my way of summing it up and enticing people. Not into crystal meth… I mean the experience.
Is the experience meant to be scary?
There are three types of fear, according to Stephen King. There is gore, there is fright-like-shock, and he says the worst of all, is the anticipation, and that’s what we’ve got. We have intense anticipation. There are moments of shock but we play on it. It’s dark and eerie and we give it an eighteen listing because you’re playing for a bottle of wine. The main character, Lady Chastity is a bit saucy too.
Where has Lady Chastity’s Reserve been played so far?
The first one we set up was in Clapham Junction and the second was in Brighton, third one here (Victoria Park’s People’s Tavern) and now we have opened a second in Clapham Junction (about two months ago), so now there are four.
Can you explain what the aim of the game is or is it a secret?
What you’re trying to do is find Lady Chastity’s aphrodisiac wine and this is a legendary wine. Lady Chastity’s vineyard was a notorious party venue which mysteriously burnt down. As you go through the story, you find out why and how to get the last remaining bottle of wine.
What three words would you use to describe your game, Lady Chastity’s Reserve?
Oh, Um… So it’s unlike anything else so you could say unique, silly and challenging.
I had envisioned it like a trivia night, were you’re in a room with lots of other people but that’s not the case is it? You go in alone with your own small group to solve the challenge right?
That’s right yeah. The game is up for 6 players. So for how ever many you book for you go in with that group alone. It’s fun, and really immersive. I went to the Star wars secret cinema and it was great, however I did find it a little bit pushy as in they say “we want you to do this”. So in our room you can just do what you want but there is a mission, there is a quest and how you go about solving it is up to you and your team.
How do you feel being responsible for creating such a exciting and unconventional game?
The reason I’m doing this, the core reason behind it is that I’m trying to offset what I did in advertising. Adverts aren’t really fun, they are intrusive and get in the way. There’s a lot of fuss over them and they don’t really amount to much. So I’m trying to offset that by providing something really fun for people, to make them squeal and laugh and have them come out buzzing. That’s what Handmade Mysteries is all about, our mantra is to provide fun for people who work hard. London is the perfect place for that, people here need an outlet for fun because there is a lot of pressure to work hard and be successful. Silliness, fun and games in between can make it all worthwhile. I’m a fan of computer games but I think we do all stare at screen’s far too much now. My mum used to say don’t sit too close to the telly or you’ll get square eyes and I don’t know what’s happened to that because now we are all sat at these screens all day long.
What’s in the future for Handmade Mysteries, are there more games coming?
Lady Chastity is our only game so far as we have concentrated our efforts on that one and just tried to get it right. We are currently designing two brand new games. Last month I was busy making a five minute challenge which will be hired out for venues and festivals. It’s happened recently at the Brighton festival and it’s called Plumbottom’s Return. Plumbottom is Lady Chastity’s favourite lover which you’ll find out in the game, and he now has his own little challenge.
Written by Emma Grimmond