Halloween is often filled with ghost stories, scary tales, murder, and mystery. What if we had a game for you based on a spine-tingling true crime? It would definitely add a shiver for Day 20 of our Halloween Game Reviews. Welcome to Melbourne, circa 1899, and the real-life crime behind Eastern Market Murder.
What is Eastern Market Murder?
This game is not like any other game I have reviewed this month. Eastern Market Murder is an Augmented Reality (AR) game you can play on your mobile device, either at home or at the actual locations in Melbourne, Australia. Save your pennies, people. The minute Australia opens its international borders, travel Down Under and play this game.
Eastern Market Murder is based on the real-life murder of Francis Richard Stevens, the wife of a fortune teller in the Eastern Markets of Melbourne. For those lucky enough to live in Melbourne, it is an app-based game that takes you on a guided tour of the actual crime sites involved in the historic murder case, covering around 1.6-miles with a gameplay of around 90-minutes. Since most of us can’t travel to Melbourne right now, there is also the option of playing from home and enjoying a whole new way to get your true-crime fix.
The story starts with a popular fortune teller, Madam Zinga Lee (Mrs Annie Stevens), attacked in her stall in 1899. While Mrs Stevens survived, her husband was not so fortunate–killed after confronting the attacker. Witnesses claim to have seen Emory Gordon Medor as the attacker–but Medor has an alibi and thus the case needs further consideration. Your role, as the player, is to investigate the crime scene and interrogate witnesses and persons of interest to determine Medor’s guilt or innocence.
Using AR to Solve the Case
Eastern Market Murder uses AR in a creative way to bring you right into the heart of this murder mystery. The game gives you a window to the past, using real-life locations to connect you to a real-life crime. For example, you can visit or see the building where Medor lived back in 1899. In real life, there is an outline of a window in the brickwork. Open the app and the building appears on your phone, with the window ready to reveal Medor’s secrets.
The skill in this is the use of your smartphone camera to layer 3D scenes and characters onto real-world settings. The app can then use geolocation technology to match your location with their 10 sites connected within the story itself. Think of it as Pokémon Go with a healthy dose of reality.
How ‘True’ is the True-Crime?
The Eastern Market Murder is a genuine bona fide case in Melbourne’s history. Francis Richard Stevens was a real person. So were Annie Stevens and Emory Gordon Medor. I know true crime is a big hit right now but at the same time, it should also attract an equal amount of respect for those who were involved. The developers have done exactly that, bringing an amazing amount of history and discovery to the game.
The developer, True Crime Games, is a married couple, Emma Ramsay and Andy Hong. The pair were initially inspired by the Melbourne-focused history podcast Dead & Buried. Working with the host, historian Carly Godden, the trio used documents from the Coroner’s inquest, letters used as evidence, and newspaper clippings to create the environment surrounding the story. The use of historic documents to guide the interactive script adds an extra layer of realism to this already chilling murder. Many of the characters and scenes are based on original photographs (though not to quite the same realism, and I’m really okay with that).
The level of detail and research in Eastern Market Murder has been nominated for a stack of awards, including Digital Storytelling with the Victorian Community History Awards, Best AR Game with IMGA, and Excellence in Narrative with Freeplay.
Do You Need to Be In Melbourne to Play?
Absolutely not. Of course, it is best to access the AR element while walking the streets of Melbourne. Side note: Melbourne has an amazing atmosphere for alleys, history, and just walking around. Eastern Market Murder was featured in the Indie Showcase at PAX Aust, which is usually hosted in Melbourne during October each year. Unfortunately, Melbourne is currently in Lockdown (thanksnothanks COVID) and PAX Aust was moved online. This is a HUGE shame because Eastern Market Murder would have been absolutely perfect to experience in Melbourne during PAX. *sigh*
I live in Sydney and I loved it. It is truly compelling. And fascinating. And solvable. I promise you, there is an ending. I have no idea how you will feel about it but I promise you there is an ending. You can play this on your own at home, or co-op with some family and friends.
I would love to see True Crime Games take off with other cities around the world. The Eastern Market Murder is the right level of notoriety to make the game work; famous enough to provide the resource material but not too famous as to spoil the game for the players. This game creates the ultimate historic arm-chair travel, with the added Halloween touch of true-crime mystery.
Score: 4.5 out of 5 fortune-telling teacups