The killings have been planned out in advance. The money is legitimate.
Young people from all across China are coming to clubs to participate in a game known as “scripted homicide,” in which they take on the roles of various characters and spend hours investigating fictitious crimes.
According to one estimate, this macabre kind of entertainment will earn more than $2 billion in sales this year alone. Chinese government authorities have expressed some worry over the often gothic or gruesome nature of the videos, which have gained in popularity in recent years. It has also resulted in an increase in the number of teams, as well as increased competition for fresh and intriguing scripts, which players and owners agree has gotten, well, competitive.
“There’s a huge demand for great scripts that’s simply not being fulfilled,” said Zhang Yi, a 28-year-old Shanghai resident who has played more than 90 games in a little more than a year. “The script acts as the basic foundation for everything in this game.”
Jubensha (scripted murders) are a kind of role-playing game that requires participants to get together and talk about a fictitious murder or other crime. Players are given characters from a screenplay, one of whom is the killer, and they must work together to complete the mission. Then they participate in an intricate role-playing game in which they interrogate the host and each other until they are able to identify which of them was responsible for the crime.
A fictional martial arts school is transformed into a club in Beijing, where participants wear costumes and take on roles such as a peach fairy or a dragon, according to one example. Character histories, relationships, and possible plots are all included in the screenplay. The narrative unfolds as the players go around the table, speaking in character and stealing hooks from the script and the host, as the players travel around the table. In the end, they cast their votes to choose who they believe to be the killer. (In that specific game, the kung fu student was the one who trained on a hilltop.)
A well-executed, dramatic staged murder provides laughter, suspense, and, at the very least, tears. When Poker Zhang, who runs a scriptwriting company in the city of Chengdu, says that people will weep, he means it. “A lot of emotions are spilled by the players.”
Although the whodunits are made up, they offer a real-world alternative for young Chinese people who are spending an increasing amount of time in front of their computers and smartphones.
A large proportion of the country’s one billion internet users spend the majority of their time on their phones, causing concern among both the general public and government over excessive screen time. Because of the government’s worries about youngsters in particular, it has decided to limit the amount of time minors may spend playing video games.