So this rec is of the crime drama/murder mystery variety, and even though I’ve been thinking about sharing it for a while now, it’s the rare item that I questioned whether or not I should send out. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it—I had such a good time with the first one we picked that I ordered a second! But the world is very shitty, especially lately. The latest spree of shootings, murders, and hate crimes has me down in a different way than “usual”, so before I could jump right into this rec, I wanted to do a little more thinking about what exactly I was putting out there, and why I felt so conflicted.
The rec in question is called Unsolved Case Files. These “case files” are fictionalized cold murder cases, and each one comes with witness statements, photos of the crime scene and people of interest, maps and newspaper clippings, etc. It’s your job to use the documents to find the real killer because the fictionalized cops got it wrong the first time around. Shocker.
It’s basically a cross between a murder mystery and acting out the job of a series regular in whatever crime drama you used to binge watch before realizing that TV’s glorification of police is probably NOT GREAT. That is to say, it’s very immersive and stimulating and a Saturday night screen break for perhaps the first time in a year. You can do this solo or with up to eight people, though the sweet spot is probably between one and four. The files are super detailed and the cases are NOT easy to crack, but my brain appreciated having a complicated ball of yarn to unspool for a few hours (though it probably took my group of three more than a few each time around). I’ve done the Harmony Ashcroft and Jamie Banks cases, but there are a few others available too.
Fun activity aside though, at the heart of these files (and all the true crime shit that we seem to find completely engrossing) is a murder, which duh of course. But that doesn’t sit as easily with me as it once may have. I’ll try to keep the pontificating to a minimum, but I did feel conflicted about enjoying this. Maybe that’s the product of the past few years or so and looking at murder, violence against women and people of color, and policing in a different way. Maybe it’s part of growing out of a previous fascination with fictional violent crime (and at times enjoyment! I too used to binge SVU and Criminal Minds!), and instead finding more frustration about how relentlessly it continues (and who it seems to target) in the real world. (As a side note, those thoughts that do not make me feel better about re-entering regular life in public places.)
This isn’t to pass judgment on people who enjoy crime stuff—I too stumbled across this game and immediately thought it would be a fun at-home activity—but I couldn’t recommend it as an engrossing mystery for you to solve without talking about all of the way less fun, way more real stuff that we should at least be thinking about if we’re also going to enjoy digging into the details of a murder for a fun evening with friends. Call it some complicated shit I bought and liked.
Something slightly less complicated: If you have been reading the news—more specifically, the news about hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans—and do not feel good about it, there are things you can do to help. You can learn more about how to respond to Anti-Asian racism here, and you sign up for a training on how to respond and intervene safely when you witness harassment here (see you there on April 6th). And if you have a little cash to spare, the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and Red Canary Song could all use your donations.
Last time I sent this newsletter to you, you all sent back so many budgeting recommendations, and I promise I have not forgotten. I’ll share more about your responses next time. For now, stay safe out there. Love you.