Chinese escape reality with games

Live action role-playing holds lot of appeal for urban youngsters

By   |  Published: 15th Sep 2020  4:17 pm

Shanghai: A scream echoes from behind a black door, while inside a young woman cowers as she hides from an attacker. But Zeng Tian is not in real danger — this is an elaborate role-playing game.

The 26-year-old and her seven friends are spending their afternoon locked away in a basement in Shanghai taking part in murder mystery game “The Haunted Mansion”.

“Every time I join a new play and read the script, I get to live a new life,” says Zeng, who is unemployed, but hopes to work in the live action role-play (LARP) industry.

“I can spend his or her entire life within four hours and have a taste of their love and hatred,” added Zeng, sporting a frilly hooded cloak that is part European medieval, part Red Riding Hood.

The friends sometimes use their mobile phones to help them with clues, but they are mainly reading from scripts and debating who could be the killer on the loose.

Prices vary around the country, but in Shanghai players pay from about 300 to 800 yuan ($45-$120) each to take part.

The live action murder mystery market has captured the imagination of China’s urban youths.

The online shopping platform Meituan-Dianping estimated the industry was worth more than 10 billion yuan in 2019 — double the previous year’s figure.

There are no official figures for 2020, but as virus restrictions ease, young people are returning to these fantasy games, experts say.