The Racket is a noir-themed cocktail party game that has delighted Bay Area crowds for the past 10 years. Far from the typical murder mystery party, this unique game makes each player the star of their own noir adventure, encouraging them to lie, cheat, steal, and make a killing in the process.
Co-founders Rebecca Power and Justin Hinojoza, who met while studying at UC Berkeley, created the game in response to their shared desire to create a better party.
“Both Justin and I had been to a lot of college parties and had the same conversations like ‘where are you from?’ ‘what’s your major?‘ and as we became adults it became, ‘where do you work?’,” Power shared. “All of those conversations seemed to be saying – what do I have to offer you, what do you have to offer me, and can we make something interesting happen?”
As a result, the duo wrote and developed The Racket, a party where everyone has something to offer one another and spontaneous collaborations occur constantly. At the end of every game, you’ve not only introduced yourself to every single guest but you’ve probably done something interesting and memorable together. It’s a game about crime that also happens to be excellent at team building.
Playing the Game
Each player receives a dossier containing a profession they might find in a crime film and then teams up with or turn the tables on one another as they compete to be the person with the most money by the end of the party. The premise is simple enough, but the game brings out something special and unexpected in players. Guests strike up conversations and work together in a way that feels both fun and surprisingly meaningful.
The game itself is a thrilling 75 minutes of strategy, collaboration, surprises, and ample opportunities for murder. By “murder” we mean that the dearly departed has to fork over some cash and spend three minutes in the “morgue,” which is conveniently located next to a well-stocked bar.
Fortune favors the bold and it behooves each player to meet as many other guests as possible in order to figure out how they can benefit each other. So, despite the fact that your co-worker just put a mob hit on you, it doesn’t hurt to ask for their vote for your mayoral campaign.
“My favorite part of the game is after I finished the introduction when the music has started and I have faded into the background and I get to watch these really genuine, vulnerable, dynamic moments that people are sharing together,” mentioned Power. “Just being in rooms full of people who are laughing, playing together, and having a great time.”
The game itself is only half of the experience. After the winner is announced and the guests start to mingle and compare notes, you start to realize that each player had a completely unique experience. Since each player is the star of their own story, it’s impossible to keep track of what everyone else is doing during the fast-paced game. Groups have been known to spend days or even weeks comparing strategies and putting the pieces together, according to Power.
It’s all a Hoax
Power and Hinojoza are also the co-founders of Hoax, an interactive design studio that specializes in immersive experiences. Their tagline “subversion as a service” says it all, and they follow in a long tradition of Bay Area artists who challenge assumptions, norms, and the status quo.
One notable illustration of this is their edible NDA kit, “an edible confidentiality agreement that protects all information exchanged for 30 minutes after ingestion,” according to their website. It’s a fun party trick and part of their portfolio of wildly imaginative projects.
A Decade on the Run
While there are always more games in the works, the next big step for Hoax is to find a regular venue or permanent home for The Racket. After a decade of mobile events, they’re looking to partner with a venue or potentially find their own space, something that would allow them to offer more games to the general public.
Until then they specialize in private events for corporate teams but it’s also perfect for a spirited group of friends. So far they’ve hosted over 300 events and have worked with clients ranging from Fitbit to Facebook and even Kaiser Permanente.