Real-life puzzle games booming in Japan
TOKYO - Real-life puzzle games are booming in Japan, prompting even big companies to let employees play so they can improve their communications and problem-solving capacities.
Some 100 men and women gathered in the basement of a building in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on a recent Friday evening for an escape game held by SCRAP Co., a Kyoto-based company creating real-life puzzle games.
The participants were divided into groups of six members or so each trapped in the basement room and had to solve puzzles in order to escape within a time limit from attacks by people playing werewolves. Players walked around to find clues scattered in the room and worked together to solve puzzles. About half could escape.
Taku Konoike, 29, who participated in the game together with company colleagues and superiors, said real-life puzzle games are useful for work as they "enable us to utilize special abilities we each have and reinforce our teamwork."
SCRAP currently has a total of five regular venues for games in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Fukuoka and holds large-scale events from time to time at theaters and theme parks including overseas.
Games are held in a variety of settings such as players acting as bank robbers or seeking to escape from a locked room.
Real-life, actual games are attractive because "players can become lead characters in a story anytime and anywhere," said Takao Kato, chief executive of SCRAP.
Namco Ltd. temporarily opened Nazo Tomo Cafe on a fashionable street in Daikanyama, Shibuya, this summer where customers worked to solve puzzles, each taking nearly 20 minutes. The cafe attracted attention as it also held a puzzle-solving event jointly with a dating agency to help men and women find marriage partners.
Reopened in November, the cafe will be in service until late January.
Namco also provides information on upcoming puzzle-solving events across the country through its "Nazo Tomo" website. People who visit regional cities to participate in games are increasing, said Yumi Arikawa, a Namco official.
Companies are starting to use puzzle games in programs to develop human resources as they help reveal participants' communications and crisis-management capacities.
Yahoo Japan Corp. has adopted SCRAP's puzzle-solving games in its entrepreneur training program.
Puzzle games are "effective in finding out the leadership quality of people such as energizing teams they belong to," said an official at Yahoo Japan's personnel department.
In the city of Akita, the local chamber of commerce and industry and other parties concerned held a puzzle-solving event in the summer last year to enliven local economic activity.
Participants in the game acted as detectives to solve puzzles by finding clues hidden in main shopping districts and sightseeing spots. During the event that lasted a month and a half, a total of around 4,000 people took part.
The game offered "good opportunities for people to visit local shops they are unfamiliar with," said a chamber official in charge.