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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Murder is never rote with ‘Hunt a Killer’

Murder is hot right now. “My Favorite Murder” is one of the most popular podcasts in the country. The crime drama “Sherlock” remains a must-see on Netflix. The “murder hornet” has entered Washington state.

Ryan Hogan insists that he didn’t relocate from Baltimore to Seattle in 2016 when he launched the game “Hunt a Killer” due to Washington’s history with murderous sociopaths.

Ted Bundy, Gary Ridgway, Kenneth Bianchi and Robert Yates are some of the infamous serial killers who extinguished innocent lives in Washington.

“I can see where you’re going with that, but the reason we moved to Seattle was because of all the amazing talent in the state of Washington,” Hogan said from his Seattle home. “We discovered that there is a great deal of creative talent in Seattle and throughout Washington state. It’s worked out so well for the game to have a base in Washington.”

“Hunt a Killer” is an immersive murder mystery game in which participants examine an array of clues, sift through evidence and decode ciphers on the way to solving a crime.

Each investigation runs over a six-episode season throughout this subscription-based game. A suspect is eliminated every month. Once the killer is nabbed, players receive a brand new game.

The experiences are all fictional. The game is surprising and appeals to the true crime fan.

“People are interested in things they can’t explain,” Hogan said. “People have a hard time wrapping their brains about how someone can commit a heinous crime.”

Hogan and his partner, Derrick Smith, had to wrap their brains around how their concept would work. In 2016, they hosted a “Hunt a Killer” event at a campground in suburban Baltimore with actors portraying detectives, journalists and suspects. The event went off without a hitch but failed as a business venture. The tandem made $10,000 for a project they worked on for 10 months.

“It was a lot of work for us to make $5,000 each,” Hogan said. “We had to look at other business models. We knew that if we were going to continue with this that we had to make this into a game people could play at home, and we just had to figure out how to distribute the game globally.”

The game was launched via the internet the same year as the live event. It helped that the hosts of “My Favorite Murder,” Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, raved about the game in 2017.

“When they talked it up during the early days of their podcast, that was huge for us,” Hogan said. “It’s been about getting the word out. The numbers have increased for us every year.”

By the end of 2017, 25,000 had subscribed to the game. The numbers jumped to 60,000 in 2018, then 100,000 in 2019 and 115,000 as of May.

“The response has been tremendous,” Hogan said.

The quarantine hasn’t hurt “Hunt a Killer.”

“With what’s happening, we’ve been about keeping families entertained during the coronavirus,” Hogan said. “Our aim is to tell amazing stories through games and keep people entertained during this crisis.”

Hogan is pleased with the feedback “Hunt a Killer” has received. “It’s great when you hear the positive from the players,” Hogan said. “We always wanted to create something that’s a game that’s right next to Monopoly and Scrabble. We just want people to enjoy an immersive experience. As long as people are interested in what we do, we’ll keep creating.”

There are eight seasons for “Hunt a Killer” subscribers, starting with the entertaining and surprising “Awakening.”

“Starstruck,” which will be released in June, is the next whodunit. Players are assigned to resolve the mystery surrounding a boy band reunion. Just4Fun reunites, and during rehearsals, the band’s frontman perishes in a tragic stage accident. A fan is certain the singer was murdered, and she is willing to help players crack the case as they uncover sordid details in Just4Fun’s scandalous history.

The thriving cottage industry has a pair of spinoffs. There are three seasons of the paranormal series “Empty Faces” and two seasons of the sci-fi game “Earth Break.”

“Death at the Dive Bar” is the next game slated for the “Hunt a Killer” franchise. “Death at the Dive Bar,” which is slated for an October release, challenges players to investigate a murder at the dive bar and uncover the motives of each suspect through clues and puzzles.

“We just keep building on what we started,” Hogan said. “We’ve come a long way from where we began in Baltimore four years ago. We’ve taken off once we made it to Washington. Those who are playing our games are enjoying it, and we’re just going to keep them entertained.”

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