1. it is possible there is love. let us pretend there is. but not in this game.
2. you still need love. or money. or something else. you need.
your character wants something. they are driven by it.
they might admit it to themselves.
they might not.
you will play with one other person.
their character also wants something.
you have it.
you want love, to be loved. you work hard and make money.
they want money. they can fake love.
you want to be good. you can provide a house, stability.
they want safety. they can fake that you’re a good person.
you never, ever, ever say out loud what you want. you never, ever, ever say out loud what you provide.
neither do they.
1. you meet. you talk about whatever, do whatever.
underneath it all, the animals inside you sense that the other can provide what you want.
keep on talking about whatever.
2. you are apart.
you have found someone who can provide.
3. you meet again, and again.
let’s see some short scenes. montage. just sentences, vignettes.
4. now what?
how long do you keep it up?
let’s see some more scenes.
5. did you say it out loud?
did you mention it?
what happens now?
6. can you live with each other, and with yourself?
this might be a happy ending.
or a redemption.
or splitting up.
fun! will you fall into the same pattern?
will you break free?
who the hell are you, really?
So you thought the Strawmen weren’t real?
That they were fictional beings? Collections of opinions that nobody actually held? Of plans that nobody had actually laid?
You were so naïve.
They do exist. They meet in secret places to lay their sinister plans. To discuss YOU. To find out how to control YOU. To make YOU think and act the way THEY want.
Let’s take a look and find out what they’re up to.
A conversational role playing game for 1-∞ players.
Characters: The player’s play themselves, so there’s no particular character set-up process.
Small talk is a game of conversation for its own sake. It’s a collaborative game. The reward is opening for deeper conversations, affirming relationships and avoiding silence.
It’s good practice to play the game with new acquaintances.
The game can last as short as a casual greeting or as long as it takes to get your hair cut at the hairdresser’s. Or the length of a taxi ride, as the case may be.
* Greet the other players in a friendly way.
* Try to keep the conversation upbeat and positive.
* Casual compliments are ok, but keep it superficial. Don’t get creepy.
* Try out some casual eye contact now and then, but don’t stare.
* Respect the other player’s personal space.
* Be polite and respectful.
* Find common ground. Be politely inquiring about the other player’s interests, and see if you can find some topic of conversation that will interest you both. Or that you can endure listening to.
* Ask open-ended follow-up questions starting with words like «how…» and «what…». Or make relevant statements.
* Share some stuff about yourself and your day, but don’t over-share. Don’t get into symptoms, diseases, sensitive subjects and extreme negativity.
* It’s ok to bitch and complain as long as you don’t do it about sensitive topics. The weather is a very good topic of conversation.
* Notice your surroundings. You can riff off of them for further conversational topics.
* Avoid sensitive subjects like religion, politics and sex. You can also drop death, divorce and diseases. You know what I mean.
* Humor is good. Just remember the taboo topics.
You can even play the game without anyone knowing you’re playing a game.
To round of, here’s a quotation from Keith Johnstone’s “Impro – Improvisation and the Theatre”, which you may or may not find relevant:
“Many people will maintain that we don’t play status transactions with our friends, and yet every movement, every inflection of the voice implies a status. My answer is that acquaintances become friends when they agree to play status games together.”
These are two games with the same title. (Which I got from Jackson Tegu!)
1. First, the easy game. This is a short game for 4 players, which will take 5-15 minutes depending on your mood.
Two players will be the Commuters. They will be silent for the entire duration of the game. They will communicate with eye contact and facial expressions. As the game progresses, they may choose to become more physical, possibly touching.
Two players will be the Human Dream. They will do the talking, describing the inner life and soul of the Commuters – possibly a form of shared subconscious or dream. Sometimes, they will briefly announce stops and portray other passengers.
The game ends when one of the Commuters gets off at a stop.
The game goes like this:
– The Commuters sit facing each other on chairs. They both look down. Perhaps they have phones they’re playing with or papers they’re reading.
– At some point, their roaming eyes meet and lock. This signals the beginning of the game.
– One of the Human Dreams starts talking. They describe some image or thought that arises from the Commuters. Do NOT specify which Commuter; this might come from any of them, or both of them together. – The other Human Dream continues. This goes back and forth.
– Meanwhile, the Commuters can, if they choose, do little physical things. Put down phones, or scratch, or smile, or make facial expressions. Sometimes there are stops:
– After a while, one of the Human Dreams can announce a STOP. This means the train or bus or whatever stops and lets new passengers on. Say the name of the stop, and talk in that loud abrasive loudspeaker voice that all commuters know.
– The other Human Dream very briefly portrays one or more other passengers, saying a few words or lines that commuters might say when getting on the bus/train.
– At this point, any of the Commuters may choose to end the game by getting up and leaving. If not, the game continues, with the Human Dreams talking.
2. Then, the hard game. This is very simple, but also hugely challenging, and there’s no saying what it will lead to.
When commuting, try to find someone friendly-looking to sit next to.
Think back on your childhood, on what you used to do when you were on the bus or train.
Then start a conversation with this line: “I remember when I was a kid and rode the (bus/train), I used to…”
See what happens.
I’ve got a virus, and spring is coming, so here goes the head.
The title of this game is because I tried writing something atmospheric, but it ended up being pretentious and clichéd, which would prevent people from understanding what the game was about.
The idea is simple. Do this:
– Go outside with two friends. Be sure to dress right for the climate; you need to be comfortable.
– At some point, one of you will guide one of the others in an encounter with the supernatural.
– Then go to a new place. A new person will be the guide; the previous guide will have an encounter.
Okay. So what’s an encounter?
An encounter means that you get into a headspace where you, for a while, believe in something that isn’t there. You imagine a forest creature, for instance. You talk to it. You feel its presence. As you touch the bark on the tree, you feel how it manifests itself.
At the same time, it lives inside you, because everything we see is made from something we carry within us. We’re part of a big channel of energies and modes of being, and here, you allow the expression of one of them through your imagination and interaction.
Your guide will mostly ask you questions, and encourage you to see and open up.
What’s the supernatural?
This will be some form of natural spirit or force, for instance: a water nymph, a stone spirit, Crow or Coyote, a huldre, etc.
Any more tips?
Play slow, and take it as it comes. Don’t expect anything huge or mind-blowing. You’re just letting some stuff out, some stuff in, breathing. Let the mood guide you.
This is a game for two players.
One of you is an inhabitant of planet A. You are a person of note. You have some sway, some local power.
The other one is an explorer from The Somewhere. You are all fucked, because you’ve lost contact with your home planet.
The game runs in three phases.
1. Introductory scenes. We get one scene each from each of the characters.
Inhabitant: Show us how your day is all wrong. The other player plays all the things that try to help you – random events, nice people, your own plans. You somehow mess things up. This is before you even know of the explorer.
Explorer: Show us how you are competent and manage in the face of adversity. The other player tries to make things really hard for you, physically – your ship has trouble, your body is imperfect.
2. The meeting.
Inhabitant and Explorer: You meet. This phase is played out through subjective sentences. One of you describes the meeting subjectively in a sentence, then the other, and then back and forth. Play it out until one of the characters is naked.
3. Years later
Play out quick scenes, 1-2 minutes each max. Each of them shows either something that has happened after the meeting, or something you remember from earlier. Each scene, roll two dice. If the result is 10 or more, one of you dies after the next scene.
The survivor is at the grave of the dead character. Describe what he/she does. There is no dialogue or monologue. The dead character does nothing at all. Play until the survivor leaves. Who does he/she meet?
You all know about role-playing poems, right? They’re tiny games made to be played in about 15 minutes, often to explore a specific concept, emotion or atmosphere. They’re an excellent vehicle for experimental design – and for design that helps players experiment.
At Solmukohta 2012, I ran a small series of identity poems. These games don’t use fictional characters; they use you, the player. Your history, your identity – these are the playing grounds.
I’ll give a short description of them here. For several of the games, this is the first time I even write down the rules.
3 of me
Based on a previous design, this game is about how we construct the narratives of our own identity; we tell ourselves the stories of our lives, as if we had only one such story and only one identity that was always present or destined to emerge.
Each player gets a challenge from another player, for example: “Tell us how you’ve always been such a weirdo!”, “Tell us how you lost contact with your true self”, “Tell us how you were always a success at what you did”. The player then selects three real events from their life that support this identity, and narrates them. Play passes on to the next player. Ideally played in small groups, so each player can get several challenges; for a group of 3, set aside 20-30 minutes.
About living with labels. You play yourself, exactly as you are. Somehow, you’ve acquired a label – a psychiatric diagnosis. Another player decides on a diagnosis, and sets a scene for play (for example “In the grocery store”, “At the library” etc). A third player plays out the expectations you feel, be it from yourself or the world around you; they follow you around and whisper in your ear. “Hey, you know autists would have a lot of trouble with this disorderly behavior!” “Paranoiacs would certainly see significance in that the number 23 came up again right now.”
This game was very uncomfortable and frustrating – which is great, it only lasts 15 minutes and is made to illustrate a point. When playing, I got really angry at my label, and having to fight it the whole time.
A mellow, strong and potentially fruitful game. Pick two players to play out real people in your life – family, friends, colleagues. Play out a realistic scene, perhaps instructing them as you go along – “my dad would say this and this”, “my girlfriend tends to be more so and so”.
Then, play out two more scenes – 10 and 20 years in the future. The same people are in it; however, you or the group may decide to remove one of them.
After you’re done with your life, it’s someone else’s turn.
This is not a short game, as it turned out. Set aside at least one hour, probably two. Also, it might be interesting to play more than just three scenes, and to discuss between each scene what had happened or could happen. The game wasn’t strong as in “emotionally wrenching”, but more in the sense of “makes you stop and look inside yourself and think for a while”.
Play out a scene from your past – a fight with your mom, the first time you met your boyfriend, whatever. Instruct other players to be the other people present. Then, replay it, and let the other players give you traits, attitudes, tell you what to do. See what happens.
We didn’t get to play this, too little time. It might be intense, I don’t know!
This is a previous design, not tried out before. I wasn’t present while people played, and didn’t get to talk to them afterwards, so I have no idea how it went!
«How can the flux of ions and electrical currents in little specks of jelly the neurons in my brain generate the whole subjective world of sensations like red, warmth, cold or pain? By what magic is matter transmuted into the invisible fabric of feelings and sensations?»
– Ramachandran, Blakeslee & Sacks: «Phantoms in the Brain»
“Qualia” is about
(Thanks to Ole Peder Giæver for inspiration!)