Feb 27 2010

Game Poem 6: Slower Than Light

Find three to five players. You will each be going on a long journey, traveling far away from the others. You will still be able to stay in contact with each other, although as you travel, the distances between you will become greater, and the time it takes the messages to travel between you will increase. But still, you will continue to write, to maintain the threads of connection.

First, agree what kind of journey you will each be embarking upon. Perhaps you will be blasting off into deep space in silver rocket ships, jetting further and further away from each other into the cosmos, or you might be exploring the oceans on old sailing ships, or trekking across undiscovered country with your caravans. Whatever your journey may be, you will be mostly isolated, individually, with the brief letters that you send to each other as the only contact with other people.

Now, each of you will need several small pieces of paper, or index cards, and a something to write with. You will keep the first one for yourself, to keep track of how far away your friends are. Write each of the other players’ names on the paper, one per line. This will be your message log.

Now, choose one to write a message to, and make a hash mark next to their name on your message log sheet. Take a new piece of paper and write them a short message, no longer than a sentence or two, taking maybe thirty seconds or so, but absolutely no longer than a minute. The message may be about anything – what you’ve done or discovered on your journey, a question about how they are doing, passing on greetings from another traveler, or anything else that springs to mind. When the message is written, fold the paper in half, and write “From (your name), To (their name)” on the outside. It might be nice to hold the folded paper up so that everyone can see that you are finished.

Once everyone has completed their letter, or the minute is up, hand the paper to the person it is addressed to. Each player will take a moment to quietly read their message to themselves – either silently, or out loud, in a soft voice, if they choose. Keep the message that you have received safely next to you. When everyone has read their message, it is time to write another.

Every message that you send after the first is likely to take longer than the last. Decide again who you will write your letter to. (Remember that you will only be writing a sentence or two, at most.) If you are once again writing to someone who you have not sent a message to yet, do the same thing as the first message – put a hash mark next to their name on your message log, write your message on a new piece of paper, fold it up, put your name and theirs on the outside, and once all the messages are done, hand it to them to read.

However, if you have already sent someone a message – you will know by the hash marks next to their name – it will take longer for them to receive it this time. Write the short missive as before, fold the paper, but when you write your name and theirs on the outside, draw an empty check box next to their name, one for each hash mark after their name on your message log sheet. Once you have done that, add another hash mark, and when it is time to pass the message on, hand it to someone else, anyone who is not the intended final recipient. They will hold on to it for the next round.

(This means that the first letter that you send to someone will arrive immediately, as the first one did, the second letter that you send will take an additional round of messaging to arrive, the third one will take an extra two rounds, and so on. One extra message round – one empty check box – for each letter that you’ve sent them previously.)

So, what do you do when you receive a letter in transit, one that is not addressed to you, which has empty check boxes next to the recipient’s name? When you first get the message, tick off one of the check boxes. Then go ahead and write your own letter to whoever you choose, and remember to mark them off in your log, and add the appropriate number of check boxes next to their name. Now, look at all the outgoing messages that you have in front of you, including the one you’re sending right now. If a message has no unchecked boxes on it – either this is the first message to that recipient, or all the boxes have been checked off – you may simply hand it to them, and they will read it immediately. If there are still unchecked boxes on the letter, however, you must continue passing it to someone who is not the noted recipient (maybe even the original sender), until it has traveled long and far enough to reach its final destination.

Continue writing and passing and reading messages in this manner for a dozen or more rounds – about fifteen or twenty minutes worth. When everyone agrees that they have written their last message, it is inevitable that there will be many undelivered letters floating around. Take a few rounds to pass the messages around, without writing new ones, checking off the boxes until the last letter reaches its destination. Do not read these messages now, however – take them with you, and read them later, when you are alone.

Feb 25 2010

Game Poem 5: Everything You Do Is Stupid

Gather your players and have one of them set a timer for fifteen minutes. After the timer has started, another player should tell them how stupid it was to use the kind of timer they used. If they used a kitchen timer, tell them to join the twenty-first century and get something digital. If they used their iPhone, tell them that they’re being trendy, and complain about how Apple has locked down the app store and how they won’t ever let people use flash on their phones. Whatever they did, it was stupid, and you should let them know. The player who set the timer should acknowledge verbally that what they did was stupid, and totally agree with the person who told them that it was stupid to set the timer that way.

After the stupidity of setting the timer that way was been accepted, you may begin the game in earnest. The person who told the person who set the timer how stupid it was to set the timer that way should begin recounting their boring day, starting as early as possible. As soon as anyone gets the urge to tell them that something they did was stupid – and that urge should come easily, since everything you do is stupid – they should tell them exactly why what they did was stupid, and how they could have done it better, or why they shouldn’t have bothered doing it at all. You don’t need to go into great detail, but a general dismissal of the method of doing something (say, oh, I don’t know, brushing your teeth, just off the top of my head) or a statement of the pointlessness of doing it in the first place.

“God, that’s so stupid. You don’t have an electric toothbrush? What are you, some kind of hippie?”

“Really, you don’t use organic toothpaste? How stupid. You must really hate the planet.”

“It’s stupid to brush your teeth every day. People survived for thousands of years without brushing their teeth!”

After someone points out something stupid that the person talks about doing – and really, it could be anything, because everything you do is stupid – that person should start talking about their own day, starting off from about the same point. If the last person talked about brushing their teeth (“You’re just making the hygiene product companies rich, you know.”), the person who berated them for their stupidity might start talking about taking a shower (“It’s stupid to get up extra early to shower – I just take a bath at night.”) or eating breakfast (“You brew your own coffee? That’s so stupid! Starbucks, dude.”) or driving to work (“You still drive when gas costs this much? Man, it’s stupid not to ride a bike everywhere now.”).

When telling someone that something they did is stupid – and remember, *everything* you do is stupid – you may be as serious, crazy, well-founded or extreme as you wish. The only rule is to pick out something that is stupid, tell them that it was stupid, tell them why, and then start talking about your own stupid day. Also, be sure to point out that the thing that they did was stupid and how, and not tell them that they themselves are stupid, no matter how offended you may be at the stupidity of their actions. This is about pointing out the shortcomings of each others’ actions, not pointing out how dumb you think your friends are as people.

After the fifteen minutes is up, and the timer goes off, you may finish the last judgement of stupidity if you need to, or just stop immediately where you are. After you’re done speaking, let a moment or two pass. When the time is right, someone will say, “Wow, that game was stupid.” Then go do something else.

Feb 17 2010

Game Poem 4: Behind Their Back

This game requires an even number of people – at least six, but no more than ten or so – a deck of regular playing cards, and someone to be the dealer and referee for the game. If there aren’t the enough people to choose a referee, have the most trustworthy person available act as the dealer for the game.

To set up the cards, go through the deck and pick matching pairs of unique numbers, one card for each player. (That is, do not pick the same number for two pairs, so that all four suited cards for that number are in play.) So, for example, for a group of eight players, the dealer might choose the cards: twos of hearts and diamonds, jacks of spades and hearts, threes of clubs and spades, and eights of hearts and spades. The dealer should choose the cards as randomly as possible, maybe by secretly dealing out a card, then going through the shuffled deck in order until they find a matching number, and repeating the process until all the cards are chosen. Or, if they’re feeling wicked, picking a set of cards that will ensure optimal mayhem. It is completely up to the dealer, but a random selection of card pairs should be totally fine. Regardless, the actual cards selected should be kept a secret from the rest of the players. Dealer, be a decent person and try not to commit the chosen cards to memory, as well as you can.

After the cards are selected (and the dealer has done their best to forget what they were, if possible), put the rest of the deck away, shuffle the selected cards and deal one to each player. Everyone now has a mate – the person who has the other card that matches their number – and at least two people will have one or more secret lovers – the person (or persons!) who match their card’s suit. Players should announce their number, find their mate, and join them. At no time should anyone show anybody else their card, not even their mate, or say what their card’s suit is.

(It should go without saying that “mates” and “secret lovers” are assigned and accepted without regard to gender. But I’m saying it, anyway.)

Each mated pair should privately decide on some casual physical signal of intimacy that they will use to show their devotion to each other. It may be silently mouthing a certain endearing word or words to the other person. It may be touching your fingers to the other’s arm, shoulder, neck, or ear. It may be making a specific funny face at each other. It could be a playful sock to the jaw, or a tweak of the nose. Whatever it is, spend a minute or so establishing the signal and making small talk with your mate. After everybody is settled in, the dealer will say, “mingle!”, and each person should find someone else to talk to – preferably, not their mate.

You may now be talking to your secret lover, or you may just be chatting with a pleasant stranger. You have no idea at this point. You must find a way to subtly indicate your suit through normal conversation, without being too obvious, or stating it outright. Maybe you talk about your jewelry, or golfing, or valentine’s day. Maybe you tend to alliterate the starting letter of your suit a bit more than you would normally. Whatever you do, you must make sure that nobody else could possibly overhear what you’re trying to tell (and find out) from your conversation partner. If you do happen to overhear someone else being crass and obvious about their suit, you are well within your right to pause in your chit-chat, tap them on the shoulder, and explain to them gently, but clearly, how embarrassed they should be about speaking of private matters so openly.

After a minute or so – maybe more, maybe less, according to the number of players – the dealer will again call out “mingle!”. Everyone must find a new partner to talk with. The dealer will continue to encourage the players to mingle, until everyone has had a chance to talk with everyone else at least once, and this may go on for fifteen minutes or so. When the dealer thinks that everyone has had their fun, they may say, “mates!”, at which point everyone should find their mate, and attempt to make their signal of intimacy once again.

Attempt? Oh, yes. In the course of mingling and attempting to allude to your true nature – the suit of your card – you may very well run into someone who shares your suit. This person is your secret lover, and you must try to express your covert relationship with them. If at all possible, when you find a secret lover, you should attempt to share your signal of intimacy with them, and if they recognize that you are doing that, they will try to share theirs with you, as well. If you happened to notice what the original couples were doing with each other in their initial conversations, you may be able to recognize this immediately. Once you’ve done this, attempt to discreetly establish a new, secret signal of intimacy with your lover. This should be something that will be recognizable across a room, but only to the two of you. Inevitably, you will be separated, but you may try to reconnect as many times as is feasible in the brief course of the game.

Public intimacy between secret lovers is not without its dangers, of course. While mingling, people should be aware of who their mates are talking to, and what they’re doing. If they see that your mate is sharing your private intimacy signals with someone else, it’s a good chance that they’re carrying on behind your back! Do not say anything. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe you should try to reconnect with them the next time mingling is called for. Are they going back to the same person? Are they acting funny with them now? Be cool. Wait until the dealer calls “mates!” – if they try to use your private signal with you now, after they’ve done it with someone else, you are well within your right to brush them away or glare at them, to let them know that you’re on to their shenanigans.

After allowing the couples to check in with each other, the dealer should ask for pairs of people to turn in their cards. If your partner has discovered your perfidy and brushed aside your intimacy, you’d probably be best off turning in with your secret lover, if possible. If you’ve been cuckolded, you probably don’t want to turn in your card with the person who’s been sneaking around behind your back. Maybe you’ve got a secret lover of your own – you may turn to them, and see if they’d like to turn in with you. Unless they haven’t been caught out by their mate, of course. Then it might be best to just exchange your secret signals, swallow your pride, and go with the one who brought you. You may not win as hard as the pairs that remained true to each other, but at least you won’t be turning in alone.

Feb 10 2010

Game Poem 3: Three Old Men

This game requires exactly three players. The three players will play the parts of three old men in a retirement community: Charles, Peter, and Michael. Each of these three men wish each the others dead. If there are more than three people who want to play, they may watch (as other residents of the retirement community), but may not intervene, and must remain silent for the duration of the game.

Beginning with the oldest player, each player chooses one of the old men to play. Charles is wealthy, and is willing to pay people to carry out his malicious intentions for him. Peter carries a heavy walking stick that he imagines that he will use to cave in the skulls of his enemies. Michael keeps a straight razor in his pocket, and he fantasizes about drawing it across the throats of the other two. In any life-or-death conflict, and only in a life-or-death conflict, Charles will win over Peter, Peter will win over Michael, and Michael will win over Charles.

Charles, Peter, and Michael have known each other since they were boys, and have shared much of their lives together. Now, every day, the three old men sit together and complain. They complain about their health, women, the weather, politics, the other people in the community, taxes, their children, people of other races or social classes, but especially, they complain about each other, and the wrongs that they perceive have been perpetrated upon themselves by the other two men.

The player who has chosen Charles begins by reminding one of the other two men of something that they did to annoy, slight, or injure him. This could be anything from borrowing money and not repaying it, to running down his daughter-in-law with an automobile, to taking the last good seat at lunch. It can be trivial or serious, but the complaint must be genuine, and bitterly felt. The accused man may choose to defend himself or not, but must very soon thereafter tell one of the other men why they have wronged him, in the same manner, and that man must lodge a complaint against one of the others again in turn, and so on. Each accusation leveled against one of the other players must be of increasing significance to the accuser – Charles spilling grape juice on Peter’s white pants may not be objectively worse than the fact that Michael slept with Peter’s first wife while he was away fighting Germans, but dammit, he liked those goddamn pants.

Two things may modify this circle of escalating indictments.

First, if anyone feels that their accuser has gone too far, struck them so deeply that they have no recourse but to finally make their stand, they may stand up and bellow, “God Dammit! That’s enough!” When a player makes their stand against their accuser, they initiate a life-or-death conflict, describing how they intend to at last end the life of the miserable bastard. The man who is being attacked then describes the outcome of this conflict, remembering the rules above: Michael will always kill Charles, Peter will always kill Michael, and Charles will always kill Peter.

After one of the men is dead, the remaining two must pause, lock eyes, and regard each other before deciding what to do next. If one of them wishes to make a move against the other, now is the time. If a conflict results in one man remaining alive, alone, that man is the winner, and may take a sentence or two to describe what happens next, before fading to black.

The second thing that may be done within the circle of recriminations is to, when accused of a wrong by another man, instead of returning another accusation to one of the other two, to simply complain about something else. It’s been colder this year than previous years, and my joints ache. Did you see that news story about that lady on welfare? It’s been a month since my birthday, and that no-good grandson of mine still hasn’t called. When a man issues a general complaint instead of lodging an accusation against another man, the others may either continue to respond with accusations as before (“Yeah, well I wouldn’t visit an old louse who cheats his friends at cards, either!”) or respond with another general complaint, either in agreement with the previous one, or on another topic altogether.

If it happens that all three men make general complaints without accusing another of wrongdoing, the game has ended. Each of the men in turn must look into the distance and say, “Yep.” Then they all walk away, and will return to begin again the next day.

Feb 4 2010

Game Poem 2: All The Color Has Gone

All The Color Has Gone

Find two coins, and a few friends to play with. Sit with your other players. The person wearing the brightest color begins by naming a place that they have a strong memory of. The starting player picks up one of the coins, and hands the other coin to one of the other players. The starting player begins by noting their memory, only briefly, and then describing the place in which it took place. They may not use any color words in their description. After a minute or so, the player with the other coin waits for the starting player to note a particular thing in their description, lets them finish their current sentence, and then holds up the coin, asking “What color was that?” Both players then flip their coins.

If the two coins do not match, the starting player must pause, blink, take on a confused look, and say, “I don’t know.” If the two coins match, the starting player may answer with one or two color words, blink, take a deep breath, and then hand their coin to a player who has not yet asked for a color. The player who just asked “What color was that?” now begins describing their memory and place, as the starting player did, until the person with the other coin stops them again, and asks for a color. Coins are flipped again, they respond again as above, and then the describer passes their coin to someone who has not yet asked for a color. This is repeated until everyone has done this once.

After every player has had a turn describing their place, with or without a color, the two players who hold the coins flip them one more time, and then place them in the center.

If the coins match, a single color has returned to those who answered “I don’t know” to the question about their description. Each of those players take a turn describing one element of their place that they now remember having a vivid, brilliant color, using only a sentence or two. After every player has had the chance to name a color, pause for a moment, then, beginning with the starting player, go around and have each player speak their color aloud, in turn.

If the coins do not match, color has fled from those who were able to recall one color in their description. Each of those players take a turn describing how the colored item in their place fades, using only a sentence or two. After every player has experienced the loss of color, pause for a moment, then, beginning with the starting player, go around and have each player in turn speak silently, in their mind, the color that they know should have been in their place.

Remember your color, and hold it in your mind until the next time you play. Perhaps then you can remember another.

Feb 4 2010

January Failure

I failed! *takes bow* I wanted to post four game poems in January, and for various reasons, only posted the one. So, Groundhog Day reset, let’s double down and do this thing. Trying again…