Six Games You Can Play Anywhere
(July 2015) More about Play and Games
In a box or on a fox! In a car or at a table! On the floor or out the door! Anywhere, anytime, if you are bored or antsy and need something to do, all you need is one or more fellow player, and these games are yours to play.
They develop skills in: communication, drawing, writing, collaboration, thinking on your feet (even if you’re sitting still), and creativity. One of these games (Trinterview) was created by my students during an Interview Class, while other games were invented by great artists and theater educators.
Here you will find six games, with additional variations, that can be played almost anywhere. I have fond memories of playing all of them, with lots of laughter!
This is a fast paced game that can be played in a few minutes without any materials. In my Interview Class, two middle school students made up this interview game and named it Trinterview, combining the words Trio and Interview. You need at least three people to play this game, the more the merrier. Sit in a circle (or at the dinner table, or in the car). Players take turns asking the group a simple interview question. Closed-ended yes or no questions work best, and short answers are recommended, to keep the game moving quickly. Nonsense questions and answers are welcome.
The steps are: A person asks the group a question. One at a time everyone else answers the question without repeating any of the previous answers. Here is an example from when my class played this game. The rather silly question was posed by one of the players. With a smaller group I suggest that you pretend the yes and no answers have already happened, and go on from there. In this round, the first two players used up the yes and no options.
Question: Are you a box?
The Exquisite Corpse Game
This is a fun game that fosters creativity and results in a team effort made up of individual parts. This can be a drawing game or a poetry game or a story game. Players pass around a sheet of paper that is folded over in sections, so the next player can’t see what the previous player has done. It is played at a table or with pads or clipboards that allow for drawing or writing and folding. It is a good game to keep your children occupied while sitting a restaurant waiting for service. Note: If you play this in the car the driver cannot play!
Fold a sheet of 8 ½” X 11” (or any size) paper four times the same way, into rectangular fourths. The center fold is the imaginary waistline or halfway point of a figure, although you can draw anything that connects the bits of lines that go over the edge of each fold. A folded sheet will show four sections.
The first player fills the first section, the second fills the second area, and so on.
Draw on your section and let some lines go just over the edge. Fold the paper back so that no one can see what you have drawn except for the tail ends of your lines that go over the fold. Then pass the sheet to the next player.
They must use the lines that are visible (remaining from the previous drawing) without looking at the parts that have been folded back so that they can not see the entire drawing, just the ends of a few lines.
Players continue until all four parts of the sheet are filled. You can pass it one more time before opening it up. The resulting figure may be part human, part landscape, part fish… anything goes in this game and the more surreal or bizarre the better.
Variations: this game has been played with a paper folded into thirds, or as a book where each drawing goes about a half or quarter inch on to the next page, or as a folded accordion screen with many sections. Two players can play going back and forth.
Variation: Poetry or Story Exquisite Corpse.
For poetry or story fun, fold the paper eight times or more, guiding everyone with the next sentence or word choice. You don’t have to fold the paper in advance; you can fold as you go. An exquisite corpse poem might require each player to write a line that includes a noun, adjective, verb, and noun. One player might write: The black cat meows at the moon. The next player might write: Hibiscus scents the aging kitchen. And so on. When six or eight lines have been written, pass it one more time before the players unfold the sheets and read each poem out loud.
For the story version of this game, instruct the players to write the following lines:
You need at least four people to play this game. It can work with a large group by rotating the players. One person asks an advice question. Three people must answer. The first person must give good advice. The second person must give bad advice. The third person must give horrendously bad advice, worse than the second person gave. Thus the title: good, bad, and ugly advice. No question is too big or too small, too easy or too complex. Often the simpler questions are better. We rotate the players so that everyone has a turn to be in the “ugly” position, which is the most fun to play. In a large group everyone moves along, taking a turn in every position of the advice panel (good, bad, and ugly) as well as being audience members who ask the questions.
Here is an example from an actual game that I played in the car with my husband Jerry, my son Solomon, and his friend Joe. Jerry started by asking the question, “How do I keep up my pants?” I had the position of giving good advice, so I sensibly suggested, “Use a belt, or maybe suspenders, but a belt is all you really need.” Joe’s turn came next, so he gave bad advice, “Glue. Lots and lots of glue.” Now it was Solomon’s turn to give the ugly advice, “Who needs pants?”
Choose a category or profession and act out or speak the part of the world’s worst whatever. For example, in our interview course we played World’s Worst Interviewer. Here are some lines that might be said by the world’s worst interviewer:
Try thinking of what the world’s worst pilot might say, or the world’s worst surgeon (perhaps while performing an operation) or the world’s worst president or worst teacher – the possibilities are endless.
One Word Story / Alphabet Story
Players tell a story one word at a time. Try to say the first word that comes into your mind and keep the flow going. Avoid long pauses. Also, try to form sentences that make sense, although you can be silly.
It is helpful to begin with a title. This can be a suggestion from any player or audience member. The title can be nonsense, and does not have to be reflected in the story, but it provides a possible starting point. I might ask two players to think of words, one thinks of an adjective and the other thinks of a noun or a place, and then they say these words out loud together. Perhaps we get “Blue Hawaii” or “Magenta Mountain” and then we begin.
The first player says one word followed by the second player saying one word, and so one. When the players decide they are done, the final two words might be “the” “end.”
Here is an example of each player saying one word that becomes a sentence and is part of a story. The first player might have been thinking “Once upon a time” and started with “once” which other players add on to, forming this nonsense sentence:
Players can continue until the story is done.
Variation: One Sentence Story.
Start with one word until the first one or two sentences are complete, and then go into one sentence at a time. Then, towards the end, go back to one word at a time.
Variation: Alphabet Story.
Players say one word or one sentence at a time, using the next letter of the alphabet to start. This is played more easily using sentences. Each line begins with the next letter of the alphabet in order until all 26 letters have been used. You can start with any letter and end 26 letters later. If a player gets stuck and can’t remember, they can call out “letter” and another player will remind them which letter comes next. If a player can’t think of a word for that letter they can call out “word” and other players can suggest words that begin with that letter. As an example, here is the beginning of an alphabet conversation played by two players, starting with the letter H:
Nonsense Dictionary Definitions
You need a physical dictionary to play this game, preferably a large old volume. Choose a word out of the dictionary at random, and make sure that no one knows the definition (don't' read the definition yourself, just read the word). Each person take a turn making up a definition of the word, the more outlandish the better. When everyone has taken their turn, the actual definition is read.
For example: nabob.
Correct definition: Indian or Mogul governor.
More about Play and Games
Articles by Laurie Block Spigel