• Six No-Stuff Games For Cool People

    by  • May 10, 2009 • Games, You are probably sorry you asked • 0 Comments

    Happy Mothers’ Day! If I were more on the ball, today’s blog entry would be about my mom and my grandmothers and what wonderful women they are(/were). But I’m not, so it’s not.

    Instead, I decided to list some of my favourite games. Now, the trouble with most games is you need stuff to play them. One of my all-time favourites (I know it as “that game Anna and her housemates taught us, remember, at the Easter egg hunt?”, but Wikipedia informs me it’s also called a lot of other things. I like “Writesy-Drawsy” best.) requires pen and paper for each participant. What??? I don’t have time to gather all these “items”. And neither do you. So here are six games for which you need absolutely nothing except an awake brain and some other people.

    Games I made up:

    1. You Don’t Say – To start the game, everybody but one person is given some sort of speech tic. (Examples: everything you say has to be a song lyric; you can’t use the letter E; the first word you say has to rhyme with the last word someone else said, etc.) The one person who doesn’t have a speech tic goes out of the room when the tics are being handed out, so they don’t know who has what. (You could also write the speech tics down on pieces of paper and hand them out randomly so no one knows what anyone else has.)

    After it’s all set up, the one person returns to the room, and everyone tries to start a normal conversation. If you screw up your speech tic, you’re out. You get one point for every time you speak using your speech tic. The game ends when the person who went out guesses someone’s speech tic. The person whose tic was guessed loses all their points for the round. So, you want to speak a lot to get points, but you don’t want to speak too much and have your tic guessed before everyone else’s.

    This game is even more fun if the “person who went out” doesn’t actually know you’re playing the game.

    Solo Variation: For when you’re with people you don’t like very much. Speak only in song lyrics. Try to say them as conversationally as possible. If you hit the chorus without anyone calling you on the fact that you’re reciting songs, it is definitely permissible to suddenly start singing it at the top of your lungs.

    Games my Kingston housemates (Sarah and Juliana) and I made up together:

    2. Love Is Like the Sea – I forget how this game started, but it’s named after the first (and best?) combination we came up with.

    Basically, the idea is to take one abstract or general noun (eg. love, people, intelligence, men, women, etc.) and one specific noun (eg. the sea, a book, cats) and create a sentence of the form “X is like the Y” (eg. “Love is like the sea.”) The idea is to come up with as many clever, witty, or profound explanations of the sentence as possible. For instance:

    Love is like the sea… if you feel yourself sinking, just lie back and relax.
    Love is like the sea… it’s deepest when you’re least expecting it.
    Love is like the sea… sometimes, it stinks.

    To facilitate the creation of these sentences, we made two sets of cards, which we’d shuffle and from which we’d draw our nouns.

    3. Operant Conditioning – This is a trippy one. The basic idea is simple: one person (let’s call them the puppet) leaves the room. While they’re gone, everyone else decides on some special action that he or she will have to perform to win the game. (For example, putting a pillow on his/her head and humming a song.) When the puppet returns to the room, he or she has to figure out what the special action is and perform it to win the game.

    However, the way the puppet does this is by trying out whatever he or she can think of. The non-puppets either (less creepy) shout “Hurrah!” when the puppet gets closer to the goal and “Alas!” when he or she makes a move in the wrong direction or (much creepier) clap louder and faster the closer the puppet gets to completing the special action.

    Whenever I tell people about this game (well, if they don’t run away because I’m a weirdo), they express doubt that one could really communicate complex actions by this means. I respond: yes. Yes, one really can. It’s really cool from the non-puppet perspective to watch the puppet figure out the tiniest details of what you dreamed up, and it’s an interesting experience as the puppet to find just how much other people’s approval can guide your actions. A chorus of “Hurrah!”s or loud and maniacal clapping can give you a surge of satisfaction in a way you totally wouldn’t expect.

    Games someone must have made up, but I don’t know who:

    4. Mafia – I’m not even going to try to explain it, because there are so many variations, but Wikipedia can help you out here. I used to love this game, until someone who shall remain anonymous (because the collateral damage isn’t her fault) taught it to our new high school drama teacher, and he made us play it pretty much every class ever.

    5. Zip, Zap, Hadouken! – I don’t know who made up most of this game, but I do know who changed the third option from “Zoom!” to “Hadouken!”, and that’s my friend Dave H. who is a fellow MHS drama geek. But as the “Hadouken!” part is the only reason this game is fun, I suppose I should credit it to him.

    You stand or sit in a circle. Someone starts by using their left hand across their chest to point to the person on their right and saying “Zip!”. The “energy” is then transferred to the person they were pointing to. That person can pass it on by doing the same thing and saying, “Zip!”; using their right hand over their head to point to the person on their left and saying, “Zap!”; or by pretending to throw a fireball a la Street Fighter at anyone who isn’t immediately adjacent to them and shouting, “Hadouken!”.

    The “energy” always gets passed to the person on the receiving end of the gesture. If you get the “energy” and fail to pass it on quickly enough or screw up the actions (eg. saying “Zip!” but doing the action for “Zap!”), you’re out. You’re also out if you’re the third person in a row to do the same action (eg. if the two people before you both choose “Hadouken!”, and you “Hadouken!” someone else, you’re out. You should have chosen “Zip!” or “Zap!” instead.)

    (OK, OK, for the less fireball-inclined, the “regular” way to do “Hadouken!” is just to point to someone not adjacent to you and shout, “Zoom!”. But – “Hadouken!” You know you wanna…)

    6. Got It – This is my very favourite no-stuff game, but you need a lot of people for it. First, you choose five or so volunteers to be the actors. Each volunteer gets a number from one to five. #2, #3, #4, and #5 leave the room. The “audience” (ie, everyone else) picks an occupation, a location, and an object for #1. These don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) be related. Once #1 is sure that she has these down pat, everyone calls #2 back into the room.

    #1’s job is to communicate the occupation to #2 by acting it out without speaking or making sounds, like in charades. #2 isn’t allowed to speak – except for two words. Once #2 thinks he knows what the occupation is, he says, “Got it.” Then #1 moves on to the location. When #2 says, “Got it” to that, #1 moves on to the object. When #2 says, “Got it” to that, #1 sits down. Everyone calls #3 back into the room, and it’s #2’s turn to charade the occupation -> location -> object to #3. This continues in a similar manner until #4 has finished charading all three ideas to #5. At this point, going in reverse order from #5 to #1, the actors say what they thought each of the three ideas was.

    The important point to this game is that the charade-er must keep going until the charade-ee says, “Got it” and has to stop immediately when they hear it. So if you’re trying to convey “bicycle” and you start by miming putting on a helmet, and your partner says, “Got it” before you get to the actual riding-the-bike part, there’s nothing you can do but sit and watch the rest. Likewise, if you’re trying to guess the charades and you have absolutely no idea what’s going on, you can just say, “Got it” and imitate whatever the person before you was doing.

    It’s basically the charade version of Broken Telephone, and it can be pretty hilarious for everyone involved. Some versions of the game allow sound effects (like, you can’t say a word or hum a tune, but you can make noises like the shot of a gun or the slurp of an ice cream cone).



    I write SFF, young adult, and middle grade fiction, and I’ve been known to knock off a play here and there. I’m represented by Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary, Inc. Stick around – who knows what might happen?


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