Invisible Cities: The Party Game

This weekend is another jam. A fan jam, to be exact. People will be doing stories, art and games based on some existing property all weekend. I was planning on making a video game for it, as my new computer was set to arrive at just the perfect time. However, it didn’t, and it won’t until after the jam is over, leaving me with nothing to make a video game on at all. But will that stop me? Heck no! If I can’t make a video game, I can still make an analogue game! Sure the blog is Video Games of the Oppressed, but it can also cover other games! I bet we can even learn a thing or two on video game design from these other games! Yes, aheh…

Invisible Cities
An acting and drawing game for 2 or more players
Based on the novel by Italo Calvino

Invisible Cities is a game about communication and translation. The goal of the game is to create a city through a cooperative performance. However, the players are not allowed to communicate with each other normally. The resulting city created comes from the synthesis of each player’s translation of each other, and the ideas and preconceptions each player brings to the other’s performance.

You will need:
Something to draw with (pencils, pens, crayons, etc)
A six-sided die

Player 1 begins as the Polo. In secret, they roll the dice to determine the themes of the city.

Roll the dice and follow the instructions based on the outcome:
1. Roll again and follow the instructions of the Animal category
2. Roll again and follow the instructions of the Person category
3. Roll again and follow the instructions of the Profession category
4. Roll again and follow the instructions of the Material category
5. Roll again and follow the instructions of the Environment category
6. Roll again and follow the instructions of the Object category

Animal: Roll again and follow the instructions
1. Mammal. Roll again and use the result below:
1. Camel
2. Horse
3. Elephant
4. Dog
5. Mongoose
6. Monkey
2. Bird. Roll again and use the result below:
1. Eagle
2. Sea Gull
3. Heron
4. Swan
5. Pigeon
6. Parrot
3. Herp. Roll again and use the result below:
1. Cobra
2. Crocodile
3. Frog
4. Lizard
5. Turtle
6. Axolotl
4. Sea Creature. Roll again and use the result below:
1. Whale
2. Shark
3. Octopus
4. Crab
5. Eel
6. Dolphin
5. Small Animals. Roll again and use the result below:
1. Rat
2. Wasp
3. Butterfly
4. Spider
5. Ant
6. Mole
6. Mythological. Roll again and use the result below:
1. Sphinx
2. Dragon
3. Unicorn
4. Sea Serpent
5. Ghost
6. Angel

Person: Roll again and use the result below:
1. Lover
2. Parent
3. Child
4. Grandparent
5. Friend
6. Enemy

Profession: Roll again and use the result below:
1. Doctor
2. Tailor
3. Potter
4. Glass Blower
5. Police
6. Fortune Teller

Material: Roll again and use the result below
1. Stone
2. Sand
3. Bamboo
4. Gold
5. Glass
6. Cloth

Environment: Roll again and use the result below:
1. Desert
2. Forest
3. Ocean
4. Mountain
5. River
6. Valley

Object: Roll again and use the result below:
1. Tea Kettle
2. Wheel
3. Book
4. Net
5. Paintbrush
6. Mirror

The Polo should feel free to customize this list as they see fit. Themes can be replaced or categories can be expanded as the Animal category is here. However, try to make sure that the other players do not know what possibilities there are. No matter how many choices the Polo adds or substitutes to the list, the result must be generated randomly. Repeat this process until you have three different themes. These themes are the basis for your city.

All other players must leave the room. Player 1 (the Polo) calls in Player 2 who takes on the role of the Khan. The Polo must communicate each of the three themes to the Khan through pantomime and gibberish. The Polo may never use actual words found in any language. When the Khan thinks they understand the theme the Polo is trying to communicate, they may give a thumbs-up. If the Polo believes the Khan has got it, they may return the thumbs-up and move on to the next theme. If not, they may push the Khan’s hand down and continue attempting to explain. When all three themes have been conveyed, the Polo leaves the room.

The Polo’s job now is to find a secluded spot and draw a picture of how the perceive the city. Try to draw just one street that encompasses all the themes and how you imagine they would work together in one location. If you are only playing with two people, the Khan must do the same. If you are playing with more than two people, the Khan calls in the next person. Now Player 2 changes roles from the Khan to the Polo and must attempt to convey what they believe the three themes to be to the new Khan. The only limitation is that the new Polo should try not to use the exact same pantomime as the previous Polo. Communicate the themes your own way.

This process is repeated until the three themes have been passed to the last player. Then all players finish their drawings and reconvene in the same location. The drawings are placed face-down on the floor in sequence from the first to the last player. From the last player to the first, one by one, the drawings are turned over and the player states what they believe the three themes to have been. This continues until the first Polo reveals what the three themes were. The resulting city is created from the combination of each of the pictures.

There are many ways to play this game, here are some suggested variations.

Secret Themes:
At the end of the game, the players reveal their drawings as normal, but do not reveal what they believe the themes to have been. Instead, the players must guess what the themes were based on the pictures.

The players need not be in the same geographical location. It is possible for one or all the players to play this game via some form of video chat such as skype or gchat. You can even attempt to play this game via a much more limited digital communication (for example, communicate the themes via the limited objects and actions available to the player in an online game like Animal Crossing).

Blind Seer:
One or more of the players may opt to be blindfolded. Instead of watching the pantomime, they must guess and then communicate the themes through listening and tactile information. Yes, they must also draw their picture of the city with the blindfold on as well.

Before the game begins, each player may place two objects in a box. Make sure none of these objects are in the list of possible themes. These objects must be used either as part of the pantomime, or in place of the pantomime or gibberish.

Drawing the city is not the only possible option. Feel free to replace paper and pens with clay, legos, cardboard or anything similar and have each player build a diorama of how they picture the city. Combine these dioramas at the end to form a complete model city.

Feel free to play this game with an audience. The audience will be aware of the original themes and watch as these themes are translated and changes from player to player. Alternatively, the starting themes may be a secret to the audience as well, and their task is to figure out the themes by watching each interaction.

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1 Response to Invisible Cities: The Party Game

  1. Pingback: Abnormal Mapping 19: Gameography: Mike Joffe | Abnormal Mapping

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