Article on various perspectives of "finding the game"

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Article on various perspectives of "finding the game"

Postby Spots » April 30th, 2013, 8:58 pm

The article presents the semantic differences many improv institutions use to describe "finding the game". I would actually like to see more in-depth research and interviews. But check it out. I love the juxtaposition of all the schools here: ... the-scene/

The biggest debate appears to be that finding the game is either:

1.) A pattern which occurs during a scene.

2.) The pattern which defines the scene.

I agree with both philosophies. There are bigger overarching games, and smaller character based games. Or smaller games which are non-sequitor.

When we ask "what was the game of the scene?" that's when we have to let go of the personal games we used as players and contextualize what pattern truly defined the scene.

Sometimes there isn't one. "Uh.... low status characters trying to be high status because they're on a boat? I dunno."

Finding the game is not objective. Not in my opinion. The goal is to get our subjective brains connected and as close as possible so that, hopefully, we get on the same page.

The game you were playing jives with the game I was playing.

As long as I am focused on your intent, I will see all the little games that pop up. Or I may not. It's like the venn diagram where all the little games meet in the middle. And it's that chunk in the middle that UCB would call "the game of the scene."

That's how I break down the semantics. But the language is doomed. We're all doomed.
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Re: Article on various perspectives of "finding the game"

Postby DanC » April 30th, 2013, 10:21 pm

I still think Calvinball (from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes) is a great model for understanding improv games.

Of all the things I've learned about improv, the concept of game seemed the most intuitive to me, seemed to be what improv was about more than anything else.

And as an improv fan, what I most like to watch on stage is game. Characters, relationships, sure. But you can see that in any theater.

Different audience members like different things, but I think we all like some game because the human brain craves patterns, sees patterns. At the pathological extreme, it sees patterns where none exist (this is the problem conspiracy theorists have, as do relatively intelligent people with the hubris to think they can predict the stock market through technical analysis.)

That's why audiences respond to game. We love rules. We also love breaking rules, but only a limited breaking of them and only after they have been established. We hate anarchy. We also hate the totalitarianism of too many restrictive rules. Somewhere in between is ideal. And watching improvisers write the rules on stage and sometimes break them is a truly great thing.
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Re: Article on various perspectives of "finding the game"

Postby valetoile » May 1st, 2013, 10:47 am

Something that's been really delightful as an improvisor is to see how game fits into all sorts of formats. The only real difference between short form games and UCB style games is that in short form, someone's given you the rules ahead of time, and in long form, you discover the rules as you play. Even in shortform with a defined game given to you, like good bad worse advice, you can find another layer of game, or a sub-game. In fact, that's why shortform works, it's about discovering the subtleties or particulars of that game in that instance.

In longform narrative, playing games is one of my favorite things. It was amazing and liberating when i realized how much you can play games in narrative, straight up games that look like they could be onstage at UCB. It keeps you from worrying about or pushing plot, and it deepens the characters and their relationships and motivations. It gives the overall show a nice shape. I feel so lucky to be doing improv in a city where so many different schools of thought come together and influence each other and make everyone's improv so much richer.
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Re: Article on various perspectives of "finding the game"

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » May 1st, 2013, 11:32 am

probably way oversimplifying, but I put it to a few students once as "longform is finding the game within the scene. shortform is finding the scene within the game."
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Re: Article on various perspectives of "finding the game"

Postby Spots » May 1st, 2013, 6:37 pm

That description's been making the rounds in the improv community. I hope it spreads on and on and on. Because I find that it really is that simple. It's an abstraction which takes the emphasis off formats and "getting it right."

Is this a scene within a game? Is this a game within a scene?

Think of all the amazing things you could do with that. Every day there is a student of improv getting his or her head around these concepts. Let's all keep spreading that simple description.

I know for a lot of longform exclusive people, there's not a whole lot of discussion about shortform / longform because they are realizing how much experimentation there is within finding the game within the scene. Nobody has discovered ALL the games so there are literally infinite combinations out there to find. I'm in no way saying improv has outgrown shortform but there is that pattern-seeking element in all our brains which would offer an explanation as to why there are "longform snobs" or whatever.

We seek games that haven't been invented yet. So you can do that in a longform performance or invent a new shortform game in a controlled environment and introduce it to people later. It has something to do with mutual knowledge and letting the audience do the work figuring it out for themselves. Sometimes I don't want to be told the rules as an audience member. I want it to feel like its on the tip of my tongue and the performer is one step ahead of me.

in short form, someone's given you the rules ahead of time, and in long form, you discover the rules as you play.

You can make it feel totally unpredictable for the audience all while trusting your partner to project the same rules you are setting out for yourself. The audience will explode with laughter just anticipating the results. Our brains HAVE to mutually acknowledge patterns that form organically somehow. We love it. We can't get enough of it. We laugh out loud.

That reason alone, for now, is why I am a "longform snob." But I'm totally open to learning new shortform games or maybe inventing one myself one day. I don't discount the idea.
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