By David E. Sharp
Originally posted September 26, 2019
Writers have an endless list of strategies for jogging their creativity and stretching their imaginations. Writing prompts, character development exercises, free-flow sessions, and the like are all great. But I also like to step away from the desk and sharpen my creative skills in another way.
Also, let’s face it, we could probably use a little face time with actual people.
Group Game Night!
I love to gather fellow creatives around a table and match our wits in an arena of cards, dice, or gameboard tokens. Will it get your novel written? No! Will it get you over the latest bout of writer’s block? How would I know? But is it a fun way to make yourself a better writer? Yes, with an emphasis on the fun!
I’m not talking Monopoly, though. Unless your book is about a shoe seeking to become a real estate tycoon, this isn’t going to do much for you as a writer. Instead, here are a few of my favorite games that utilize those creative writing skills.
ABSTRACT COMMUNICATION GAMES
Writers must continuously strive to find innovative ways to communicate ideas to their readers. Metaphor, personification, and symbolism are all crucial, but they only work if your reader can make the connection. These games challenge you to find unusual ways of communicating with your fellow players.
Mysterium: One player is a ghost who must communicate with the other players, not through words, but through abstract images to help them discover a murderer. It’s like clue but with a spooky twist. Perfect for October.
Good for All Ages.
Dixit: Another game that uses abstract art. Here you want to describe your art in a single word that will help players pick your piece out of a lineup. Don’t be too obvious, though. You only get points if you also mislead some of the players at the same time.
The benefit here is obvious. These games utilize cards to make communal storytelling more challenging and keep you thinking on your feet.
Gloom: Each player takes control of a family upon whose members you must cast trouble and misfortune. Play cards to inflict tragic life events, or happy circumstances upon your opponents. However, your plays don’t count if you don’t narrate how each event comes to pass with lots of dramatic emphases.
Once Upon a Time: Similar to a campfire story-in-the-round. However, in this version, you have a hand of story element cards – characters, settings, events, etc. As you include these elements in your story, you may discard the accompanying cards. However, your opponents can steal the narrative if you name a feature that corresponds to one of their cards. The first player to drop everything wins.
CREATIVE COMBINATIONS GAMES
You’ve written yourself into a corner. How will you get your characters out of this fine mess? Here are some games to help you come up with unusual solutions.
Wing It: Each player has a hand of cards describing a complex assembly of “survival” gear. You will have to combine them in creative ways to overcome random problematic events that are sure to come your way. Find the best solution to take the victory.
A Lighter Version of CAH.
Snake Oil: Similar to Apples to Apples. Here you must create an invention from a limited list of combinable words to create the most coveted product for the customer. Incidentally, the customer might be a surfer, a vampire, a pirate, or any other odd person from round to round.
PUT THE ROLE IN ROLE PLAYING
If role-playing games are in your wheelhouse, here are a few that can help you cast characters in vivid detail.
Fiasco: This game isn’t so much about winning or losing as it is about watching a narrative unravel into a total disaster. If you’ve ever wanted to play a part in a Cohen Brothers movie, this may be the game for you. Create characters, connections, and aspirations through randomized means, then hold on tight as you watch your fictional world come tumbling down.
Murder Mystery Party: Go all out with costumes, invitations, and cheesy character voices. These games come with notebooks containing clues each character must divulge in consecutive rounds, and some secrets they don’t have to reveal unless directly asked. Can you find out whodunnit? You can sure have fun trying.
Most of these games are available through Amazon or at your local games store. Link up with some of your fellow writers and get to work. These games aren’t going to play themselves!