KJ3 - Game Theory


Notes from Keith Johnstone retreat, August 2009 All improvisers have played any games. There are books, websites, and games passed on in classes and from player to player. There is a particularly good set of them in my friend Williams Improv Playbook.

The point of the games is to play them. The play them again and again. But not to get better at them, in fact in many cases you are [intlink id="275" type="post"]better served by failure[/intlink]. But when you do think about where and when you are using them...

  1. Simplicity - Don't make it harder. In the west, as we pay games we have a tendency to get competitive and make the game harder. Harder is just a way of showing off your intellect and how clever you are.
  2. Showing off - If you are performing a game that you have practiced and can play perfectly, it's not fun to watch. There is no risk.
  3. Fail - Play games trying not to fail, but go fast enough that you make mistakes anyway. Playing safe is not as fun to watch or to play.
  4. Fail Happy - Let go of your your need to win and then be happy. The success is in the playful part, and in a game there is no need to be unhappy - you can always play again.
  5. Stress out - When you feel the stress or are bored as the improviser, break the rules and let yourself be "out" in the game. You know it's going to end soon anyway - it's a game.
  6. Don't Stress - Many of the warmup games we play have the effect of stressing us out - not getting us into a happy playful mood to be comfortable on stage. If a game stresses you out, take a look at why you are playing it.

A note on performing games - Not all games are for performance. Some are just "Annoying people for gags" and should only be played every few years as an quick pause while you figure out what to do next.