As we hurtle alone together towards more than 40 days of quarantine, with no clear end in sight, many of us are developing severe cabin fever. How can we connect and interact with our friends when we can't leave our houses and must assume they've become infected were-corvids??
Recall, a bit ago I posted about the Best Game Ever: Telephone Pictionary. In short it's a drawing game that alternates between drawing and descriptions. I love it ... but it is not the answer to our current troubles, since, as I discovered when putting together that entry, it's rather tedious trying to get the drawings well-scanned and all -- much better as an in-person game.
My friend Jib brought to my attention the similar game of Video Telephone Pictionary! Basically, the first person makes up a short story and sends a video of themself telling the story to the next person. Upon received the video, the rules we came up with were that you could watch it twice, no taking notes or anything, and then you record yourself telling the story as best you can recall it, and send it to the next person. One could have a set order but we just let each person choose from among those who hadn't yet received it, as coordinated through the group chat by Jib.
Once they were all submitted we decided that first the first person would post theirs, then the last person, and then in order the ones in between so we could see how we got from point A to Point ... H. That order was fun because it immediately left us thinking "how the hell did we get from this to that?? ...but I'm just going to give you the progression in order here.
(1) Here is how ours began, courtesy of Jib, 1:23 in length:
(2) I happened to be the first person after him:
As you can see I immediately forgot the cousins' family name, and then tried unsuccessfully to make the question of what he does and does not slap less of an innuendo. I think I kept what is bottom paddling and what is being slapped separate but these two issues soon became completely conflated, possibly as intended. I really wasn't sure whether Jib had quite intended to say "inclement" weather but I went with it. (1:36)
(3) Next up was our friend Greg's girlfriend Kristen, who later apologized that she was very stoned at the time but her retelling was pretty good and accurate. She used both the word mermaid and later "siren" to describe the mermaid, which I think is totally fair but going forward only "siren" was used henceforth. Because videos are a bear to upload I'll only upload one more from the middle and the last one. (1:37)
(4) My friend Mick was next:
I like how he really brought the paddling of bottoms full circle. (1:06)
(5) Okay the next one was Greg himself. And I think I'll post it too because actually a really fascinating linguistic thing happens here. When he says "siren" he says it like "s[weird transdimensional Australian syllable]n" and even the other Australians couldnt' figure it out and henceforth the "siren" was transformed into a "stone." Also, he appears to be naked. O_O (don't worry you never see more than his neck up) (0:41)
(6) Trent's is pretty funny. He recites it covering his eyes and there's a whole bunch of reduplication of "paddling bottoms." And of course "one day he heard a woman calling for help, she was a stone." (0:40)
(7) In Ben's the female stone becomes a genderless rock. (0:20)
(8) Mick's girlfriend Lozz:
Hers is notably short, at 13 seconds.
The whole thing took about 3 days to go through eight people.
After Action Report:
The videos steadily got shorter. It looks like most people kept theirs within seconds of the person before them except when certain people shortened it significantly it never got longer again. I think to a certain degree people also consciously went through the people they expected a good retelling from first. If I had to put them in order of what I'd expect from them in story retelling fidelity I think it would have been in the order that they actually went. I had even expressed a concern to Trent that Lozz would turn it into a 15 second story and lo, verily, that's exactly what she did. Takeaway lesson: this seems to have basically policed itself but definitely worthwhile putting people you expect to heavily simplify the story at the very end.
I think this was really fun and well suited to our current conditions. I don't want to start another immediately and burn everyone out on it but I think it could be a once-a-week thing. I'm thinking of starting another round myself a week after this one had begun (ie next Tuesday). To help prevent it getting compacted down to 13 seconds I think I'll try to have 2 or 3 key plot points, all while trying to keep it at about 1:30. Considering possibly letting everyone know the starting time so that if they get a 20 second video maybe they'll feel the need to fill space which might lead to some interesting additions. Also am thinking of adding a few relatively random objects to see what happens to them. [this was written on 2020/04/18, before round II below]
That was the week before last. Last week I started another round. As promised it had more plot points and things I hoped people would confuse.
A rather absurdist story about squids in trees and good goblins helping princesses. (2:06)
This time let's do the thing where we go immediately to the end:
So.. wow! Now as you can see we were all dying to see how it had changed over the course of things!
I sent it to Jib, who very accurately conveyed it to Kristen
Kristen recorded it very accurately, and then tried to sent it to Ben, who sat on it for 24 hours before saying he wasn't going to do it. She then attempted to send it to her boyfriend Greg but he responded that he "doesn't wanna." Frustrated, she said she'd send it to Mick and if he refused she was done.
Mick recorded it and then attempted to send it to Trent, who refused to participate ("I'll just ruin it"). Having lost half the participants from last week I scrambled to come up with replacements, and directed Mick to send it to my friend Sharon in Namibia.
Sharon did a delightful recording and after the revealing of all the versions several people complimented her on her soothing voice. Also as they were revealed, I noticed that by this point the story had still experienced almost no changing.
Next was my friend Dayo in Nigeria, who appears to be doing it while walking somewhere.
Next up was supposed to be my brother-in-law, Cristina's brother, who seemed like he'd be into this kind of thing. But I'm not sure what happened, possibly by a mere coincidence, his whatsapp appears to have crashed. Or else it scared him off of it. Either way I waited 36 hours on him and then reassigned it to my friend Tiffany.
After Tiffany assured me it hadn't become wildly crude (you never know! and keep in mind I don't see the middle iterations until the end!), and was mom-appropriate still, I had her send it to my mom, the legendary furzicle.
And finally, back to the second one posted above, Mick's girlfriend Lozz. Since she participated the week before I may have assumed she remembered the rules and not adequately re-explained them to her ... because this week she appeared to misunderstand the rules and instead of retelling the same story, appears to have just invented a continuation of it. But how funny would this have been if I hadn't put her at the end and it was in the middle??
Round II After Action Report:
Once we lost all the unreliable story tellers, the story was TOO reliably retold! Ironically, Trent's fear that he'd ruin it was exactly what we needed him to do! It's unclear if the higher rate of attrition this time was because two minutes is thirty seconds too long, or just two weeks in a row burned them out.
Also of note, while the drawing version of telephone pictionary tends to get more complicated with every iteration, as people assume every little detail was important and expand on it, this version tends to simplify the story over time.
I don't think I'm about to try to rope my friends in to this again, but if you decide to do it, I recommend not letting anyone back out due to their lack of confidence in accurately remembering and retelling the story -- they are a critically important element! Possibly it might be advisable to put the unreliable narrators not all at the end but intersperse them in the middle. And maybe require the suspected high fidelity retellers to have a few drinks before participating!