Game of the Scene Workshop Notes

Game of the Scene

The term “Game of the Scene” pops up loads in impro and seems a topic of hot debate. There seems to be varying descriptions of what it is, online and in workshops. So I ran a workshop on it before August, and another one last night, an improv investigation. So here is the completely bastardized short hand short cut Steve Roe version of Game of the Scene. You don’t have to agree with it.

One thing is that it’s got the word ‘Game’ in it, which suggests it should probably be fun and not too intellectual, even though the following discussion will be.

Game of the Scene. Couple of important words there – Game and Scene. So for a Game of a Scene, you need a Game, and a Scene. Let’s look at some definitions, not Oxford English, my ones.

Scene: scenario, situation, relationship.

You need your classic platform who/what/where to have a Scene that you can have a Game of. For these reasons when practicing Game of the Scene I found it helpful to give the improvisers the platform first with full suggestions, so they didn’t have to worry about that and could focus on the game.

So we can get a scenario, situation, relationship pretty easily. So let’s look at the game part.

Game: People playing for fun within rules.

People – we have people, that’s sorted.

Playing – we can do that, we forgot sometimes that’s that the fun bit, but we can play.

Rules – Rules!!!! Play becomes a game with rules. But what are the rules?

In short-form rules are defined already, outside the scene, and are super-imposed onto the scene. That’s why short-form ‘scenes’ are referred to as ‘games’ – they have obvious rules. This character can only talk in three words, this one has arms from someone else etc etc. Every time the rules of the game are played while staying within the given situation, people laugh. Well not every time, but that’s the idea. When playing short-form it’s good to know what game you’re in, what the rules are, and then really push them and have fun with them while interacting within the given scenario.

So in a way short-form is a game of the scene where the game is given by someone else outside of the actors.

But in normal scenes there is no given game, there are no rules at the start and anything could happen. This is what excites me about it. So at the start, with no rules, just do anything within the scenario. And then work out what the rules of the game are. You are playing a game before you know what it is, and what the rules are, but you can then work it out or arbitrarily decide what the rules are and play them.

This is easier to spot from outside first, so at first after scenes have run about five offers or so you can freeze them and ask the audience to spot games. After a while though you can freeze a scene and ask the actors within it what the game is, and then get them to play it out. Then you can move on to not freezing the scene and just getting them to play it from within.

I found it helpful to point out that it didn’t matter what the game actually was, just picking one and playing it was more helpful than intellectually stalling while trying to spot the ‘right’ game.

But over all of this I found it really important that the game/rules were about INTERACTION.

The rules of these games are more fun when they are about the other person:

– When this person does this thing, I do this thing.

And it’s also more fun for the audience when these games/rules loop so there is a pattern of behaviour within the scene.

– When this person does this thing, I do this thing.
– When that person does that thing, I do this thing.

It’s the interaction, and behaviour, that makes the game actually matter. We want people affected, manipulated, impacted by other people.

Once these patterns are established, and basic game rules, they can be escalated and pushed and used with varying content in various situations.

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