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Move over, Xbox Kinect, the newest fancy gadget is coming your way. While its incredible to be able to play your games without a handheld controller, imagine how mind-blowing it would be to play games without a controller, or a television, or a gamebox?! Crazy-awesome, right?
Introducing Your Imagination 2012. This holiday season, get the family together to play some old fashioned parlor games (yup, you heard me, parlor games) and remind yourselves just how much fun real human interaction can be. (And if you are really craving your next electronic hit, you can always keep score on your smartphone.)
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The benchmark for all-ages parlor games, this classic works for 3 or more people, though the more people involved, the more exciting the game! You can choose topics from a hat or just invent them as you go. Generally, the person who is it chooses the name of a celebrity, or the title of or character from a book, movie or song, and has to mime the answer (broken up into syllables, or sounds like clues) for the benefit of the rest of the players. The members of the audience then shout out their guesses until someone gets it right, everyone gives up, or a predetermined amount of time runs out. Loud, often funny, and easily tailored to any age of player.
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2: Fictionary/The Dictionary Game
Board games (Balderdash), and specific word books (Hobble-De-Hoy) have been borne of this ages-old game, but its easily played with an old dictionary (the more out-of-date, the better), or, if you MUST, an internet connection to an obscure-words website. This can be tailored to any age, but kids too young to read and write will have to partner up with an older player.
One person chooses a word from the dictionary and reads it aloud to the other players. That person then copies down (silently) the real definition of the chosen word, while everyone else writes down a definition theyve just pulled out of nowhere. All of the answers are shuffled (try to give everyone identical pieces of paper so theres no cheating!) and read aloud, and everyone votes on which one they think is the real answer. The object of the game is two-fold: to guess the correct definition of the chosen word, and to fool all of the other players into believing your invented definition is correct. Extra points for the most salacious answer (um, in the grown-ups only version)!
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3: 20 Questions (aka Animal, Vegetable, Mineral)
Ok, you know this one! Its easily tailored to any age or theme. The person who is It thinks of an item that is either an animal, a vegetable (or, really, anything plant-like) or a mineral (also known as the neither-plant-nor-animal category). Everyone else, in turn, asks a yes or no question to try to determine the secret object. The round ends once youve reached (you guessed it!) the 20th question!
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4: Mafia or Wink, Wink, Murder, if youve got a large under-10 crowd
Mafia is kind of like a grown-up version of a game that you almost surely played during some rainy PE class in elementary school (see below). A large-ish, odd-numbered group is required, at least 9 people. Players are divided up into Mafia members, Townsfolk and one Inspector, but these identities are kept secret. The idea is to kill all of the Mafiosos (no cement shoes involved) before they kill off the Townsfolk. Through a series of day and night activities (eyes open or closed) in which the players are picked off, one by one, the Mafia members agree on their next victim, and the Inspector and Townsfolk try to determine which players are the bad guys. Creative license is encouraged at each death. Strategy, cooperation and suspicion all play important roles here.
If this seems like a complicated game for the majority of your age group, you can always revert to the old standby, Wink, Wink, Murder, which has a similar, but much simpler setup.
One person is chosen as the Detective, and he or she leaves the room. Everyone else decides which of their members will be the Murderer. The Detective is called back into the room, and everyone starts to mill about the room, looking at one another. The Murderer mingles incognito amongst the crowd, except that he or she will subtly wink at the other players, thereby killing them. Violent, dramatic death scenes are encouraged! The Detective must determine which player is the Murderer before everyone dies.
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5: The Story Game Variations
Players of all ages and creative talent enjoy this one. Just try to keep them G-rated if youve got little ones in your group!
At the top of a blank sheet of paper, the first player writes down the opening sentence of a story, and then passes the page to the next player to invent the 2nd sentence. The 2nd player then folds the first sentence backwards so that only the most recent addition is visible, and the page gets passed around until everyone has had a chance to add a line (with only the preceding sentence visible each time). The first player then reads the entire, usually ridiculous story aloud, voilà!
This can also be played aloud, sentence by sentence, or even word by word for a quick game. Hilarity almost always ensues!
Alternately, you could get a book of Mad-Libs and do them aloud as a group, with equally entertaining results.
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6: The Rhyming Game
This game can last forever. Really. I once had a standing game with my grandfather that endured for 3 years.
This game is pretty self-explanatory, and is always more fun if it just rolls right out of natural conversation. You just start rhyming each sentence, and see how far you can take it (and how creatively you can stretch the rhyme). When you get stuck, you can always just switch words! This is also a great tool for building your grade-schoolers vocabulary.
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7: Murder Mystery Games
Okay, this one requires a bit of planning, but the result is a truly entertaining evening! Usually, you need at least 8 players or teams, but thats always flexible. Most kids like the play-acting aspect of the game. Party kits are available at bookstores, party shops and online.
The gist is this: each player is assigned an outlandish identity (costumes encouraged!), and is invited to a party where someone has been murdered. Through a series of clues and rounds (and usually meal courses), the guests figure out whodunit. And who among us doesnt enjoy a little role-play, now and then?
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8: Two Truths and a Lie
This game is always interesting, and is well-suited to holiday parties or a gathering of people who dont know each other too intimately.
Each player reveals to the group Three things you didnt know about me. Not surprisingly, two of these tidbits are true, and one is not. Everyone else has to guess which is which. Obviously, the more outrageous, the better! Also, a disclaimer: dont play this one so often that your child becomes a master liar...
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9: The Contest Carnival (à la Minute to Win It)
Okay, this isnt really old-school, but at least its unplugged! Also, you can sell it to the younger set by calling it Minute to Win It (its on TV, it must be fun!). Basically, any sort of silly challenge you can invent can fall under this heading, and can keep people entertained for hours. Just inventing the games is exciting in itself! Give contestants one minute to complete each task — modify either the level of difficulty or time limit for younger kids. Here are some games that can be re-cast as contest challenges:
- Apple Juice Pong, a version of the ubiquitous college-kid game for the younger set, where you try to bounce a ping-pong ball into your opponents cup of...juice. If you make it, the opponent has to drink the contents of the cup.
- Picking up a marshmallow with a fork taped to a really long stick
- Keeping a balloon in the air by blowing it aloft
- Building a house of cards
- Domino Stacking (how intricate can you make it?)
- The Game of Ha (where everyone lies around in a circle, head to abdomen, and hays ha until someone really laughs)
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