Appalshop News

Roadside’s Holiday Story Game

2 months ago

This year, Roadside has been exploring new methods of storytelling, seeking new ways to find communion and bridge divides, and playtesting a number of new activities with a wide array of partners and friends. We figured the holiday season is as good a time as ever to share one of these activities with you, so that you may try it yourselves, around the dinner table or the fire, or wherever your stories are told. 

Perhaps this will spur some memories and tales you haven’t heard before. Maybe you’ll learn a little more about the folks you share space with, and you’ll all find your lives a little more textured. Or, you’ll just have a good time, and that’s alright too! 


Purpose: Storytelling Exercise

Context: This is a relatively new game being played within Roadside. It is a storytelling game, but feels a little more pressurized than a traditional story circle. It is often light-hearted and could be used as an icebreaker, but it would also work with a well-established group.

Number of players: 3–20. You need a moderator.

NOTE: In advance of this game, the moderator should create a list of concepts. It can be a broad range, so long as they’re mostly relatable to the expected participants. Our list usually includes concepts like “holidays, riding bicycles, elementary school, the mall, vacation, your first job” and subjects that feel in a similar vein.*

  1. When the group is assembled and you know how many participants there will be, the moderator should pull an equal number of concepts from their pre-made list. For example, if there are eight participants, there should be eight concepts to pull from. This can include the moderator or not—that is completely up to you (but the moderator also created the list, which may create an unfair advantage!).
  2. The concepts should go into a pool that allows them to be randomly selected. This could be a digital spinner on the internet, pieces of paper in a bowl, or anything that allows for random selection. 
  3. The moderator will pull one concept from the pool at a time, present that concept to the group, and a participant must tell a story that pertains to that concept.
    MODERATOR: The concept is “waterparks.”
    PARTICIPANT: Oh! I’ve got one. Let me tell you about the time my cousin got trapped in the bathroom at Six Flags . . .
  4. Once a story has been told, that concept is removed, and the participant who has told their story is now “out” (or in this context, becomes a listener). 
  5. The goal of the game is to have each participant tell a story pertaining to each concept—meaning the final participant will have their concept selected for them! 
  6. If the final participant cannot think of a story for their concept, they are welcome to make something up, speak about their experience that keeps them from having a story (Example: “I’ve never been to a waterpark, because I grew up in Montana, where instead of waterparks, most kids spent their summers doing X.”), or asking to tell an alternative story. The rules do not need to be strict—the goal is to tell and enjoy stories with one another. If it is a group that thrives on pressure, they can always play again and aim to make it through a full round. If the group is more relaxed, they can decide on an alternate goal or way to finish the game.
  7. The stories do not need to be elaborate, or even entertaining. This is just an alternative that gamifies the storytelling process and builds suspense for those participating. 

*An alternative approach is to pass out sheets of paper and ask participants to contribute one concept to the game. This presents the possibility of repeated concepts but shouldn’t stall the game (as we often are spurred by the stories of others!). 

Let us know if you learn any new stories from family and friends! 

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