Game is said to be a UCB concept, but plenty of my instructors talked about game while I was in Chicago. My working definition of “game” is that it’s the funny thing the scene is about as agreed on by the performers. It’s always possible to play a game. Here’s how!
The game is usually implied in the first few lines of the scene. That’s because game emerges organically as a result of the interactions of the scene’s players. I think the concept of game often confuses people because they think they need to change their behavior in order to play the game of the scene. Not true. If the game of the scene is the result of the behavior you’ve already displayed, then just keep doing what you’re already doing and the game will heighten naturally.
People’s personalities have points of conflict, whether it be our values, feelings, desires, habits, etc. When forced into close quarters like that of a scene, these conflicts are made more visible–like living under a microscope. These may be with others, the world, our circumstances, etc. The sort of stuff that you’d encounter in an English class: person vs person, person vs nature, person vs society, person vs technology, etc.
That’s not to say that the game will be a conflict as much as we’re always in relationships with these things and, as a result, will respond emotionally to them. That’s how TJ and Dave are able to start a scene with nothing but a look. They just build and build and build out of what they see as happening and before they know it, boom, 50 minutes have passed. A scene built out of your actual thoughts and feelings will have a game that you want to play since you made it happen with the specifics of your life. If something onstage is happening that you don’t like, say what you feel. That will probably be the game. If something strikes you as weird and you can’t help but gasp–gasp! That will probably be the game.
If you’re playing honestly, as if what’s happening onstage is actually happening, then you’ll be compelled to play the game because it’s simply what would happen to you in the scenario in which you find yourself–a scenario you literally made out of your thoughts, feelings, history, desires, etc. And don’t think for a moment that your comedic feelings don’t belong onstage! Those comedic feelings are as valid an emotion as any other. If you percieve a way to have the exact same scene but funnier, make it happen.
You don’t have to worry about something happening. Something will always happen because something is always happening– unless you’re playing a boring scene full of empty chatter. I’d steer clear of that onstage or off. Be authentic! How can you speak so much but say so little? Don’t you feel it pushing out of your chest, waiting to burst out? Let it burst! And that burst will be your scene.
Here’s a scene I did last week:
Person 1: Dad, don’t shine my shoes; it’s embarrassing.
Person 2: Shoe shinning put you through school so you could grow up to be a big shot. It’d be an honor to shine your shoes!
Right away you can tell that the game of the scene will be the father embarrassing the son. It’s right there in “don’t shine my shoes”. What will allow it to heighten is that the more the dad tries to shine the son’s shoes, the stronger the son’s resentment will grow, which only strengthens the father’s resolve to shine and embarrass the son in other ways. There are people who think game leads to superficial play because participants are just thinking of what the right move should be, but if you’re just playing how you’re actually feeling you’ll make all the right moves and your scenes will be rich in emotion. “You’re doing the thing that makes me mad? That makes me madder!” And the specifics that you know will be what makes your scene unique even though, broadly speaking, the embarrassment game has been played a countless number of times.
Without game, scenes are unfocused, formless, and pointless, failing to answer the question of, “Why am I watching this?” Games can be played without thought given to them, but it’s useful to know you’re playing a game in the same way it’s useful to know you’re a person. Ya know, the human condition? Look it up sometime! And then turn it into a game. Myth of Sisyphus? Classic game!