How To Play the Stranger Game

The Stranger Game is an easy way for kids and adults alike to practice on-the-fly creativity, and to fill time when waiting in or visiting public spaces where there are lots of people they don't know. This is also an excellent exercise for a creative writing or acting class. Playing is easy, there's no scoring, and the game can go on as long as the players want to play. Here's how:

1. Find a good location
The best place to play the Stranger Game is somewhere very public and full of people, but where the players can sit and be discrete; you don't want to pick fights or weird people out, you just want to exercise your improv storytelling muscles. Restaurants, the DMV, stadiums before a show, city events-- you can play any place where lots of people are present, but nothing else compellingly interesting is happening.

2. Choose your subject
Decide who will start, then have that person pick a person everyone can see from the crowd. The person whose turn it is decides on the subject, and the more interesting or unusual the person, the better. If you've played the game a lot, however, a really ordinary person might be a better choice, to make the round more of a challenge.

3. Tell a story
Make up a name for the person, and embellish as much of their backstory as you can. Why is he here? Where was he beforehand? Where is he going after he leaves? What are his intentions, his dreams, his fears? Who is his best friend? What is his family like? How did he grow up and how does he want to end up? The more detail, the better-- take this random stranger and make him into a full person, a character you'd want to read about in a book or watch in a movie, someone you think you could know.

4. Switch players
When the story is complete, switch to the next person; she'll repeat the process. If you like, the other players can decide who had the best story. If this is being done as an exercise, the other students can offer suggestions to make the stories better-- or it can even be done as a collaborative exercise, allowing the players to practice shared world-building, cooperation, creativity and compromise.


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