Pastwords: A Game You Can Play in the Car
I designed a game with my beloved, called Pastwords. I'll describe it in this blog post, but if it's been a long time since April 2017, you might want to read it on this googledoc instead, where I it might be updated.
Pastwords is a non-competitive game for two or more players, designed to help people get to know one another. It only requires talking, so it is a game that can be played while driving or walking.
How to Play:
In some order (going around the room, for instance), someone says a letter of the alphabet.
The next person says a word that begins with that letter.
Then every person, in no particular order, tells a story from their past, or relates some interesting information, related to that word.
Then, the person who said the word gives the next letter, and the game continues until people want to stop.
Example of Play:
Eileen is playing the game with her wife Rebecca on a drive to Charleston.
Eileen starts and says the letter “p.”
Rebecca says “proud.”
They both think for a minute. Eileen thinks of something first, and tells a story about how she was proud when she sang a solo in high school.
On Rebecca’s turn, she talks about an article she read once in a psychology magazine about how pride can be good or bad for you.
The round is over. Rebecca picks the letter “n.”
Eileen chooses the word “Neverland,” and the game continues until they stop for dinner.
Why This is a Good Game:
We have a lot to learn about one another, but sometimes we don’t think of interesting things to say, or we think of them but they feel conversationally inappropriate (or apropos of nothing), so we keep them to ourselves. A structured game like Pastwords both gives permission to talk about stories or interesting information, and inspires stories you might not otherwise think of. You can play it with people you barely know. For example, you might play it with guests after dinner. You can also play it with family members and others you know very well. At the time of this writing, Jim and Vanessa Davies have been a committed couple for over 10 years, and still play it and come up with stories that have never been told.
Tips for Playing:
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the “rules” of the game are just there to start conversation. There is no winning, no cheating, etc., so don’t get too hung up on everyone having something to say, or whether or not someone’s story is actually relevant or not to the word. The point is to get conversation going and to get to know people.
Certain kinds of words are more evocative of stories than others. Avoid really specific jargon, such as “muon” or “oligarchy.” Most common nouns, adjectives, and verbs work well.