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Identity Games

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Identity games are party games based around the individuals involved guessing their hidden identity through the use of various questions and questioning techniques. In many instances the reactions of those present are as important a sign as any answer as to how close an individual is to guessing their identity.

The complexity of these games can vary considerably based upon the abilities and the knowledge of those individuals involved. Also, the quantity of alcohol that may have been consumed will have considerable bearing on what can reasonably be achieved given that some individuals may actually forget their own identity having drunk more than enough.

The Yes/No Game

One of the basic forms of this game is to choose absolutely anything and allow the target individual to ask questions with a possible Yes/No answer. The game is played with one player as the victim and with everyone else forming an ad hoc committee to provide replies.

The most important feature is that questions must always be answered with a Yes or No reply. Questions asked that cannot be answered in this way must be answered only to the effect that no reply is possible. If the victim wishes to pursue questioning in the same area, then they will need to reword their request.

The existence of the committee means that obscure or difficult questions can be considered by everyone involved and a consensus reply delivered. More often than not, however, borderline questions are answered by factions of the committee with both a Yes and a No - providing very little assistance to the victim.

The victim can make guesses at who or what they are at any time, representing another Yes/No question. The game ends when the victim announces their identity correctly.

Variations on the game involve a set limit to the number of questions that can be asked, or for the victim to be required to direct questions at specific individuals who must answer without assistance. This opens up the possibility that a difficult question aimed at the wrong individual can lead the victim miles off course.

Who Am I?

Played in a group, with everyone involved sitting in a circle with no reflective surfaces nearby, the object of this game is to be the first player to guess their own identity correctly. The set-up involves either the use of pre-prepared identities (created by someone not taking part in the game) or the players creating their own and assigning them to the individual sitting on their left (or right - whatever the group preference might be). The identities are written on Post-it notes or stickers that are then adhered to the player's forehead. While each player cannot see who they are, everyone else can.

Play proceeds with each individual asking a Yes/No question of those sitting around them - in the same manner as the Yes/No game. The answers can come from only the targeted players or by means of the committee process. Once a question has been answered play proceeds to the next player in the circle, heading clockwise. Each player may choose to take a guess at their identity in place of another question, and if they are wrong, play proceeds to the left as normal.

Variations are the same as the previous game. Identities are usually celebrities (eg actors), well-known individuals (eg politicians) or people in the same room or family/friend circle. The game normally doesn't venture into animal, vegetable or mineral identities - though cartoon characters, animal actors or significant landmarks are possible selections1.

The ideal variation for people who have had too much to drink is to simply write down the name of everyone taking part on the stickers. The opportunity for bare-faced insults and actual fights during this game is considerable.

Hit, Miss Or Maybe

The game2 revolves around a single player being interrogated by the rest of the people involved to seek their hidden identity. The player under the spotlight decides upon a famous individual (past or present, real or fictional) and writes their name down on a piece of paper3. Then the player tells everyone the first letter of their surname (or only name for folks like Madonna, Lulu and Sting).

The other participants can then ask a question that relates to a possible answer. So, if the first letter of the mystery name was 'M' someone could ask 'Are you a famous English Grand Prix driver?' or 'Did you publish a book called Sex?'. The player under scrutiny must answer either 'Yes, I may be' (if by a chance in a million the questioner appears to have guessed correctly) or 'No, I am not...' - filling out the reply with the name of the person the questioner is referring to. So, the replies to the above questions would be 'No, I am not Nigel Mansell' and 'No, I am not Madonna'.

The only way a questioner can ask a direct question about who the mystery individual is, or take a guess, is to leave the targeted player unable to provide a correct answer. So, if the player was asked 'Are you a war time Prime Minister?' and they didn't or couldn't reply 'No, I am not Ramsey MacDonald' then the questioner gets a chance to ask a direct 'Yes/No' question about the mystery individual's identity, or take a guess.

If the player answered 'Yes, I may be' to the original question, the questioner cannot guess until they get the opportunity to ask another question and succeed in forcing an incorrect, or 'no', answer. Of course this leaves it wide open for everyone else to get the answer right in between if they can bamboozle the target player before then.

The winner is the first person to guess the mystery identity correctly. Variations can impose a certain number of questions - maybe three - per player before the questioned player is declared the winner. Or, a specific time limit within which the game must be completed can be set or else, again, the questioned player wins by default.

Blind Dates

Ideally suited to four players with a giggling audience, one player takes the role of questioner of the other three, his task being to determine who they are4. The three questioners need to be primed either with a specific identity (eg a celebrity) or a specific characteristic or disorder (eg they're a stalker, a psychopath or whatever). To minimise the possibility of physical clues the person asking the questions should be sitting with their back to the three other players. Each of the three questioned players should also be given a number so that the questioner has something to refer to.

The game proceeds with the questioner asking three identical questions of each of the players, getting the answers from each before moving on to the next question. So, for example, the questioner might ask 'What gift would you buy me if we went on a date?', 'What's your favourite film?' and 'What's your favourite hobby?'.

The questionees must answer honestly within the context of the personality or characteristics that they have been given. They can, if they wish, attempt to impersonate the character, use catchphrases and other mannerisms. While the winners in the game are effectively those players whose identity cannot be guessed, they should not attempt to make it impossible to make a reasonable guess by resorting to short and uninformative replies to questions.

After asking all three questions of all participating players the questioner must make a guess at their identity. Whether the guesses are close enough to be accepted is down to the people watching, and hopefully enjoying, the game. If the questioner is successful in guessing all three, then they are considered the winner. Otherwise, the winners are the players who evaded identification.

Tabula Rasa

Warning: Not recommended for parties where people are beginning to forget how to walk and using plant pots as handy, makeshift latrines.

From the Latin term 'blank slate', this version of the identity game becomes somewhat more complex and investigative and necessitates a smaller group and someone willing to take control of the question answering. Players are no longer restricted to asking questions with Yes/No answers and their identity is only known to the individual running the game.

Having much in common with role playing games, each player involved is presented with a situation to which they wake with no recollection of who they are or how they got there. The person running the game is responsible for describing their surroundings and any events that occur around them. They may, potentially, also take on characters around the individuals involved and interact with them.

Any questions can be asked and any actions taken within reason, but anything that can be answered with the individuals identity or which would provide a total description of their appearance will cause them to black-out. At this point play passes to the next player involved. Black-outs might be caused by asking a character involved in the role-playing what the player's name is or by asking what can be seen in a reflective surface or mirror.

It is recommended that each players is allowed two or three minutes of activity before the storytelling switches to another player to ensure interest and involvement is maintained. If a black-out does not occur in this length of time then a natural pause should be taken instead. Particularly daft players may expose themselves to repeated events that would reveal their identity (eg walking into a mirror shop and choosing to stay there) leading to a string of short turns followed by black-outs. Such players should be politely advised that they aren't likely to get anywhere using this tactic.

A player can choose to guess who they are, but an incorrect attempt will lead to a black out. Victory goes to the player who guesses their identity first.

Variations depend upon the people the players might be. For a short game it's recommended that a broad category is established - eg contemporary music figure, historical individual. The success of this version of the game depends upon a capable, and knowledgeable, storyteller and the result can be very rewarding in the right hands.

1Making it something more like 'What am I?' rather than 'Who'.2 Also called 'Botticelli' for some unfathomable reason.3Just to ensure a measure of fair play to prevent them from changing their minds eight times during the game to stop anyone from winning.4Before, presumably, embarking on a long and meaningful relationship with them.

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