So, What Should I Expect When Coming to a Transformation Game?
Participants playing an early version of DIM at Secret Fiction Lab 2017
I've been getting a lot of questions from people who are interested in playing Transformation Games, but have doubts, if it's really for them. So, in order to clarify some points, here is an extensive, in-development F.A.Q. in the form of a fictional conversation. Hope it helps!
So what kind of event should I expect?
Expect a social event with other people! This happens in real life, in real spaces in real time. Expect to engage in playful activities, exercises, exploration, rituals. Expect it to be informal at most times. Expect to explore and experiment with attention, movement and imagination. Expect to have a fun time!
Do I need to have any special skills or knowledge before participating?
You need to be up for playing. That means being open and curious to engage in situations where you might not know the outcome. It's good to know that there is really no way of doing things wrong, or losing in these kinds of events. Think of how it was playing as a child, and you get the general mindset we are aiming to get out of every player.
I have done role-playing, LARP, interactive art or theatre, improv, meditation or rituals before. Will this be helpful for me when coming to your event?
Yes, but it's not an essential prerequisite. If you have been in situations or at events where there is elements of role-playing, performing or rituals involved, some parts will seem familiar to you.
I have never done something like this in my life, this is all completely new. Will I be behind from others?
Not at all! Transformation Games are designed to be plug-and-play: you just have to sign up, show up and everything else will be explained to you on spot.
During the first half of a Game we bring everybody to the same baseline understanding and competence. You will be encouraged to ask questions and rely on your fellow players any time you feel lost.
How many participants are there per game? How long is a game?
It varies, but I'd say most games have about 12-20 participants attending. Each session lasts about 4-6 hours. If it diverts from this, it's usually stated clearly in the description.
Is there a general structure of what happens?
Roughly speaking, yes. The sessions always start with an introductory briefing where we lay out the overall concept and narrative of the Game, as well as an order of how we'll proceed. Afterwards we go into the workshop where we develop the characters and the world of the experience. Once we are done with that it's time for playout: where we explore and interact in this new world created. In the end we do an aftertalk where we can share our thoughts and experiences with other. And that's about it!
Regardless if the session takes 15 minutes of 15 hours, this order of brief > workshop > playout > aftertalk usually remains the same.
Will we dress up in costumes?
Usually no. I will ask you to come in plain clothing that you are comfortable moving around in. Sometimes we use some additional indicators, like robes, bands, blankets, but don't expect full-on costumes or cosplay.
Will you assign me a fictional character that I have to play?
Usually no, at least not directly. I won’t tell you to become the CEO of a mega corporation, or Aragorn or a cat. We will develop characters together during a workshop, where the exercises are set, but the outcomes are always very different. Same goes for the creating the world the characters inhabit. This allows you to create a character and a reality which is truly yours.
What is the workshop? Is this whole game like a workshop?
Yes and no. There is definitely a workshop section in every event, usually in the first half. In it we set the boundaries and rules of the experience - what is a part of it and what is not. We also develop characters, settings, relations, using different simple exercises. These exercises can range from physical games, when we determine our role in space by moving around in it in various ways, imagination exercises, when we develop complex worlds and stories out of seemingly nothing, or guided meditations when you only focus on what is happening inside your body. We use the knowledge and the experiences of these exercises at the starting point for each and every character. Furthermore role of these exercises is to create the new reality we will inhabit in the game and also to allow the opportunity for us to really go for a subjective experience.
And then we go to the playout?
Yes, then we go to the playout.
What will happen in the playout?
I don’t know.
What? What do you mean you don’t know?
What I mean is that that with the playout we are stepping into an unknown territory. With the workshop I technically should have given all the tools and agency for you to take matters in your own hand and shape the experience to your liking. From then on, you and your fellow players are not only the inhabitants, but the creators of this new reality. This point sets it apart from theatre and other scripted forms of art. You are free to roam, imagine and interact, just as in everyday life. I'm still present to ensure your well being, keep the boundaries of the game intact, and to hold space.
Isn't it dangerous? How can you control if something goes wrong?
I know it's hard to believe, but things rarely go wrong. This is mostly due to the player sharing equal responsibility in whatever happens, and that they know they can voice their questions and concerns any time. This is explained and retold throughout the workshop. If someone is having a difficult time, we would treat it with the same respect as if it would happen anywhere else. Our well being is always more important, than any game.
Okay, but what is the worst thing ever happened to anybody in your games?
A guy got kicked in the balls once.
And what are some positive results?
New relationships formed by the end of the game. People found that they somehow share a bond with their fellow participants. They were able to reflect on their social roles, not only within the game but also in their everyday life. Some players managed to overcome minor anxieties about letting themselves go and to play. Others learned to freely experiment with situations that they do not know the outcome. Lot of laughing and all in all fun times from nearly everybody.
Are the experiences of the players similar?
Again, yes and no. After the playout ends, we take a little time to rest and then share our experiences. Every participant has their own story to tell usually, since they were the main characters of their experience. But beyond that very interesting collective narratives and situations arise between people, ranging from couples to the entire group.
Is there an audience? Will I be recorded?
There is no audience, but us. We are the makers, performers and the audience of this experience. I usually won't record you, but I might record what we talk about in the aftertalk, for internal usage and learning. This is merely and audio recording - the information is treated confidentially and would not be made public without your permission.
And what are the things I should NOT expect?
Don't expect this to be theatre. We are not here to perform, but to share. Don't expect it to be cosplay or fandom LARP. We are interested in creating new worlds, not re-enact existing ones. Don't expect it to be therapy. If you need to, seek professional help. We do explore elements of rituals, but do not look for religion here.
Are there any strict no-nos?
Aside from respecting the general norms of a civilised society (behaving respectfully with others, acknowledging different personal boundaries, not getting violent), I ask you not to consume any drugs, including alcohol prior or during the sessions.
Okay, I think I'm set! How do I join one of your events?