Games you play in the dark: Blindfolds

11 March 2011 | 0 comments

The title of this post is misleading – blindfold games aren’t games you play in the dark, pretty much by definition. If it was dark anyway, why would you bother putting a blindfold on someone?

The point of blindfold games is the asymmetry. Blind Man’s Buff, and the mass of other “blind man” Victorian parlour games, all demand that a blindfolded player either catches, or else identifies, someone who can see. There’s an earlier pig-chasing game that was reported at some village fairs, where blindfolded players tried to catch a pig with bells on – and even in this case, where all the players are blindfold, the point of the game depends on some people being able to see; it’s not the sort of thing you’d play without spectators.

Something similar is true of Sangre y Patatas, discussed yesterday. Initially all the players are wearing blindfolds, sure, but as they’re eliminated, more and more people make the transition from playing to watching – and that’s part of the glory of the game, that you move so swiftly from “concentrating quite hard and really finding it a bit scary” to “trying not to laugh audibly at the people who are still playing”.

People have run a few blindfold games at the Sandpit over the years:

  • Nikki Pugh’s Bloop, in which blindfold players navigate by listening to a proximity-beeper which speeds up as they move around, and other players (not blindfold) chase after them – allowed only to move a single step at certain intervals. It’s a charming game that sets constrained knowledge of the environment in some players against constrained ability to move through it in others.
  • Peter Law and Katy Beale’s lovely Explorers, in which unblindfolded players guid a blindfolded partner around, describing the things they pass in extravagant detail, before the blindfold player returns and draws a map of the places they’ve passed through.
  • Jane McGonigal’s Lost Sport of Olympia, in which humming players try to guide teir blindfolded teammate along a circuitous route.

The games set one asymmetry against another – imbuing the blindfolded player with a power that the others lack (to move freely, say, or to judge the actions of other players). It’s fun to think about other compensating asymmetries that could be brought into play – are there any games which set lack of visual cues against knowledge of the aim? Against possession of a walkie-talkie or a great big pot of paint?

Picture by burnt out impurities

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