Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Chinese Whispers Game

You may not immediately recognize this game by it's title, The Chinese Whisper Game, however, most people have played a version of this game.

It starts with having several people in a circle or line and a sentence or idea composed of a few words is whispered (just once!) by the first person in the circle or line. Each person after repeats, in a whisper, the content heard by the person who whispered to them. The last person, having no-one to whisper the message to, announces, for all what he/she heard, what the statement is at the end of the circle/line. The last person's statement is compared to the first person's whisper and almost always, the sentence/idea is different between the first and last person. Often, when comparing the sentences/ideas, the difference is so great that the result is very funny and players of the game get a big chuckle out of participating in the game.

The video below shows an example of how The Chinese Whisper Game works:

I've mentioned this game on the Urban Legends, Folklore, Myths and Fairy Tales blog because the process and results of this game are very similar to how urban legends work, get passed around, get altered in the telling of tales. As well, Folklore, Myths and Fairy Tales can be changed in a sort of Chinese Whispers Game process.

For those who hear urban legends, particularly macabre and weird tales, and who wonder, "how can this story survive when it seems so unbelievable and ridiculous, so macabre and weird?": well the tales survive because people will pass on details, anyway, if they fit a sort of format. Tales are longer than phrases usually used in any Chinese Whisper Game, but people will pass tales, anyway in the urban legends, folklore, myths, and fairy tales formats because they heard the tale from someone else... weirdness, inconsistencies, obvious blunders can be re-told with the common story-telling statement "this is how I heard the tale."

Sometimes by leaving something spectacular, unbelievable, etc., in a tale, those passing the tale along do so with the intention of leaving a tale intact as it was heard by the tale-teller before... Humans have a need to try and preserve "what came before," and are interested in historical details, nostalgia, remembering, ancestors, etc. We like to be linked to the past as it makes us feel like we belong in the present - but "links to the past" is a whole study and article in itself, so I won't go into this concept further here... It's just helpful to know that stories change with the story tellers and cultures where the tales are being told.

Try this game with some friends and see what happens, how an original statement or phrase changes by being shared with 5-10 people!