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Thoughtcrime

Thoughtcrime

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Thoughtcrime
Radiodial.jpg
Designer: Kevan Davis and Holly Gramazio
Players: 6 to 40, depending on preparation
Stuff required: Pre-written monologues and recording equipment (for preparation); short-range radio transmitters, MP3 players, radios and headphones (for play)
Crew required: 3 to 10 actors, one organiser, one person to run around making sure everything's okay.
Preparation: Extensive.
Time required: Ten minutes to half an hour, depending on preparation.
Place required: A somewhat crowded but not too overwhelmingly noisy area.
Activities: Listening, deduction, sneaking.
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This is a playable game - it's finished, tested and ready to play.
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This game is made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial Creative Commons licence. (What does this mean?)

Thoughtcrime is a game where you eavesdrop on people's very private thoughts, and then steal their things.

Instructions for players

At the start of the game you receive a radio tuned to a particular signal, and are let free to wander through a crowded place. Keep the volume low while you explore the static.

There will be some people in the crowds around you who are broadcasting their thoughts. As you approach them, the static will fade, and you will be able to hear them thinking, over the radio. Turn the volume up, and listen carefully; you will then need to match up the thoughts that you can hear to the people around you, trying to figure out who is thinking what.

Once you've worked it out, you'll need to take a token from the person whose thoughts you can hear. The token will be something small, something closely related to their thoughts, and they'll have a large number of them: business cards, buttons, post-it notes. The first person to collect a token from each thinker and return to the starting place is the winner. If nobody has found all the tokens by the time the game ends (after a period of time declared at the beginning), then the person who has found the most is the winner.

Instructions for organisers

This is a time-consuming one to run. To start off with, you need to decide how many actors you'll have for the players to "overhear". Four actors makes for a game that lasts ten to twelve minutes; more actors will take longer. Reckon at two or three minutes per actor, plus a couple of minutes for the pot.

Now you have a number of actors, say five, and a playing time, say fifteen minutes. You will have to write a monologue for each actor, five monologues in the hypothetical example; each monologue will last for as long as the game runs, 15 minutes (maybe 2000 words) in the hypothetical example. The monologue needn't be that interesting, as the players will only be hanging around for snippets of it - you can even loop it several times to fill up the time, for a longer game.

On the night, your actors will be acting along to these monologues as they broadcast them. Each monologue should be associated with a token for the character to fiddle with, and contain plenty of clues about what that token is, and what the character might be doing as they think their different thoughts. Ideally the monologues shouldn't have anything sudden happening in them - you don't want your actors on the night to have to memorise every little detail, and to remember to drop all their loose change two seconds before the recording says "Oh! I have dropped all my loose change."

After you've written the monologues, you need actors to record them. These can be the same actors you have on the night, but they don't need to be. They will read out and record the monologue as if they were thinking it, with plenty of pauses, and timed so that the actors on the night will be able to act along sensibly.

It can be helpful to editing a couple of minutes of memorable music into the start of the monologues, and again at the end, to bookend the game and indicate to players when playtime starts and ends - you can tell the players that when they hear the music, that means the game is over and they should return to the game's host for final scoring.

Make sure you have as many MP3 players, short-range radio transmitters, radios and headsets as you have actors. Take a few of these down to the place where you're going to play, and wander around to make sure there's a variety of positions that you can put your actors in so that their areas of broadcast don't overlap too heavily, and aren't too far apart (ideally they should be just touching at the edges, although radio waves won't "overlap", and nearby broadcasts will find their own boundaries). Ideally, test this at the same time of the day as the game will run.

Now it's game time! Each actor will need an MP3 player, to play their monologue; a short-range radio broadcaster tuned to the chosen frequency and plugged into the mp3 player, to broadcast the monologue; and a radio (also tuned to the chosen frequency) and surreptitious headphone, to listen to the monologue so that they can act along. Give them all a time to start the broadcast, and make sure their watches are at least loosely synchronised - within a minute or so.

Now gather your players. Each of them will need a radio and headphones. Hand these out (unless you've asked them to bring their own), and if possible test that they're working by broadcasting a signal of your own at the chosen frequency and getting them to tune into it.

Then explain to the players what they'll need to do, and set them free to wander and collect their tokens.

Instructions for actors

Start broadcasting your signal at the prearranged time, and then begin acting along to it. If nobody has found you when the game is halfway over, maybe move position slightly (if you can do this without getting too close to another actor), or step up the obviousness of your acting.

When the game is over and you are broadcasting closing music, feel free to start wandering around the play area looking to "mop up" any players who haven't realised that the game has finished.

Play history

This game ran in the interference-blocking underground vaults of Shunt, at Sandpit #2 in March 2008. One actor was practising mind-reading playing cards, one was emptying old railway tickets out of his wallet, one was writing a bad fantasy novel, and the other was eating sweets and suffering a very boring date.