Group games add variety and laughs to workcamps and other social gatherings. They can help participants relax, get to know each other, or just have a good time.
I have collected these games however the person who introduced me to the game is credited at the end of each description, along with the time and place they first taught me the game.
This is a good, easy, fun game for people to get "factual" information about each other. Arrange chairs, one per person, in a horseshoe shape. Everybody takes their shoes off and stands on a chair. Now ask the group to order themselves in different ways without touching the floor. E.g. by name, by age, by where they live/were born (either alphabetically or geographically -- northenmost at this end, southernmost at the other), etc.
When the group thinks they are in the right order, have everyone say their name/age/whatever-it-was to check they got it right and so everyone can hear everyone else's information.
Throw in a couple of silly ones, e.g. by foot size (imagine a dozen people standing on chairs comparing their feet sole-to-sole with their partners and shuffling round, hanging onto each other not to lose balance, to get an idea of the ice breaking value of this game!). (Anna from Cagliari, Sardegna, Italy. IVS/SCI workcamp, Tuzla, Bosnia, August 1998)
This game can get quite mischievous! In this game you get to ask a question of somebody without them knowing who it is from. At the end, the question and its answer are heard by everybody, but nobody, except you, knows who asked the question and who answered it!
Start off by giving everybody a number, making sure that it is clear to everyone what everybody's number is. Give everybody a small piece of paper and ask them to write their number on it in a corner and in small numerals. Put all the pieces of paper in a bag and distribute them randomly, one each. Now each person writes a question on the back of the paper directed to the person identified by the number on the front, folds the paper so that only the number is visible, and puts the paper into the bag. Distribute each piece of paper to the person whose number is on the front. Now each person writes their answer to the question they have received, obliterates the number and, once again, puts the piece of paper into the bag. Distribute the papers randomly and read the questions and answers out aloud. Once everyone has the idea, do it all again giving everybody four or five pieces of paper each.
It's best if you are imaginative with your answers; e.g. if you are asked what colour underwear you have on, rather than answering "Red", answer "Any colour you like sweetheart!". Neither questions nor answers should be taken too seriously! (Massimo Vultaggio of KALAT. KALAT 96, Paceco, Sicily, September 1996)
Call and Throw
A very simple game to get to know each others names. Find an easy-to-throw, easy-to-catch object (an apple, a cigarette packet, maybe even a ball!) and sit or stand in a close circle. The person with the object calls out somebody's name and throws them the object. Try to throw it to a different person every time. If you can't remember or don't know someone's name, ask them, then call and throw! Keep going until everybody thinks they know everybody's names, then do a few more rounds to make sure! (Rosalba Cione of SCI Lazio, Italy. IVS/SCI workcamp, Rome, Italy, October 1996)
This game is best played after the participants have got to know each other a bit.
One person leaves the room and the remaining participants nominate one of themselves. The first person is called back and is allowed to ask four or five indirect questions about the nominated person. Questions should be of the form "If this person were a fruit, which fruit would they be?" or "If this person were a rock band, which band would they be?". Everybody should answer each question, including the nominated person.
The answers should include reasons and avoid giving direct clues. E.g. "He or she would be a fruit that is soft and sweet on the inside, but with a thick skin. Maybe an orange" or "He or she would be an interesting but unconventional band, maybe Pink Floyd". After four or five questions, the questioner must try and guess who was nominated.
Warning! This game is actually quite difficult. It is, however, interesting, both for hearing how others describe you and for others hearing how you describe yourself! (Tina Jazbec from Komen, Slovenia. IVS/SCI workcamp, Rome, Italy, October 1996)
The Wind Blows
Here's a fun game that can get quite raucous. Arrange a circle of chairs, using one chair less than there are people. Everybody sits, except for one person who stands in the middle. The person in the middle thinks of a characteristic and says "The wind blows on those who..." and specifies the characteristic. Everybody that fits the description must then leave their chair and find another to sit on. The person in the middle also tries to find a chair to sit on (even if they themselves do not fit the description). Of course, one person will be left without a seat. That person must continue the game, specifying a different characteristic.
If you are stuck for ideas you can always call out a physical characteristic, e.g. "The wind blows on those wearing white t-shirts.", however, as one point of the game is to get to know each other it is better to call out characteristics that are not obvious, e.g. "The wind blows on those who like Eric Clapton.". One trick is to think of yourself...it's a fun way to find out what you have in common with other participants. (Rosalba Cione of SCI Lazio, Italy. SNIA social centre, Rome, Italy, July 1996)
Purely Physical Games
Everybody stands in a circle and turns to the left. Now everybody tries to sit down on the knees of the person behind. The best way to do this is quickly and all at the same time! Then everybody tries to walk. You'll find this easier if everybody puts the same foot forward.
Good for unwinding after a hard day at work. Everybody stands in a circle, turns to the left, and gives a back-and-shoulders massage to the person in front. Simple and pleasant! (Maria Furugori from London, England. Sunseed Desert Technology research centre, Almeria, Spain, June 1996).
Hands on the table
Everybody sits at a table and places their hands on the table such that your left hand is to the left of the right hand of the person on your left, and your right hand is to the right of the left hand of the person on your right (got that?!). Someone starts by banging the table once with one hand. The hand to the right must now do the same. Banging the table twice changes the direction. If you fail to bang when you should have, or you bang when you shouldn't, put the errant hand behind your back. This can easily be turned into a drinking game! (Anna Milazzo from Catania, Sicily. KALAT 96, Paceco, Sicily, September 1996).
A nice game to get everybody in a good mood for work. Everybody stands in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Everybody closes their eyes, puts their right hand into the circle and clasps one other hand. Do the same with left hands. Open your eyes and try, without anybody letting go, by passing under or over other clasped hands, to make one or more circles. Laughs guaranteed. (Maria Furugori from London, England. Sunseed Desert Technology research centre, Almeria, Spain, June 1996).
Get together a group of about 5 people and number yourselves 1 to 5. Another person (the sculptor) faces away from the group and calls out instructions such as "Number 1's right foot onto number 4's left hip. Number 3's left hand onto number 2's right knee." Etc. See how long you can keep going before the sculpture collapses. (Francesco Petrarota from Trani, Italy. IVS/SCI workcamp, Pitigliano, Italy, July 1997).
Get together a group of 4-5 people and agree on any kind of machine. Now build the machine using your bodies and mimic its actions and sounds while others try to guess what machine you are. (Francesco Petrarota from Trani, Italy. IVS/SCI workcamp, Pitigliano, Italy, July 1997).
This game requires a game organiser, who will not participate in the game. The object of the game is for participants to "murder" each other while avoiding being murdered themselves. The game may last anything from a few hours to a couple of weeks!
Each participant is secretly given the name of the person they must murder, the location where the murder must occur, and a "weapon" with which the murder must be committed. The victim must be touched with the weapon -- while the murderer is holding onto it (no throwing weapons!) -- in the location specified. E.g. Mary might be told that she has to murder Mark in the living room with a backpack. Mark might have to murder Laura on the path with a cucumber. Et cetera.
Once a murder has been committed the murderer takes on the murder that was given to the victim, while the victim drops out of the game. The game continues until there is only one person left, or until a time limit is reached. If there is more than one person still "alive" when the time limit is reached then the person who has murdered the most victims is the winner.
The game organiser must arrange the participants in a circle of murders so that each of them is a potential victim as well as a murderer. This means that ultimately there will be just two participants left, both trying to murder each other. The location and weapon are best decided randomly. An easy way to do this is for the organiser to make a randomly ordered list of the participants and tell each of them to murder the next one on the list, with the last having to murder the first. For the location and weapon make a list of possibilities (be creative!) then ask each participant for two numbers and give them the location and weapon with those numbers.
Once a murder has been committed the game organiser must be informed. The murderer may get their next murder either from their previous victim or from the game organiser. It is, of course, very important that each participant only knows the details of the murder that they must commit and not those of any other murders. (Sandy MacNeill from Bristol, England. Greenforce Coral Reef Survey, Fiji, February 2000).