Monday, March 29, 2010

How to start Where are Your Keys?

One thing I've always struggled with, since I first started learning Where are Your Keys (WAYK) was how to start learning WAYK!

Before watching the first WAYK video, I had heard discussion and description of the game, but still didn't get it. A short time later I felt like I understood the game, but didn't know how to explain it in a way that actually made sense. Conclusion:
The only way to understand WAYK is to play it.
That implies:
Explaining WAYK ahead of time is a decelerator.
The thing to do is get playing as quickly as possible.

Another thing that I struggled with at the very beginning was the question "what am I supposed to be doing here?" Should I be trying to memorize signs? Is getting the answer to "what's that?" right important? It certainly was in my high school German class. I found myself trying hard to remember the sign for "black pen" and sign it quickly enough to keep up with the video. This is also a decelerator.

Better to just play along, and let it go how it goes. I suspect that complete newbie players need to get this message early on - that just playing along is fine, don't worry about trying to learn.  I don't have enough experience with this to be sure, though.

Another thought came to me from listening to a recent WAYK debrief podcast. (I think it was this one.) Justin said that he doesn't do 2 colored pens with first-time players, because it's simpler for them to get just "pen" instead of dealing with colors. This is spot on. I think that it's particularly important to get the newbies immersed in the game as quickly as possible - really playing, not thinking hard - so they can understand how to play faster. In fact, for the very first few rounds, I would limit to just 3 objects instead of 5 (maybe even 2!). It's Technique: Bite-Sized Pieces with a very small piece for someone who is just trying to figure out eating for the first time.

On a similar note, I think that explaining Travels With Charlie is interesting, but until you've played the very round, I think it's a decelerator. Just get playing as soon as you can.

Jay's techniques for total newbies:

I've been imagining the situation where a stranger and I both miss the bus. We have some time to kill until the next one comes, and I ask if they want to learn sign language while we wait.

1. Give the shortest intro possible (Technique: Short Intro)

If you'd like, I can teach you a little sign language. We're going to have a very simple conversation about these objects. I'll start, and you join in as soon as you are read.
It may also help to add:
Don't worry about trying to learn something and get it right. Just play along. If you're not sure what to do, just copy me.
2. Play simply (Technique: Simple Set-Up)

Use 2 or 3 objects, instead of the regular 5. Pick objects with simple names (a rock is better than a 1 dollar bill). Don't use two similar objects that require differentiating (only 1 pen).

3. Start playing alone (Technique: Play Solo)

Explain the sign for "What's that?" in English. Then ask and answer "What's that?" for each of your objects in turn. If your newbie doesn't copy, remind them to.

After a few rounds they will be comfortable enough that you could have them start asking you.

Now your players are not complete newbies. You can add a couple more objects in perhaps including color. You can have conversations about how the game works, what to do, where we are going, Techniques, etc.

Adaptation when you have a non-newbie

If you have two or more players, where one is a total newbie and one is not, you can play with the more experienced player instead of playing by yourself. That will probably work a little better.

These are just my ideas, I haven't had much chance to test them on folks. I'm sure I'll learn more as I do.


Willem said...

I'm essentially in agreement with your thoughts here. I think Evan and I will make a podcast addressing your blog post today (or Wednesday), to really address this point by point, so other folks can benefit.

You really have the spirit of the game down. Technical issues (what techniques when, how many objects) are exactly what I'd like to nail down if we ever can connect up and work on the game together.


Cory said...

Hiya. So I just played WAYK at Gamestorm in Portland last Friday and have had it on the brain since (obviously I suppose since I’m looking it up while I’m at work. Heh). Willem showed us your video of using it for Arabic with your grandmother and mentioned you were on the Olympic Peninsula. I’m in Bremerton and I (and possibly my girlfriend, I at least have her curious about it) would love to be able to play it more if you’re doing any games in the area.


Jay Bazuzi said...

I'll tell my grandmother that she's famous :-)

Cory, I am in Port Townsend and am planning on hosting WAYK regularly. Drop me an email:

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