Monday, August 30, 2004

The Big Idea

One of my favorite theater exercises is called “The Authority Figure.” A topic would be assigned to a participant who in turn would be given a minute to talk about the topic will full authority and conviction, and as little pauses, um’s and ah’s as possible. It was an interesting exercise because the facilitator would always hand out odd topics, like the mating rites of snails or some such. It’s supposed to hone workshoppers’ spontaneity, a very important skill used in masking onstage booboos.

I was reminded of the exercise after playing a modified version of Cheapass Games’ “The Big Idea” with the gang last Saturday night at Country Waffles Annapolis. Modified because, since we didn’t have dice or chips, we had to make up our own game lest we died of boredom.

The game features two decks of cards. The cards of one deck were labeled with products (e.g. Beer, Organizer) and the cards of the other deck were labeled with descriptors (e.g. Motivational, Instant). In our modified game, a player --who assumes the role as “product developer”-- chooses a product from the deck during his turn. The rest of the players then choose descriptor cards from their hands and gives them to the product developer. The combination of descriptors and product creates the “Big Idea.”

Afterwards, the product developer “presents” the new products to the rest of the players – the “panel”-- and here’s where the fun actually happens. The developer has to invoke his creative and logical abilities to effectively present the different products to the panel, no matter how ridiculous the products turn out to be. In the end, the panel members cast votes on the best product, and the player whose descriptors get the most votes “wins the account” of the product. The player who bags the most accounts wins the game.

I bagged the book account, apart from a couple of other products, when I offered the “Evil Kiddie Book.” At some point, the game became less a matter of winning accounts, but more of challenging the product developer (or discarding useless descriptors) with wacky combinations like “Pine-Fresh Herbal Cement” and “Old-Fashioned Unsinkable Dentures.”

So how would you sell the “Flying Perforated Sushi” and the “Edible Puppy Organizer”?

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