tagHow ToHow to Play 'Five Seconds'

How to Play 'Five Seconds'


The second in my occasional series of suggestions for new party games is another very short and simple idea. To start with, split the group into male and female. One gender will then challenge the other to guess a word that has been jointly agreed upon -- for the purposes of this explanation I'm rather wickedly going to assume the boys' team are challenging the girls to guess the obscure and virtually impossible-to-pronounce name of the Welsh town of Abergwyngiegynn! But the mystery word can of course be anything you like. You should be playing for a nominal prize to ensure everyone has an incentive to try as hard as possible -- perhaps the leftovers of dinner, a cake, or a bottle of something nice. But the important thing to remember is that, in my example, the girls will be playing against each other as well as against the boys' team. If one of the girls guesses the town correctly, she wins the prize all for herself. But if all the girls fail, the boys' team shares the prize between them.

Because there is no way the girls will be able to hit on the name of the town in question by means of a lucky guess (unless, naturally, one of them happens to hail from the general vicinity of Abergwyngiegynn), they will require some fairly direct hints. The boys will start by telling them how many letters there are in the town name (in this case fifteen) and will then offer them the chance to be told specific letters. But these clues must be earned, and the girls will be competing with each other to earn them. For starters they must each, in turn, submit a bid -- an offer of something they're prepared to do to entertain the boys. It can be absolutely anything they like, just so long as it conforms to one cardinal rule -- it must take five seconds or less to perform. So a girl could offer to hum the opening bars of Kumbaya, to do her devilishly good impression of Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin -- or alternatively to flash her breasts for five seconds, or to look deep into the eyes of one of the boys and ask with conviction "Why do you never make love to me?".

After the bids are in, the boys' team must collectively decide -- by vote if necessary -- which of the assorted offers sounds the most exciting. The selected girl must then perform her mini-party-piece exactly as she described it in her bid, and provided she does so she can then request the letter of her choice (eg. first, or seventh, or last), which one of the boys will whisper in her ear. As she is competing with the other girls to get to the name of the town first, it is vitally important that the letter is not overheard, and she must commit it to memory. If she fails to remember, it may even be necessary for her to bid for the same letter at a later stage of the game.

If after the first round none of the girls have correctly guessed the town name (rather likely in my example), the bidding process opens again in exactly the same way as before, for offers of any party-piece that lasts five seconds or less. But here's the twist -- the girl with the winning bid must this time perform her own party-piece AFTER she has performed the party-piece of the girl who won the bid in the first round. So if the winning bid in round one was to hum the first few bars of Kumbaya, and the winning bid in round two was the impression of Vladimir Voronin, the winning girl in the second bid must first hum Kumbaya, and then immediately break uncannily into the voice of the esteemed Moldovan President. The same rule applies in each subsequent round -- the successful bidder must perform each of the previous party-pieces in sequence, and then add her own at the end. Only if this is done correctly will she be given the letter she needs -- if not, the bidding process will reopen and she must try all over again.

The beauty of this game is that everyone is in complete control of what they are prepared to do, and consequently there is absolutely no way of predicting which way it's going to develop. It may just turn out to be a very fun and incredibly silly game where nobody does anything sexually suggestive at all. But in the example I've given, the fascinating question would be the dynamic of the girls' group. At some point, probably quite early on, the penny will drop that the sure-fire way of winning the bid is to offer to show some flesh or do something particularly raunchy. But if each of the girls decide to tacitly work with the others to 'suppress the bid' -- by never crossing a certain line - then there will be no need for any of them to cross that line to outbid the others. But it only takes one of the girls to go just that little bit further, and the others will then have to continually up the ante, or else end up passing on their bid and effectively dropping out of the game.

If all the girls pass on the same round, the game is over and the boys win. But if things really get going, and the girls stick with the game and try to outbid each other in ever more daring ways, you could end up with the following actions being breathlessly performed in sequence -- hum the first few bars of Kumbaya, do an impression of President Voronin, make dolphin noises, scream "I am not a tractor!" in a German accent, nuzzle boy A's neck, gently massage boy B's hand, quietly suggest Boy C might like to make her pregnant, flash breasts, rudely push boy D's head straight into bosom, stroke boy E's penis...and so on. The possibilities are endless -- or as endless as the five-second rule will permit!

And of course, once the game is over, fair's fair -- it's time to turn the tables and let the girls come up with a ridiculously long Welsh place-name that the boys will have to entertain to discover. It could go on for some time...

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