tagHow ToHow to Play 'Greetings!'

How to Play 'Greetings!'


It's sometimes said of strip poker that it's a game that's regularly fantasised about, but very rarely played for real. And perhaps I haven't been going to the right parties, but it seems likely to me that there's more than a grain of truth in that -- while games designed as a thin excuse to see your friends in a state of undress (or to snog or grope them) are played commonly enough, they invariably seem to be of the chaotic but curiously one-dimensional 'spin the bottle'/'truth or dare' variety. Presumably the main reason for this is that most people are unlikely to be persuaded to participate in any type of 'strip' game unless they are, shall we say, very much in a wild party mood. Such a mood is infinitely more conducive to spontaneous, relatively structure-free games than to something more celebral like poker.

But it seems to me there is also something being lost there -- the whole frisson of a more structured game is derived from knowing that there are firm rules that must be adhered to, and that those rules might lead to someone ending up naked. More particularly, there is the delicious tension and uncertainty over how it will happen and to whom. Will it happen in twenty minutes' time, or in five? And will it be you? Or that friend you'd like a little sweet revenge over? Or will it be that special person you've secretly had a crush on for months? And will you know where to look if it is?

Incidentally, it's this very tension and uncertainty that the occasional televised versions of these games have generally been unable to replicate. Typically, these will be played out by paid actors or models, and the progress and outcome of the game will have been largely or wholly predetermined -- a fact that usually becomes swiftly obvious to the viewer, leaving no room for any meaningful tension.

So is there a happy medium to be found? Games that have structure and discernible rules, and the consequent frisson in the air, but are at the same time spontaneous, unspeakably daft and lots of fun? I think there really ought to be, and in that spirit -- and also on the basis that a little more variety in life can never be a bad thing -- I plan to suggest a number of new games here over the course of the next few weeks. Some of them might turn out to be a bit too crazy, or too dull, or too contrived, and I'm sure some will never -- or hardly ever - see the light of day. But hopefully one or two might catch some imaginations out there somewhere.

In order to walk before I try to run, I'm going to start in this article with the simplest and least fussy of the ideas I've come up with. It's loosely based on another almost ridiculously simple game -- that old favourite 'scissors, paper, stone'. Just in case there's anyone on the planet who doesn't know how that game works, the idea is that each of the two players simultaneously form one of three shapes with their hand. A fixed (but circular) hierarchy of the shapes determines the winner of each round. Scissors beats paper, paper beats stone, stone beats scissors. It therefore ought to be a game of complete chance, although it has been suggested that it may be possible to increase the probability of winning a round through a mixture of tactics and an ability to read your opponent's non-verbal signals.

So, the first thing to imagine is a game of 'scissors, paper, stone' in which the loser of each round is required to dispense with one item of clothing, and in which play continues until one person is left completely naked (or however far the players decide in advance they want to go). And if there are only two of you around, that may in itself be a fun enough game to play. But of course what we're really looking for here is a game that can be played by several people all at once. So there's a twist. Instead of forming a shape with your hand, you're instead going to physically 'greet' an additional playing partner as if you haven't seen that person for quite some time -- and there will be a choice of three distinct ways of doing this.

The game therefore requires four participants, split into two pairs of 'greeting partners' (although a fifth person would be useful to act as an adjudicator). Ideally, everyone's partner should be of the opposite sex, or someone of a gender they could at least in principle be attracted to. In each partnership, one person must endeavour to stand absolutely still, while the other person -- the 'greeter' -- approaches and performs the act of greeting on them. The direct competition in each round will be between the 'greeters' from each pairing -- they must approach their partner from precisely the same distance and then simultaneously perform the greeting of their choice.

The three possible acts of greeting are the cuddle, the kiss, and -- because some people simply can't control themselves when they greet someone they haven't seen for at least seven seconds -- the grope. You and the other participants must agree before the game starts what each of the three options will actually mean in practice. For instance, you might decide that the kiss should be a chaste peck on the cheek, but on the other extreme you might prefer a more turbo-charged version of the game where you insist on a full-on snog with tongues, lasting a minimum of thirty seconds. Similarly, a safety-first grope might be restricted to some light tickling of an innocuous part of the body, but if you're all in agreement it could just as easily be...well, use your imagination. But whatever you decide, it's probably best to put a tight limit on how long the grope can go on for, so there's no danger of anyone getting carried away!

The all-important hierarchy of the three greeting actions is -- kiss beats cuddle, grope beats kiss, cuddle beats grope. At the start of every round of play, each 'greeter' should stand the same distance from his or her partner (perhaps three or four paces). The tension at this point is heightened by the fact that, although it is only the greeters who are in direct competition, their partners will be equally in the dark about what is about to happen to them, and yet will know they must stand perfectly still while it does (although admittedly that may prove impossible if it involves tickling!).

On the signal of the adjudicator (perhaps an 'introduction' of the playing partners to fit the greeting theme) each greeter must simultaneously move forward and greet their partner in one of the three possible ways. The adjudicator will then declare the winner of the round based either on the hierarchy, or on whether there has been any cheating (ie. one greeter delaying for a second or two to see what the other is doing).

The loser of the round then forfeits one item of clothing, which is passed to the adjudicator for safekeeping, and can only be returned once the game is completed. Again, there are a number of possible variations of how this part of the game can unfold. You might decide that the losing 'greeter' should have their item of clothing removed for them by their playing partner. At the very least, I would suggest that the partner should be able to nominate what is to come off.

If there is an infringement of the rules by the greeter's partner (ie. if he or she fails to make enough of an effort to stay still), the greeter should not automatically be penalised by losing the round. Instead, at the adjudicator's sole discretion, a special forfeit of a single item of clothing can be imposed on the greeter's partner.

Notwithstanding the above rule, you might well be thinking at this point -- isn't this a bit of an unequal game? Only one member of each pairing runs much risk of losing their clothes, and only one runs the risk of being kissed, cuddled or groped? Well, there is in fact one more twist. Just like 'scissors, paper, stone', there is a reasonably high chance that any round of play might result in a stalemate -- that both greeters will choose the same form of greeting at the same time. If this happens, the rule is that the roles in each pairing are instantly swapped over -- the greeter's partner becomes the greeter. This remains the case until another stalemate occurs, at which point everyone swaps back again, and so on.

The game continues until there is a clear loser. Once again, how you will determine this should be agreed at the outset. The most obvious way would be to wait until someone ends up completely naked -- but equally you could opt to play a safety-first version of the game in which only certain items of clothing may be removed, and once these have gone the loser is declared. The important thing is to find the level at which everyone in the group feels safe and comfortable, and that way you can get the most fun out of the game.

So that, in a nutshell, is the game of 'Greetings!'. And although it seems to have taken me a good deal of time to explain it, I hope you'll agree the rules aren't particularly fussy, and that the game also has the priceless advantage of being very, very silly. So if you ever find yourself in the right sort of company, and have half-an-hour you don't quite know what to do with, why not give it a spin?

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