Return of the Pattern

It’s been a while since I posted. Got a new job. Got busy. Got so busy I had to miss Student Showcases, my most favorite of nights.

But I made it to the last Patterns & Games class showcase. Almost nothing in this world makes me happier than a good Patterns & Games class showcase.

And this one was good. And it was recorded.

And so… you get a new post! One with video examples and some thoughts on the lessons IAIDB’s rubric games teach. Enjoy!

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To The Ether video example – I Can’t…

When building Group Games, trust simplicity as The Coalition’s Big Bosses did in this To The Ether game.

Why? When a pattern is this clearly established and heightened you can reach the point where you don’t even need to finish the sequence before the audience is laughing uproariously, having completed the pattern in their own head. 

More To The Ether video examples –>

To The Ether Example – Johnsons’ Giraffe

In this clip, The Johnsons of The Coalition Theater in Richmond, VA use a To The Ether game as their Opening.  This one’s short and sweet.  Following his fellow players after the suggestion of “Giraffe,” the third player references “toes” in his Cement move, following the giraffe down its body.  The fourth move doesn’t follow that progression but follows the language while heightening emotion and physicality.  And it’s thankfully funny enough to earn an edit so nothing has to follow it.

1.4 – To The Ether Games


I like Frisbee.
I like hacky sack.
I like hitting this one stick I wrapped in ribbons with these other two sticks I wrapped in different ribbons.
I like the Grateful Dead.
I like acoustic guitar around a beach bonfire.
I like blowing into this diggerydoo I crafted in the company of native Aborigines during the Australian leg of my Peace Corp stint.
I like tie dye.
I like white-girl dreadlocks.
I like the hemp clothing, ropes and cleansing products I handmake and sell in open air markets and on commune tours with all profits going to Amnesty United.
Man, I just like being stoned.

In a To The Ether game, the progression of personal games establishes the pattern, and the scenic game is heightened in that pattern’s evolving repetition.

For focus sake, the pattern is emphasized over any need to contextualize or justify where the players are or who they are to one another. Players can literally deliver their lines into empty spaces without expectation of a conversational response. Thus, “To The Ether” games. Continue reading

To The Ether Game exercise

The fun of collaborative creation is confidently following wherever it goes. A commitment to making moves in the context of all that precedes them can help a group shape that creation without controlling it, focusing the group’s progression for maximum heightening and impact.

To The Ether games are the simplest in terms of pattern components but are the most varied in terms of their final form. Drilling To The Ether games with post-game analysis of the progression of moves will help students build pattern muscle memory.

TO THE ETHER GAMES – Have Player One take stage and make a Self Contained Emotional Statement. Have Player Two come out and change one thing about Player One’s SCES. Have Player Three give a Self Contained Emotional Statement that, in relating to the 2nd Self Contained Emotional Statement, heightens the progression between the first two Self Contained Emotional Statements.

Evolution of the pattern –
• 1st move = Offer (anything is an offer)
• 2nd move = Sets the pattern (of the myriad directions available after the offer the set move begins to define a single trajectory)
• 3rd move = Cements the pattern (clarifies the pattern in a direction that can be repeated and heightened.
E.g. Orange (1); Apple (2); Kiwi (3)
E.g. Orange, Peel (1); Melon, Rind (2); Apple, Skin (3)

• The Offer is anything. The Set move seeks to establish a relationship with the Offer move. The Cement move seeks to heighten the relationship between the Set and Offer moves through its own relationship with the Set move. The progression of Offer, Set and Cement moves define the rules to the relationship between nodes in the sequence.
Trust simplicity – stick the same language; don’t allow personally-clever A-to-E connections ground the group in confusion
Serve the groupyou don’t have to be funny for the group to be hilarious; be willing to set the pattern for another to spike; the 2nd move will never be as funny as the 1st or 3rd but it is necessary to facilitate the big payoff.
The sooner a pattern is cemented, the sooner everyone can play – when players feel compelled to continue a pattern you know it has been established with a clear progression.
Don’t forget emotion – if nothing else heighten emotion/character; that can earn you an edit even if all else fails to cohere.
• Categories – related contributions that do not heighten/progress; can be reordered without consequence (“Coke/Kleenex/Band-aid” vs. “Kleenex/Band-aid/Coke”). A run of categories typically necessitates a “resetting” pattern pass
Poles – when two extremes are juxtaposed (hot/cold; love/hate) it can be difficult to find a contribution to continue the progression; upon hearing “poles” players should seek to set up another poled pair to establish a progression across pairs
Resetting – when a pattern’s trajectory has reached an apex, players should think to start a second related pattern so that the game is heightening iterations of patterns. Example 1 – Womb/World/Heaven; Testies/Sweat sock/Hell. Example 2 – “I hate school”…“I hate prison”; “My teachers…”…“My guards…”
Rule of 3s is not mandatory – while the rule of 3’s does facilitate funny, you don’t need factors of three; patterns don’t have to be played all the way down the line before they are edited
Pattern Ending Edits – ideally a pattern heightens to a beautiful point and earns an edit; not-ideally a player makes a move at the expense of the pattern and fails to earn an edit leaving a dead scene; but there are moves that can successfully earn an edit while disrupting the progression –

  • Contextual Alignment – when it becomes clear what the whole pattern to that point has been about
    • “My nose ring hurts,” “My ink hurts,” “My brand hurts,” “My fixed-speed bike hurts.”
  • Throwing a Pattern on Its Head – if the pattern is heightened in a clear progression subverting that progression can be funny
    • “I love it,” “I love it,” “I love it,” “I loathe it”


Johnsons’ Opening – Date for the Dance

Johnsons’ Opening – Giraffe

IAIDB – I Wish

IAIDB – Everything Sucks