A. Fleugelman (ed.), The New Games Book

The New Games Book (1976) is available to borrow from the Internet Archive library: https://archive.org/stream/newgamesbook00newg

The New Games movement's started the U.S. in the late '60s, later was continued formally as a New Games Foundation which disbanded in 1983. The New Games Book is the first of two books that resulted from their work, it's contents might seem already familiar to readers interested in the topic, as the thought of New Games smoothly dissolved into many developments in game design, team-building exercises, and theory around playfulness.

The book consists of game rules ordered by the number of players and the level of physical activity, but it also includes longer texts. These essays are quite broad, worth reading, and cover topics of New Games history, game design, social change, or organizing gaming events (which fits also to setting up music game meetings). Although the approaches presented are quite diverse, the result is combining the cultural tendencies associated with the youth of this era and more traditional sportsmanship. All is written in the spirit that play is important and that there is a positive, non-hostile face of competition that is worth exploring, as hinted in the quotes:

You can choose to compete because competition is fun, not because you're concerned with who wins.

Games are not so much a way to compare our abilities as a way to celebrate them.

Music in the Games

In the first book, physical activities are featured, so the connection of New Games to music games is more indirect than direct. But three titles (out of 60 in total) can be picked out:


Lummi sticks

Presented as a free-form activity of hitting the ground or sticks together; in the text Lummi sticks are somewhat conflated with Ti Rakau of the Maori. The activity is based on rhythm and produces sounds, but unfortunately, the interactive process is not refined into the game. Also, on the other hand, traditional patterns of sticking in both Lummi and Ti Rakau seem to usually be strictly defined, too constrained to be a music game in our understanding (similarly to most of the world's clapping games; "ethnomusicological citation needed").


This game showcases an interesting spatial and percussive mechanic. It is basically a Blind man's buff with shakers where escaper is obliged to rattle after the catcher plays one's instrument. This call and response should help the blindfolded "it" to locate the targets. The game is played in an enclosed space with a limit on calls.

Mating game


This game is for an even number of players. With a double set of inspire cards, provide all players with their "secret identity". For each player, there is in play another one with the same card, so prepare the deck accordingly.

The player's task is to find your card-mate, but this can be done only with pantomime and non-verbal sounds (with this means you present the card that you have). This is done chaotically by walking around and making short, simultaneous "duets" with different players. This lasts until everyone forms a pair.

A version by the book is zoologically themed and a capella, this is easy to organize and also easy to put in the context of a narrative (i.e. Noah's ark). Identities can be randomized in any available way or provided directly by a facilitator if present. A variant with a diverse set of identities and only playing on instruments also works well.

This game is worth mentioning not only because of its resemblance to both Animal Sounds and Agents. In the context of a meeting, it is a good starter if you want to show that the understanding of music you are going to deal with is quite broad. The game lacks a "twist", but may work in this simple form if there are many players; consider adding a time limit.

Final remarks

The inspiration for the games in the book is drawn from many sources, both traditional and commercial games are freely modified to achieve desired effects. The modification of games is consequently encouraged, and as usual, with simple propositions, adjusting them on the fly is much safer than with formally complex systems. The modification idea can work especially well as it's considered in the context of instant practical testing.

http://deepfun.org — a blog of Bernie De Koven is a great resource for further inspiration.

"Lummi Sticks" by Jessica Howard, CC BY-NC
Paul de Vos "Animals Entering the Ark of Noah"

Unless stated otherwise Content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. See licensing details