We played Tapestry yesterday in Seattle with a small group that included a number of my family members as well as friends and a couple new people. Here's what I realized: Tapestry is an extraordinary tool for conversation.
Every time we've played Tapestry the game has lasted about an hour, but people don't leave after an hour, they stay and talk. By that time, players have shared and laughed and listened to such an extent that the conceit of the game is no longer needed. People want to, at that point, follow up on stories that were told earlier in the afternoon, follow tangents, and listen to stories as a group instead of one on one. They stay. And they talk.
If there was any thread that stood out from this edition of Tapestry, it would have to be the theme of familial love. Fierce love for children, gratitude for thoughtful and timely notes from fathers, family vacations that shaped adult-hoods, unexpected double births, and student concerts that leave no dry eyes.
Because this edition of Tapestry included members of my family, some of the stories shared were ones I've heard before. (When your grandparents are in Eastern Europe and miss the telegram announcing the birth of you and your twin sister because they followed a mysterious line and ended up seeing Salome at the opera house for 75¢, that's a story that you will hear again and again.) But this time the familiar stories felt different, included aspects that I'd never heard before, were illuminated in new ways through the artistic interpretations of the players who had never heard them before.
Every edition of Tapestry so far has included stories that are heart breakingly/heart strengthening-ly poignant. They've also included stories that are ridiculous in their silliness.
The art that remains, the poetry, the comics, the drawings, the graphs (!) aren't really the point. Sure, they're fun (so much fun!). But by and large they are inside jokes to the people who created them, both the story contributor and the story collector. But the Tapestry that remains...this wall of shared connection. Man. That's just extraordinary.
I was really hoping someone would make a graph this time. AND THEY DID! There were three or four of them, but this one is my favourite. It came from a story about food: for my grandfather's 70th birthday he specifically requested red jello and tater tots. My mind was blown, because Jello?? TATER TOTS?!? At my GRANDPARENT'S HOUSE??!?!!
This turned into a scatter plot of, well, take a look...
When I was 16 I volunteered at Teen-Link, a crisis line for teenagers to call into and get a listening ear or helpful resources. We dealt with calls about sexual assault, homelessness, and familial abuse. You know, light and airy topics. It was tough and draining work, but also incredibly satisfying. I bring this up because when I was applying for the position and going through the extensive interview process I remember answering the question, "Why do you want to work here?" I thought for a moment and then said, "Well. I just really like hearing people's stories."
The stories that come out of Tapestry are nowhere near as heavy as the stories that I heard while volunteering at Teen-Link. But some of them have a similar quality to them, "here- I don't know you, but you've just asked me for a story about love (or adventure or food or whatever), let me give you this honest little bit of myself."
The privilege and honor that I felt when entrusted with people's stories at Teen-Link is the same thing I feel when a profound story shows up in Tapestry. Sure, a lot of the stories are silly or throwaway, but some are heart breaking, and some make you light up, and some can only
be responded to with a belly deep, "awwww
So. That's Tapestry. And I'm raising money to fund the project (materials, transportation, snacks and water for my volunteer crew) through Kickstarter
. If you'd like to be involved (and I'd love it if you were!) please follow the link and pledge whatever you feel willing and able to. Even $5 helps! Thank you so much.
Also, if you're in the Seattle area this Sunday (the 3rd of June) please stop by and play! At 1:30pm, I'll be running Tapestry in the field next to Wedgwood Presbyterian Church at 35th and 80th NE
Yesterday was Tapestry's first official outing. A big, huge, gigantic thank you for everyone who came out to play! We learned a LOT about what works and what doesn't work for Tapestry and I am *thrilled* that it ended up being fun and enjoyable playable for over and hour, even with the tricky crowd conditions we were working with.
You see, Tapestry works best when you are in an environment where it is easy and even encouraged to go and talk to strangers. A Saturday around a busy park where people go to exercise with their earphones firmly pushed in is _maybe_ not an ideal test environment for a social, community interaction game...
When players arrived I slapped "Hello, I'm playing a game. May I ask you a question please?" stickers on their chests. I got many wide eyed, "do we have to talk to strangers???" reactions. Here's the answer: No. No you don't have to talk to strangers. You can play Tapestry with two people trading stories back and forth and never moving from their spots on the picnic blanket. We had a couple players play like that at the play test, and you know what? Their stories were amongst best we had.
Other players were bold and talked to people sitting around the basketball courts, the children's playground, and people walking down the path. We even got a couple of stories from political canvassers (who also helped two of our group who had recently moved to get their voter registrations set up at their new addresses. Vote! It's good for you!) Lessons learned:
- Use something sturdy for the Tapestry posting wall. The cloth we had flapped in the wind and was tricky to pin stories on to.
- Categories of people are best when they are readily visible. Categories like "parent" or "child" were much easier to spot and approach than "cook" or "teacher."
- Evocative story types are the easiest to prompt people with. Travel, survival, ghost, and (my personal favourite) a story about a squid, were the most useful and popular stories for people to contribute. Things that didn't work? Coming of Age stories. We didn't get any using that prompt.
- The haiku and comic strip forms were the most popular ways to collect the stories. I think because the constriction of both formats meant a flowering for creativity. It wasn't too open ended and intimidating. Interestingly, a framed piece of paper for drawing was very nearly useless.
My favourite part of the day was when players would come running back to the Tapestry wall,hand extended and reaching out for some markers and paper, while exclaiming excitedly, "I just heard the most amazing story!! Let me tell you..."
My father once tried
for dinner, squid ink pasta.
"Never again. Ick."
Tapestry has just been confirmed for its first outing! A playtest is of course in order, but our first official run will be at the wedding of The Haberdashery Collective's own Nick and Alexa! (Okay, The Haberdashery only lays claim to Nick, but you know what I mean.)
The whole game will be skinned for their wedding-- with their friends and family as the people categories and stories involving them and oh, I don't know, embarassing moments, how you met, games, food, alchohol, etc. as the story categories. It will be, essentially, an interactive guest book.
I've been hoping that this game would have legs and the ability to be used in a variety of settings by different sorts of communities. So I'm thrilled that it will start out at such a lovely occasion as their wedding.
Very, very exciting things! And now I get to design the stickers to coordinate...