Conversation: the Rules

We all know conversation is a game.

Sometimes it’s a game with a very definite prize, like getting someone to think you’re interesting enough that they’ll give you their phone number, or getting someone to trust you enough that they’ll consider your business proposal. Whatever the goal is, conversation is challenging, scalable, and interactive – all the hallmarks of a really good social game.

But what are the rules of the game?

I think I may have deduced them. Here’s the alpha version. Let me know what you think.


Conversation is a game for 2-6 players. (It is possible to play with more than 6 players, but scoring becomes extremely complicated as sub-conversations may form.)


Conversations are a collaborative game, scored by group. Though individuals do get points, ultimately the objective is for the group’s score to be as high as possible by the end of the conversation.

The game is based on provoking information exchange. Players take turns trying to get others to share information with the group.


  1. Every time a player is provoked to reveal a piece of information, both the provoker and the revealer get a point.
  2. If the provoker provokes a revealer to recount an anecdote, the provoker (not the revealer) gets an additional point.
  3. Provoking laughter scores the provoker one point for every person who laughs. An additional point is awarded for every person still laughing after five seconds, repeatedly, until laughter is extinguished.
  4. Any attempted provocation that results in refusal or embarrassment loses the provoker two points.
  5. Silence is the enemy. Periods of silence cause all players to lose points, at a rate of one point per five seconds.

There are two exceptions to rule 5.

The first is if the players are engaged in some sort of activity while the conversation takes place, e.g. taking a walk, visiting a gallery, driving, or similar. In such cases, point loss speed is quartered – that is, all players lose one point per 20 seconds of silence. (Note that eating does not count as an activity for scoring purposes.)

The second exception to rule 5 is if some of the players are Scandinavian. Such players permanently  count as if they are engaged in an activity, losing one point only once every 20 seconds of silence.

Required Materials

None. However, one bottle of wine/beer/whiskey or similar per 2 players may be a welcome accessory, depending on the length of the conversation. Alcohol has been associated with higher-scoring conversations.

4 thoughts on “Conversation: the Rules

  1. What, do you think Scandinavians should lose points slower? In Lappland, they play a version of this game where you never lose points at all, no matter what you’re doing.

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