There are literally hundreds of improv games. Thousands if you include all the possible variations. But they all boil down to a few separate categories:
- Scenes: these can involve from 1 to 100 people, but generally focus on 2 or 3.
- Story telling: again, any number of people may tell the story. The story may be told chronologically or backwards through time, it may jump around, or be about a moment. It may start in the middle. (Those are all possible with a scene, as well.)
- Physical interaction: this includes mirroring the other person and using invisible objects in a form of mime. You may not be allowed to speak, and you may only be aloud to use guttural noises.
Believe it or not, that's pretty much it!
An interview is a scene. A speech is generally a scene with one person. So is a monologue.
Improv games may combine multiple categories together.
For example, there is a game where person 1 stands behind person 2 and acts as the person 2's hands. Person 1 talks and person 2 gestures. It's basically a scene and the game is really the physical interaction.
Naturally, a scene is a type of story. That's why there is even a popular game where one person tells a story, while someone else acts it out. Keith Johnstone emphasizes this again and again. He insists that for scenes to be interesting they must contain all of the elements of great storytelling.
I agree 100%!
Creating New Games
This kind of categorizing can be useful to understanding how to create new games.
Another important element of improv games is that they are generally based on this idea:
"Limitation generates variety."
If we take away your ability to talk, you'll instantly develop more variety in how you use your body.
And, if you limit how you can speak (say. only in questions) it will create greater variety in how you speak.
Part of the secret is that people tend to go on automatic. We behave based on repetition and patterns. Once you interrupt our patterns... you can't predict what you'll get!