Assemble your group in front of you, perhaps in a circle.
Each person’s task is to identify the ‘key’ which unlocks the secret to a puzzle.
To start, point your finger to any individual in the group and say “BANG, YOU’RE DEAD.”
After some moments have passed, ask your group to nominate who it is you eliminated.
Allow for two or more people to predict who was eliminated.
Continue to solicit many more responses before you reveal the answer.
Here’s the key: the first person to speak after you have said the word “…DEAD” is eliminated.
As each person makes an attempt to uncover the key, congratulate those who get it, and encourage those who do not.
Continue to offer more and more obvious clues until everyone has identified the key.
How To Play Narrative
This is one of those classic lateral-thinking, ‘What’s the key?’ lateral-thinking exercises in which the leader subtly does something while distracting their group with something else, with a view that over time, the group will gradually catch on.
Start by sitting roughly in a circle (so most people can see each other,) and then point your finger to any individual in the group and say “BANG YOU’RE DEAD!”
Extra style points are awarded if you elongate the words as you wag your finger about aimlessly, such as “BANG, YOOOOOUUUURR…,” then sharply focus your finger on one person with a rousing “… DEAD!”
After some moments have passed, ask your group to nominate who it is you unceremoniously eliminated.
As you may have guessed, the ‘key’ has nothing to do with the person you point at – there are many keys, but the key I often use is that the ‘freshly deceased will always be the first person to speak after you have said the word “…DEAD.” So, listen carefully.
To this end, it’s a good idea to allow some time to elapse (and therefore, provide a space for a number of people to speak up – they always do) before you reveal who it is you eliminated.
Be sure to review the Leadership Tips tab described below to present this exercise thoughtfully.
Practical Leadership Tips
As with all lateral-thinking puzzles/exercises, use sparingly and always, always, with care. In my experience, many people have been scarred in the past from one or more tortuous experiences with ‘lateral-thinkers,’ often because the solution didn’t come quickly, and/or one after another, they were always the last one to get the solution. Therefore, only use one or two at a time, and always ensure that you solve the puzzle within a short time frame.
If you cannot distinguish who exactly spoke first (eg because two people spoke at the same time, or the background noise made it difficult,) explain that two people were shot, or that it was a near-miss and you need to shoot again. Whatever your response, keep in character.
A few subtle clues which will help speed the ‘getting’ of the key – obviously focusing your attention on the person who speaks first as soon as they speak, or suggesting that your group listens carefully to what happens after a shot is made, or observing that it always seems that someone who makes a guess gets shot, etc.
Please note, the point of lateral-thinking types of activities should not be to frustrate your group beyond enjoyment. They are designed to be fun, but don’t play for more than 10 or 15 minutes. Gradually introduce more and more obvious clues so that, eventually, everyone gets the ‘key.’
Ask your group to resist the urge to share the ‘key’ with others once they work it out. Assure everyone that they will ALL know the solution within, say, ten minutes, and it’s more powerful to discover the solution on their own, than have someone tell them the answer. Besides, whispering the answer to a neighbour only reinforces the fact that they couldn’t do it without help, and getting it will not change their lives.
That said, be aware that some people will reel at the very thought of trying to solve this sort of puzzle, because it involves ‘lateral-thinking.’ Often, these folk have had very negative experiences in the past with this sort of exercise, ie when the puzzle is worked on for hours, or perhaps the solution is never revealed. So, be prepared that some people will immediately ‘check-out’ of this exercise. To this end, note my comments below…
Be very careful in your language. Note two important factors in the presentation I describe above:
– The task is to identify what the ‘key’ is, and to imitate what I’m doing. This exercise has nothing to do with who I point to. Rather, it seeks to sharpen listening skills and heighten awareness of subtlety.
– Everyone is aware that they will know the answer very soon. This is critical to maintain interest, lest some people (often those who never ‘get’ these sorts of puzzles) lose interest very quickly.
Do not present more than one or two of these types of puzzles in a row – seldom do the people who didn’t get it the first time, get it the second time.
You could integrate Bang, You’re Dead as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage healthy social interactions as much as expand their emotional literacy.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Recognising Strengths, Prejudices & Biases
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of thinking laterally and solving fun problems.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully identify the key speaks to the benefits of being mindful and developing one’s emotional intelligence. For example, the trick with most lateral thinking exercises is to read the subtle or nuanced cues that are exhibited by the presenter to discover the key. With this understanding, you could connect this process with one’s ability to read social cues to navigate certain social situations more effectively.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Bang, You’re Dead could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Surprise: For those working in a zero-tolerance environment, substitute the key words with “SURPRISE” or any other acceptable sounding statement.
Foot-Pointing Key: Sit with your legs crossed (or uncrossed,) making sure that your right (or left) foot is pointing to a particular individual (ie the dead person.) So for each round, you adjust your sitting (foot) position, say the magic words, and then sift through the various guesses until the deceased is identified correctly.
Alternative Keys: Other keys you could use include uttering a different set of words such as “OK, WHO JUST DIED?” and progressing alphabetically through the first names of your group (eg Andrea is the first to be eliminated, and then Avril, Ben, etc.) Or, only eliminating those people who are wearing a black garment of clothing, etc.
Participant Involvement: As in all lateral-thinking exercises, invite those members of the group who think they have solved the ‘key’ to have a go.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
With your group glued to their screens and brains switched on, describe the situation and start play. It is not possible for your group to know who you actually pointed to on your screen (not that it matters, anyway,) so the process resembles ordinary play.
Given the difficulty in vision and sometimes delay in video communications, be very careful to nominate the correct person when the first utterances are made.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you heard the saying ‘truth is always obvious to those who know it?’ This couldn’t be more true than in the case of lateral-thinking exercises, those annoyingly frustrating brain-teasers that you love as soon as you solve them. So, know in advance that all of you will know the ‘truth’ of this next exercise very soon, but it may take a few minutes to get there. Some will get there sooner than others, and that’s okay. Stick with it, and know that the truth will be obvious to you too…
Hey, just while we’re waiting for [enter reasons for idle-time,] see if you can work out this little brain teaser. It will confound most of you right from the start, but don’t worry, you will all know how to do solve the problem in a few minutes…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun, lateral-thinking game:
How fast did you work out what was going on?
How did it feel to be one of the last to ‘get it?’
When was the last time you felt like this? Was there a positive outcome?
What might this exercise teach us about diversity and inclusion?
The inspiration for Bang You’re Dead, and many more fun, lateral-thinking games, was sourced from the following publication: