To begin I’m going to end up creating a secret person. Now there’s a lot of people here so I’m just going to simply ask you that in a moment just bunch on in, bring your fist into the centre with your thumb up in the air, and I’m going to go in there and just find one thumb.
Now I going to do this a little more complex way, but when I grab one thumb and squeeze it once that person, the one I just squeezed the thumb of, will go in and find another thumb and squeeze it twice. Why do I do that? Because then I can become the secret person because if I’m the only one ever you know that I’ll never be the person. It’s important everyone has the sense of secrecy around this.
So in a moment I’m going to ask everyone to come in. If you do not wish to be selected keep your thumb down, but just put your arm in the middle. I’ll grab the first thumb, that person will then go find another one, squooze that person twice they will be the secret person. I’ll then tell you what happens next.
Bunch on in. As close as you can get. If you choose you may want to go high, low, whatever the…perfect well done.
Alright, look out from the circle. I’m going in I’m looking for a thumb. Oh there’s a good thumb, that person I’d like you now to go find another thumb and squooze it twice. You have three seconds to do that. And one, and two, and three. Brilliant, okay.
Whoever that person is do not identify yourself, you are Nemo.
And in the truest of the animated film it’s all about finding Nemo, and they are secret.
Here’s what’s about to occur, when I say go I’m going to invite everyone of you, including Nemo, to shake the hands of as many people and often as you can in this room. And when you do that this is how the interaction will look it will go “Are you Nemo?” We shake hands and you will say No.
And then you’ll ask the same question as me.
(Are you Nemo?)
No. Notice that we both said the same thing. Are you Nemo? No. Are you Nemo? No.
Even Nemo says that, but only for the first five to ten times.
You guess, if you’re Nemo you can determine if at any point between five and ten to decide I’ve had enough of saying no and from now on I’m going to say yes. You are the only person who can say yes to that question, however, the first five to ten times you say no.
When you have said Yes, should I also note that it takes longer to describe this activity then it does to play it. Which is why we get to play it several times.
Once you have got a Yes secretly, don’t go “I’ve found Nemo,” that’s not going to work quite so well. When you’ve found them, let’s say you’re Nemo. Are you Nemo?
Brilliant! Notice how he did that very secretly. I will then, having got very excited about finding Nemo, now stand behind him and form a conga line. Placing my hands gently and compassionately on his shoulders.
If you don’t wish to touch them you can just simply stand behind them. The whole point of the exercise is to form a line. The kicker is you don’t to be the last person to form the line. You don’t want to be at the back of the group.
So notice in the beginning you won’t notice the line form. After a moment or two you go “Oh there’s the line.” You do not need to shake Nemo’s hand to form the line. Just don’t be the last person to add to the line. Got the idea?
It’ll soon become a lot clearer. Let me just repeat. In a moment you’re going to start interacting, shake hands, ask the question “Are you Nemo?” you’ll always say no, but if you’re Nemo sometime after five you’ll start saying yes. Got the basics? Try not to be the last person to form the line.
(Group starts the Finding Nemo activity.)
(The line begins to form quickly after Finding Nemo)
Who’s at the end of the line? Someone over there. Well done, alright.
Note that you don’t necessarily have to have shaken the hand of Nemo. Also note Nemo may have said no the first time you shook their hand. So don’t be discouraged to shake their hand again because they then could of course be changing their answer.
Alright, let’s out find another secret person. Jump on in. Same procedure as last time.
Alright if you want to be involved in the picking or the Nemo-ness. Alright here we go the first person I pick this person is going to find another thumb to be able to squeeze it twice. Go in and find another person you got three seconds. And one, and two, and three. Alright that person who has been squeezed twice is Nemo. Game starts now.
(Group starts the Finding Nemo activity.)
(The line begins to form quickly after Finding Nemo.)
Yeah, alright very good.
Now this is still new, but I have noticed and observed what actually occurs at least in the second and subsequent rounds. That is looks a lot like this now, Are you nemo? You’re more concerned about the line forming now then you are in the actual interaction. Fantastic, alright.
Now I know when you, perhaps if you’ve seen the film, Finding Nemo, there are a number of characters in the film. So this was opened up by a group that I worked with in Boston. They said “Oh what if we could introduce other characters, what could you do?” What are some of the other characters in that film?
Bruce. We are now going to introduce Bruce.
(What about Jacque?)
We could be Jacque as well. This is Bruce, remember Bruce had to be trained that fish are friends not food. Okay so Bruce is kind of like the bad guy. Now he has no different role he just knows he is going to be Bruce. So just changing it up now.
I go in once, I pick Nemo. I go in a second time, I’ll squeeze that person twice, they are Bruce. Game continues.
Here’s Bruce’s goal – he wants to be as close to Nemo in the line as is possible because anyone who is behind him, remember you don’t know who it is, is out of the game.
So got the idea? So basically you have the opportunity of now of being eliminated from the game.
So to repeat, Bruce doesn’t do…he never says Yes. You never asking the questions, “Are you Bruce?” You’re only ever asking, “Are you Nemo?” But Bruce is secret and he hope to get into that line and have a lot of people behind him or her.
Got the idea? Bunch on in, let’s find the secret person.
Alright, jump on in. Now remember I am going to change the rule a bit. The first person I find, that person is Nemo. I am going in again, I’m looking now for another person. This person having done squoozed them twice is Bruce. Alright we now have a Bruce and a Nemo. The game starts, GO!
(Group goes around asking who is Nemo and then line forms after Finding Nemo)
Alright very good. Now we’ve clearly have identified who Nemo is.
Will the real Bruce please identify themselves.
Alright! Nicely played folks…
How To Play Narrative
To begin, announce that you need to appoint a secret person, and this person will be called ‘Nemo’ as a nod to the much-loved animated film Finding Nemo.
A quick way to appoint a secret person is to ask everyone to close their eyes for a few moments while you wander about your group and tap one person secretly and silently on the shoulder. Or, click this link to discover other fun methods to select a secret person.
Upon re-opening their eyes, explain to your group that one person has been tapped, meaning that this person will be ‘Nemo’ for the first round.
Next, instruct your group (which includes Nemo) to mingle about the area greeting one another with a gentle handshake, asking the question “ARE YOU NEMO?” Explain that everyone, including Nemo, must answer this question with “NO” too.
This last part may appear odd, until this next instruction. Explain that Nemo is only required to answer “NO” to the first 5 to 10 people he or she greets, after which, they must answer the question with a simple “YES.”
When an unsuspecting group member receives a “YES” to their question, this will alert them to quickly yet silently form a conga-line behind Nemo, placing their hands on Nemo’s hips or shoulders.
As the game continues, more and more people become a part of the line behind Nemo. Eventually, as the number of people in the line reaches a critical mass, all other unconnected people will notice this occurring and rush to form a part of the line.
Announce that the aim of the game is to avoid being the last person to join the conga-line.
The game is over once everyone becomes a part of the line.
Be prepared to play another round or three and/or try a variation (see Variations tab below.)
You may ask, what happens to the person who joins the line last? Nothing, in particular. Sometimes, I invite this person to secretly select the next Nemo. Or, they could be eliminated, or…. check out some of the options available to you in the Variations tab.
The person masquerading as Nemo is entitled to move around the area with their conga-line attached, but naturally, everyone connected must follow their movements.
If forming a traditional conga-line is too intimate for your group, simply ask people to stand in a line behind Nemo without touching.
No, it is not necessary for everyone joining the line to have shaken the hand of Nemo. As soon as one observes that a line is forming, I would suggest that everyone makes a bee-line to the end of the line.
Hats off to Joel Cogger (Melbourne,) a youth leader friend of mine, who first described this game to me.
Elimination Rounds: Require that the last 2 or 3 people standing at the back of the line (once it has been formed) are eliminated. Game continues until you get to the final three people.
Large Groups: Form two or more smaller groups of 20+ people, each of them finding a Nemo. Eliminate the last 4 to 8 people standing at the back of the line, and invite them to join one of the other groups to continue play.
Multiple Nemos: For particularly large groups, appoint two or three Nemos. Award points to the longest line, if you wish to be competitive.
Bruce: Appoint a secret ‘Bruce’ (the shark) character at the same time as Nemo. Game is played as normal. Once the line has formed, ask Bruce to identify themselves, and eliminate everyone who is standing behind Bruce.
Dory: Appoint a secret ‘Dory’ (blue tang) character at the same time as Nemo. Game is played as normal, however, owing to Dory’s poor memory, she is entitled to form a conga-line behind any person at any time, and then moments later, pull away in surprise that anyone was lined up behind her. Chaotic but lots of fun.
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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 highly-interactive, infectiously fun game:
How did it feel to discover you were the first person to join the conga-line?
How did it feel to be the last person to join the conga-line?
Are these feelings the same as when you are or are not part of the ‘in group?’
Fun ‘Community-Building’ Games Session
What You Need: 12+ people, 60 mins
Props: sheets of paper, pens