Human Cards

Setting Up

Equipment: a deck or two of  playing cards. Depending on the number of people. A pinochle deck for smaller groups. Canasta for larger. Depending on your mood, an UNO deck, a deck of Old Maid cards, cards from the game of Pit (three, three, three, three....) If you can get hold of a large-sized deck of cards or two, go for it. The bigger the better.

Go around the room with your helpers (or assign helpers as you mill) and invite people to pick a card, any card. Continue until you're satisfied that everyone has a card.

Now, ask everyone to shuffle (mill around), then cut into two equal packs (groups) and then arrange themselves into neat piles (lines) so that the head of one line faces the head of the second.


You know the kids' card game. This is the same. First person in each line shows their cards. The person with the higher card wins and escorts the other to the bottom (end) of the deck (team). Continue until you get a war (both cards the same), and, with the greatest ceremony possible, conduct the war (next three people on either side come forward, then the next people in line reveal their cards, the higher card getting to take all the players to the end of the line.

As people get the idea, the game begins to take on an almost processional and yet definitely silly tone. The game is too trivial to take seriously, but therein the comedy lies.

Continue until you get bored, declare the side with the larger number of people the potential winner, and then ask everyone to shuffle.

POKER, perhaps.

Ask people to assemble into the best possible poker hand. Declare a bunch of cards "wild": one-eyed jacks, red twos, etc. Conduct a couple "trading rounds" where groups offer to trade people (cards) so that they can improve their hands. (Use the Star Power rule where a team, once engaged in a trading discussion, can't quit until a trade has been made.) Then invite the teams that think they have the highest hand to a showdown. Again, feel free to ceremonialize. And improvise. Try variations of poker like seven-card stud, black jack. Invite invention.

So, you get a lot of mixing and moments of affiliation, creativity and hilarity, engagement and, well, fun, all for the cost of a couple decks of cards.

Then again, maybe this isn't at all what you had in mind. On the other hand, now it is.

  Giant Cards became the final project of the USC, School of Cinema-Television, Interactive Media Department's Fall, 2005 course called "Experiments in Interactivity I." Justin Hall, one of the fortunate few who took this course, explains:
"Students learned that getting busy people to participate in a public game can be challenging. How can you make something exciting, inviting - easy to try, and rewarding to play over time? "Large-scale gaming is inviting, the students agreed - giant playing pieces are both visible and tantalizing. They drew inspiration from Frank Lantz's "Big Urban Game" in Minneapolis, where citizens of Minneapolis/St. Paul were invited to move one of three 25-foot-tall inflatable game pieces across the city. "Giant-sized playing cards offered a mix of the exotic and familiar. Everyone recognizes the two of clubs, or the Ace of diamonds; but to see them four feet by three feet, walking across campus? Students debated whether to make up new games, new cards, new rules. While they had some fun exploring different possibilities, students decided that the simplicity of a deck of 52 cards would be inviting, while the giant scale should be suitably mindblowing and thoroughly challenging. "The cards are designed to be so large that no one person could expect to carry more than one or two. For a full game of poker, you'd need three or four other people to help you manage a hand, and keep it hidden!"
You can read the rest of Justin's comments here. And then there are these photos posted on yet another website by yet another student, Brad Newman. I expect more, later. Lots.