Prui (and the concept of “Minimal Cheating”)

I think I might have made this game up. I thought I read about it in a book about games from many cultures, in the section about games from Holland. I have since not been able to find that book. And when I visited Holland, I couldn’t find anyone who heard of the game. I eventually taught it at a New Games Tournament, it was then described in the New Games Book, disseminated to the alternative-fun-seeking world, and remains one of my favorite walking-around games. In fact, it has become such a favorite that I have noted in myself a marked propensity for launching into dramatic narrative about the significance of the Prui and general Pruidom.

Begin the game by asking everyone to close their eyes and start milling around – milling should, as all proper milling, be aimless and random and, insofar as this is eyes-closed milling, slow and sensitive.

I comment for a moment about the eyes-closed thing:

You could have blindfolds for everyone. Then you and everyone would be conceptually assured that you would all be equally in the dark, the shared darkness being a significant factor in making this game as fun as it is. I, on the other hand, prefer to ask people simply to close their eyes. I even oft find myself explaining about something I call “minimal cheating.” Since people are walking around with their eyes closed they feel somewhat at risk, exposed, as it were, threatened, perhaps. I suggest, therefore, that if people feel uncomfortable enough, they open and close their eyes, very, very briefly, camera-shutter-like. It’s cheating. But if it’s done quickly enough, it’s minimal, and doesn’t distract from overmuch from the various joys of blind milling.

When people bump into each other, as they unavoidably must, they shake hands, while saying prui. If the person they encounter is not Prui, they each go off to find someone else. On the other hand (as it were) when someone bumps into the actual, pre-appointed Prui, she shakes the proferred hand, as normal, says prui, as instructed, but the Prui a) doesn’t say anything, and b) doesn’t let go. Now both people are Prui, remaining connected in their corporate Pruidom until the end of the game. If either of them is encountered by anyone else, they remain silent, smug in their inscruitably Pruidom, use their free hand to shake hands, and more people are added to the Prui.


Here again some minimal cheating might be advocated. After all, you are walking around with your eyes closed. And if you’re part of the Prui, holding hands with two different people, you have nothing to protect yourself from the inadvertant grope (we trust, of course, that by the time everyone’s ready to play this game advertant gropers have matured beyond that particular need). Thus, you might feel the need to absent yourself from Pruiness for a nonce or two, and open your eyes. By all means, do so. But endeavor everso sincerely to do so briefly, very, very briefly.

Further, once people find themselves found, they often find themselves often sorely tempted to open their eyes for longer than one would consider a minimal moment. Thus I frequently find myself commenting on how the longer everyone can keep his or her eyes closed, the more fun it is when the game is over.

This reminds me: Frequently, people ask me “how do you know if you are the Prui?” This is a most reasonable query. I respond thusly: “I, as leader pro-temp, will either whisper into someone’s ear something like “you are the Prui,” or wait until a self-appointed Prui emerges.

Sometimes, this results in the spontaneous generation of two or several Prui-groups. Which, though you might not think so at the time, seeing as it blatantly desecrates the unspoken hope that all will ultimately find themselves part of one undivided Prui, it nevertheless results in a gregarious gathering of group glee.

The game continues until more or less everyone has become Prui, at which time they can finally open their eyes, to be profoundly amused by discovering of who is holding on to whom. Until then, there are some exceptionally fun moments as more and more people feel their way towards pruiness. It gets quieter and quieter while the plaintive sounds of the unpruied few saying “Prui” becomes more and more distinct as they attempt to merge with the invisibly giggling many.


  1. James Wallis on October 31, 2011 at 11:14 am

    That’s lovely. I did some thinking about the use of blindfolds or darkness and the effect on immersion and experience a few years back (in Interactive Fantasy #3), and this fits beautifully with that.

    A small rules question: if a player has become part of the Prui and has players holding each of their hands, what should they do if a third player bumps into them and says ‘Prui?’

    • Bernie DeKoven on October 31, 2011 at 11:20 am

      Wonderful! So glad you made the connection. Would be most interested in how you adapt the game.

      As for your question – my answer: nothing. This is actually another fun aspect of the game. The “bumping” player just feels her way across the connection until she finds an open hand. Then she, also, is Prui. As more and more people are incorporated into the Prui, the search for the end of the Prui becomes more and more, well, fun. Yes, it does take a certain restraint to keep one’s hands sensitive to potential unwelcome body space invasion, though I have found that under the circumstances, it is a rare occurrence that such contact proves as unwelcome as one might fear.

      • James Wallis on October 31, 2011 at 11:26 am

        That makes perfect sense. Curse my English repression for not working it out myself.

        (Wonderful to meet you and your wife in Hilversum back in September, by the way.)

  2. Michael on March 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    The Prui Shake

    Everyone has a different level of comfort with physical touch. In some cultures, people can’t have a conversation without each conversant having his/her hand on the other person the whole time. In other cultures, touch is virtually never part of casual social interaction. In most cultures, some level of friendly touch is one thing that allows people to feel and act like people. But even within such cultures, some of us are so disconnected from one another that we can only tolerate physical contact with a close intimate in a private setting.

    This is one reason why games like Prui, Glass Cobra, and Pass the Pule are such “important” games.

    A touch-enhancing way to pick a prui (or the assassin in J’accuse) is to go around and shake everyone’s hand, giving one person a Prui Handshake. The Prui Handshake is given by bending your forefinger down during the handshake in the style of the old hand-shaking joke, “Pardon my wart.”

    You can even first go around and show everyone the difference by giving them first a normal handshake and then a secret Prui shake. It give you a chance to look each player in the eye and practice shaking hands.

    If you want, during the game, handshakes can be exchanged during the greeting, “Prui?” (To allow hand shaking, those that become part of the Prui link arms–thus freeing their hands for shaking). Along with not answering, those who are part of the Prui can give the Prui Shake.

    I hope you find these ideas touching.


    –Michael Bean

  3. Adriaan on September 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Its funny to see myself in the picture at the top of the post. I remember this game very, very clearly. Better than all the other games we played that day. And all that while I never opened my eyes! Never! I didn’t see a thing, yet I imagined so many things happening and it definitely left a huge impression on me.

    What is noteworthy to say is that I often thought about slightly cheating. I am so glad I didn’t. Our imagination is so much stronger than our actual senses, sometimes. Something that should never be underestimated.

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