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Do You Have a Game Face?

do you have a game face sherry and alex playing tell me another

Think you know when someone is telling you the truth? It turns out the clues we’ve often considered “tells” for detecting when we’re being conned aren’t so revealing after all. Shifting eyes, for example, don’t necessarily indicate someone is lying—this can also be someone mentally working to recall from memory. Too many or too few details don’t work as a “tell,” either, as these may have more to do with a person’s capacity for remembering than anything else.

In the article “How to Recognize the Signs That Someone is Lying” by Kendra Cherry over at Very Well Mind, she addresses these points and explains that the best cue for detecting the truth of someone’s story is your gut instinct. In the end, even that internal litmus only gives you a 50/50 chance of being right.


I’m a sucker for good life storytelling. Like a movie with a great plot, I’m reeled in when the story arc is developed well and heads toward an interesting finish. This affection for a good story, however, does not bode well for my ability to tell truth versus fiction. If the story is good, I’m pretty much hooked.

It’s been two recent Tuesday evenings that I headed over to Arkham Games in Ankeny to share our card game Tell Me Another with a group of seasoned board and card game players. I learned a number of important things about the game, avid game players in general, and storytelling.

First, I was impressed and grateful for how generous this group was in sharing their passion for games. Each week they gather to play and connect at Arkham. Occasionally, Arkham opens up those Tuesdays for Demo Nights so that new games can be introduced. Several regulars were kind enough to play a couple of rounds of Tell Me Another with me to help me see the game in action and gather their feedback.

Oral storytelling requires accessing several areas of the brain simultaneously to craft and relate a story. That, plus having to tell them quickly, adds to the challenge of the game. I learned that these game players are especially adept at storytelling, probably because they exercise their brains regularly in playing other games.

As avid players, the Arkham crowd proved to be especially skilled at strategy, too. Once I explained the rules of play and the objective to win, they dived right in. Since Tell Me Another is all about storytelling and bluffing, I found that the players were willing to “up the ante” if they could help bring other players down and score a win.

When it comes to bluffing in the game, there is also another component called muckraking that can come in handy if a player wants to challenge someone else’s story. This works well when playing with people you know who might know the same story but have a different recollection of events.

One player didn’t officially muckrake but suggested there might be an inaccuracy in another teller’s story, and then let it go. He said enough to establish doubt that left us all calling out the story as untrue, but it turned out he was tossing out a decoy and we all took the bait and an extra card for doubting the story.


All hands are on deck for your brain when it comes to telling a story. We each must tap into our language and sensory capacity to relate the details of any anecdote. To understand a bit more about the neuroscience of storytelling, check out “The Neuroscience of Storytelling Will Make You Rethink the Way You Create,” by Peter Schroeder over at Medium.

I found the most important takeaways of the article are: we are naturally wired for stories, working constantly to associate new information with details we already have “on file.” And we seek to create relationships and find the patterns in events so that we can retain more information.

Stories are particularly powerful as a medium to share, creating a bond between teller and listener. When done right, stories told and heard will generate a kind of mental sync—a “telepathy of brain waves,” as reported in Schroeder’s piece. Each person will experience similar brain activity empathically ebbing and flowing as the story unfolds with shared understanding.

Great programs like Story Corp, This American Life and a slew of other podcasts have propelled the art of life storytelling forward in recent decades. The Moth is another favorite, which highlights the art of storytelling without notes. The Moth offers a guide to would-be storytellers to help them pitch and shape their stories for Moth events, which are a helpful resource for Tell Me Another as well.

I especially liked their tip that the storyteller needs to present a stake in the story to draw in the listeners. Tell Me Another prompts work well for this, as they provide an easy segue to presenting a stake in the story right away. Each question gets to the meat of a story thus starting immediately from a place of peak event, and then the storyteller begins their story by saying, “Let me tell you about the time I was...”

I can attest that Tell Me Another is fun and definitely a little bit of a walk on the tightwire of the adventure of life storytelling. But it is the sense of danger that makes playing the game even more exciting for tellers and listeners alike.  

If you love playing board games and meeting with great people, I recommend heading out to Arkham in Ankeny, Iowa. And of course, if playing games involving storytelling sounds like an adventure, you’ll enjoy playing Tell Me Another! You can pick up the game at Arkham or enjoy free shipping of the game here at the Storied Gifts Shop.

 picture by: Photo by Kevin Erdvig on Unsplash

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