My recent posts focused on how the DISC personality model could be used as a lens to step into the shoes of your participants as you create your experience.
Now I’m going to switch from examining participants to examining activities so that I can talk about modes. It’s possible there’s another term for this concept, but that’s the one I tend to use. Just as participants possess personality traits, activities exhibit modes.
I’ll begin with an example.
I recently took part in a murder mystery dinner. A local bar had bought an off-the-shelf kit and a group of about 20 of us took part. This was the first time I’d done one of these.
The entire experience was about two hours. For our purposes there was no actual dinner being served, just drinks. At the beginning we were assigned characters to play and privately given a little information about our character, like personality, who they like or don’t like, and perhaps some gossip they knew about other characters in the room.
Then we were set off about the bar to mingle in character with other characters and from that, learn some things that might solve the mystery, such as who knew/loved/hated who, who was secretly going bankrupt, who had a messy divorce, who was embezzling, etc. At this point there was no murder yet, so most of the experience was us play-acting instead of trying to solve something that hadn’t happened yet.
Once in a while, the host sprinkled in more information about how our characters related to each other, but for the most part we mingled and drank in character for about an hour. I’m not much into acting but many of the others people got really into it and had a lot of fun hamming it up as they interacted with others hamming it up.
Then the body was found. I honestly don’t remember how. I think our host took the person who was playing the future body into the hall when no one was looking. It doesn’t matter, really.
At this point, we were given more facts about our character’s experiences and whereabouts around the time of the murder. Lots more facts. Loads more facts.
We were each handed sheets of facts that said things like this:
You saw Mr Blue leave the ballroom at 11:04pm and come back at 11:15pm with Mrs. White who had gone into the Conservatory at 10:58pm. He then left with Ms. Red and Mr. Black and went into the Kitchen a few minutes later. At 10:50 you saw the maid carrying a knife and she said she had picked it up seventeen minutes prior from the butler who had in his possession a number of knives greater than the square root of seven but less than the number of people who were present in the foyer five minutes after the murder. About midway between the time the maid was thinking about the six minutes left on the boiling teapot and the 11:13pm appointment that Mr. Brown had told her about eight minutes prior to after Ms. Yellow came into the room to mention the boiling teapot but before Mr. Brown went into the foyer.
And all 20 people had notes like this (or at least felt like this) and we had to put the facts together to solve the murder.
At this point, most of the attendees had a couple drinks in them and were deep into playing their goofy characters. And now we had to do math and logic. As a group. Lots of it.
The mood in the room changed dramatically.
Most people fell out of character. A few of the more puzzle-loving people started to figure out the puzzle. Most people just sort of looked around the room as their slight alcohol buzz dealt with this experiential whiplash.
The experience had jarringly switched modes.
Experiential Modes and Mode-Participant Match
There’s probably countless modes if you want to get nuanced, but here’s some of the higher-level categories you may want to take into account when designing your activities.
- Being social
- Solving problems
- Pretending and Playing
- Listening / Watching
Not everyone likes all modes equally. Most individuals have preferences and aversions when it comes to certain modes. Some may feel uncomfortable, insecure, or even detest certain activities. Understanding these nuances can help tailor experiences to better suit participants’ preferences and needs.
Whether you know it or not, you are choosing modes when you choose activities for your experience. And those choices impact your story, world, and most importantly, your participants.
Look at the list and try to imagine a one hour experience that encompasses them all. It’s a lot. Even if you could hit them all, it would almost certainly feel forced, superficial, or create a lot of modal whiplash.
When considering your target audience, consider what kind of modes might appeal most to them the most and create activities and mechanics with those modes in mind.
In Part 2 of this post I’ll talk about switching modes and ending modes.