The Search for Alexander's Nose

This game can last for days, weeks, or even months. Don't worry, though, everyone can play while participating in other activities.


Back in the eighties a major art exhibition called The Search for Alexander was touring North America. The promotional poster for the show featured a photo of a bust of Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, Alexander’s nose had been chipped off. When the tour came to San Francisco this image prompted columnist Herb Caen to comment that the exhibition might have better been called The Search for Alexander's Nose.


This quip inspired the people working at the New Games Foundation to create and name a new game. One staff member performed a rhinectomy on a pair of Groucho-Marx novelty glasses and hid the detached nose somewhere in the office.


The goal of the game for the other staff members was NOT to actively look for the hidden proboscis. Rather—during the course of the working day—someone would happen to come across the concealed sniffer. When it was discovered, the person who found the beak would exclaim, "I found Alexander's." The rest of the staff would then be informed of where the schnoz had been tucked away.


The interruption provided a nice break for everyone to enjoy a minor celebration, and then get back to work.


The discoverer of the snout would then hide the schnozzola in a new, secret location where it would lay dormant until the next unearthing.


Nancy and I were leading a New Games training in Dallas. At one point we were sharing ideas on how to involve play and games in everyday activities. Nancy explained the game and shared some wonderful stories of where the Nose had been hidden.


"I was filing some papers when I suddenly came upon Alexander's Nose, in the Ns, of course."


The stories were wonderful. People enjoyed hearing how Dave Koreski had emptied a cup of creamer by the coffee machine and then returned it after artfully resealing the container that now held the contents of Alexander's Nose.


Each chapter in the saga kept upping the stakes. Jean once taped the Nose to the visor of the staff car. Pull down the visor, and voila, another round completed.


Imagine lifting up a toilet-seat cover only to find Alexander's Nose taped in place and patiently waiting for a tissue.


Nancy related this culinary incident, "Staff members were having a farewell lunch for Jean, who was heading to grad school, at a restaurant down the block from the Clement Street office. Dave had taken the Nose to the restaurant early, and asked the chef to 'put it in whatever Nancy orders.' I stabbed my fork into my salad and ran into the Nose."


Folks quite enjoyed learning how one staff member took the Nose out of the office, only to mail it back to an unsuspecting colleague.


Not only were people laughing at the anecdotes, it was clear that Nancy's stories made the example immediate and personal.


The end of a workshop involved a group debrief of the weekend. These wrap-ups were usually positive, as the participants had just finished practicing the skills they had learned at a public festival. People excitedly shared stories of what games they had led, and how it had worked out.


This training in Dallas was memorable. Nancy—holding a paper lunch bag—explained that a stranger had approached her during the festival and handed her the bag with the pronouncement, "I believe this is yours."


She then dramatically reached into the bag and brought out Alexander's Nose for all to see. That was the most enthusiastic response to a wrap-up I've seen.