How A Simple Game Can Be Made So Tense and Terrifying In Anime and Manga – Musical Chairs (Liar Game)

In a lot of my favorite manga there is often a game involved which the protagonist will play against villains, and it would surprise you just how often these games come from simple origins. By adding extra rules it achieves two great things.

  1. It becomes easier to understand since everyone already knows the basic rules so more complicated rules can be added without confusing the reader
  2. People already have history and experience with a version of the game so it’s easier to relate to their experience and form ideas and strategies in your head.

I want to take a look at an example of this with musical chairs, and how liar game makes it immensely tense and epic to watch, this is in an effort to explain my point further and to explain why I believe these original ideas to be true.

First of all when you remember musical chairs do you remember the tension you’d feel? You would always worry if you’re seat would be taken, and you’d also hate that guy in front of you who would spend ages on the chair blocking you from getting to it. The game is inherently a scramble and a rush, which are great for creating tension.

But that on it’s own would be silly so you’ve got to add more things. What about 2.4 billion yen at steaks? With anyone who doesn’t win going into debt. This creates an urgency to win and actually makes the game feel important.

Why not increase the scale? Instead of being in a singular room how about across a whole island full of chairs which have been hidden? This way the actual challenge isn’t just getting there first but finding the chair in the first place!

But in ordinary musical chairs all the chairs are fixed. What if these players could hide the chair themselves and they used a system where you can’t use the same chair twice? This means teams would form and it would turn into alliances against each other.

But if there were alliances that wouldn’t exactly be fair. In normal musical chairs the chair taken away is random so it’s harder to make a strategy and you could just lose through bad luck! How about you add a strategy where a player can decide themselves which chair is taken away. This is why they had leader elections. Everyone would vote for the person who would take away their chair. That would mean forming teams and voting.

But wait that also creates a problem! If there are teams then surely there wouldn’t be any strategy at all? It would just be the team with the greatest amount of people who won! No that simply wouldn’t do, it would be a clean sweep! So let’s just add like 12 extra strangers who the players have to persuade to vote for them.

Obviously it’s not quite a clean sweep if theirs teams like that however you can’t deny that having to bribe people with money you aren’t even sure you’re going to win is pretty terrifying and it gives a lot of power to the strangers who vote (the players will also join those when they get out).

So that’s how you can make a simple game tense and terrifying, with amazing strategies and thinking involved!

If you’re interested and this game sounded great then you can find it in a manga called Liar Game which inspired this post! Also if you want to see me review that specific “Musical chairs arc” from the manga then I will be releasing that post soon!


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