Critical Play: Competitive Analysis – Heads Up!


The game that my project team came up with is one that involves a player having a word in mind, and working to get another player to say this word. In the case of my team’s game, this task is adversarial; that is, the objective of a player is, in some sense, to trick the other player into saying a word. For the game that I decided to play-test, Heads Up!, the task is cooperative rather than adversarial. There rules are the following:

Players split into teams. Each round, one player will guess the word on the Heads Up! app screen which they place on their forehead while their teammate provides clues to them. The goal is to guess the word that appears on the tablet without looking at it. Each time that a person guesses the word on the screen correctly, they receive a point. They must get as many points as possible within the time limit for a round. The team with the most points wins. [1]


There is not much a theme, except that there are certain topics that a player can guess about such as animals, accents, celebrities, etc.


The primary mechanic that the game uses, is constraining the player giving clues to not making it too obvious by, for example, not allowing them to say the word itself or a word that rhymes with it. This means that players have to largely rely on wit, knowledge and clever solutions.

Another mechanic, is the fact that there is the ability to ‘pass’ on a word. This means that because the players’ objective is to correctly guess as many words as possible rather than any individual word, the game becomes very fast paced as players quickly skip the words that would slow them down.


In this game we see several types of fun:

  1. Challenge – this game is designed to be a challenge of communicating something to someone without using words. Players have to be clever and creative in order to be good at this. The guessing player on the other hand, has to maneuver their way around the constraints placed on their teammates, to try understand what they are suggesting.
  2. Fellowship – as this is a team game, inherent to it is the idea of working together to tackle a common goal, and defeat a common enemy (the other team).
  3. Expression – the constraints placed on the non-guessing player encourages them to think outside the box and as creatively as possible in order to help their teammate guess the words.


The game is fairly balanced by the fact that the words to-be-guessed are randomized which means one team cannot have an advantage in that sense. There is a timer, so that a player can’t go beyond their time limit, and fact that players are constantly changing roles means no one is unfairly excluded. The only place I could see for abuse is sabotage from the other team, while a team tries to guess. At that point, they wouldn’t be following the game’s rules, however.


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