Mechanics & Formal Elements
For this week’s Critical Play, I played the online browser game skribbl.io. The premise is simple: each player gets a 60-second turn to make a (poor) drawing of a word, of which they are given 3 options. Every other player tries to guess that word, and gets more points the sooner they guess the word. After a certain amount of rounds, the game ends and the player with the most points wins!
The game was meant to be played with 3+ players (multilateral competition). There seems to be a “sweet spot” of players – for this playtest, I played with less players and found that the points system was not very well balanced for that amount. However, in times in the past where I played with 8+ players, the games tended to drag on long without enough opportunity for drawing for each player. The objective of the game is outwit the other players by guessing their words fastest, and only the player with the most points wins.
At its core, skribbl.io creates fun through the form of fellowship. The aspect of collaboratively making public guesses helps with this – players can use others’ failed guesses to inform their own perception of the drawing, which generally makes it so that no players feel left out or stuck. Even beyond the game’s basic mechanics, I found that laughing with friends at the hilariously awful drawings that are made was a great source of fun and companionship.
There are other forms of fun present as well, like challenge (drawing can be hard, as is guessing a word quickly), and competition (guessing a word first before anyone else).
I identified several areas of potential improvement, mainly based around the points system and drawing selections. I personally had the most fun when drawings were difficult to guess, as that sparked the most heated social discussion among players in the game. However, the word selection often offers up “easy” words that are both simple to draw and guess. The points system even incentives players to lean toward drawing easy words, as the drawer gets no points if no one guesses their word. Therefore, I would like to see premade “difficulty pools” of cards available as a pregame option, where a more difficulty pool might only have words that are hard to draw.