Reveal lets you learn more about your friends while having a blast. It gives you the opportunity to share a bit about yourself in a light-hearted environment and provides a glimpse into how people see and make assumptions about you. In making Reveal, it is our goal to build a game that will spark new conversations and build connections between players. With the ability for the ‘Celebrity’ to moderate conversations about themselves, we hope to have made a fun and intimate game without relying on awkwardness, shaming, or embarrassment.
The original concept came from a trend where social media stars respond to fans who make comments of the form, “I assume you…”, and the stars respond with a video responding. This idea seemed like a strong conversation starter, so we developed it into the surface story of the game and roles for the players: Celebrity, Press, and #1 Fan.
The main mechanic of the game is scripted conversation. Figure 2 shows the game loop, which drives the conversation between the Celebrity and the other players. Aspects that contribute to the game aesthetic are marked in red.
By providing roles and topics and structuring turn-taking, the game gives each player something to say and a time to say it, which keeps each round moving forward and sets the pace of the game. Players have opportunities to share information about themselves and to display their personalities when making guesses, both of which further the primary aesthetic of fellowship. Elements of self-expression (particularly in the generation of humorous assumptions) also contribute to the social aesthetic.
Initial Decisions and Formal Elements
We knew from the beginning of this project that the single most important formal element of our game would be the players themselves — in order to develop social connection we had to find a mechanism that would get players to talk and to share information about themselves. We chose a scripted conversation because it facilitates social interaction when players do not know each other.
We originally did not specify a minimum number of players, but discovered through playtesting that the game did not work with less than 4, because the voting mechanism became pointless when only one person could vote.
The objective of Reveal from start to finish is to have fun and get to know one another along the way. There is no winning and no losing. We experimented with having players collect points, but realized that winning points did not add to the fun of the game or move the round forward. Point-keeping is more in line with a challenge aesthetic. When the aim is social connection point scoring seemed to de-focus the players from the core of the game.
The tangible outcome of each round is simply that a new Celebrity is picked for the upcoming round, and things begin again.
The rules are simple: guidelines for orchestrating how a Celebrity is chosen, how they choose the next category, and how the press gets to vote. The rules also coincide with the boundaries in terms of how the Celebrity is able to select a category that the press focuses on and how each round comes to a close.
Playing this game in its current form requires access to a computer and internet access to join others on a video chatting platform, and to read our cards written electronically. While our playtesters reported they had fun, Reveal did not overcome the challenges of zoom lag in conversation, and so would likely work better in person with a physical deck of cards.
Testing & Iteration History
We playtested several times during our class. Here’s what we learned in these sessions.
Our initial idea for the game was centered around assumptions but designed to be played between parents and teens in hopes of fostering communication. Additionally, the original version required players to use whatever one category they drew. After discussing our idea with Christina Wodtke and Daniel Cook, we decided not to tackle one of the “cursed game” problems (going against teens’ developmental stage of separating from parents is particularly difficult). We decided instead to pivot toward an icebreaker game for adults. We considered the importance of safety in the game, and we opted to allow players to choose from one of three categories for others to make assumptions about.
During our first playtest, we noticed that players appreciated the theming of celebrities; everyone’s face lit up when they were deemed the Celebrity. We chose to lean into the theme and create a strong brand around it. We also heard feedback about the specifics of the instructions and noticed that it was difficult to determine who the next Celebrity would be (we previously had a set of several rules), so we worked to clarify roles of each of the players and created a grid to help players determine who would be the next Celebrity. Finally, players wanted more motivation for correctly voting, so we changed the rules for who would be the next Celebrity to give the press a larger role. We discovered through playtesting that Reveal must be played with at least 4 players — in a group of 3 the mechanism of voting did not provide any suspense or forward momentum.
We switched to voicing assumptions out loud rather than in chat, and switched from picking a random Celebrity in one condition to asking for a volunteer. We saw some confusion over what was the objective of the press and the players. Did they want to be the Celebrity next or should they be thinking of how to avoid it? Generally it was a question of getting the game context right so people knew what they should be striving for. We refined the rules and clarified roles of players.
In our final playtest, we saw that play significantly slowed down when determining who would be the Celebrity. Also, players asked for more motivation for voting correctly, so we simplified the rules further to only be dependent on the press’s vote, cutting the number of options in half. We also saw that no one wanted to volunteer to be the Celebrity, so we removed that as an option, only having one player pick the next Celebrity in all cases. Finally, we noted that players were able to understand the instructions well but needed to clarify a few small points.
Final Prototype & Designs
Click on these links to get all the game materials and instructions.