Critical Play 1

For my critical play, I played Spyfall with the members of my team. It’s a card game created by Alexandr Ushan in 2014 that has since been adapted for web browsers. The target audience is people who are at least 13 years of age. We played with the minimum number of people required (3) though it can be played with up to 8 participants.

It is a unilateral game; players try to weed out the single spy in a group of civilians. Everyone but the spy knows the imagined location that the game is taking place. The spy tries to figure out the location before getting discovered. Typical game procedure involves participants asking each other questions about the location (e.g. “are we in a place where children are welcome”)? and giving an answer. At any time the players can accuse someone of being a spy, at which point they vote on the matter. A unanimous decision must be made to cast the accused member from the game. Alternatively, the spy can admit they are they spy and take a guess at the location once they feel certain. The round ends when any the following outcomes occurs: 1) – the groups successfully casts a player away 2) – the spy makes a guess about the location or 3) – there is no time left in the game. It’s a zero sum game, so either the spy wins and everyone else loses or the spy loses and everyone else wins. 

I think this game is similar to games like Mafia and Werewolf in that there is an element of teamwork involved to weed out the spy. The players must work together to make any headway, though this is difficult because no one knows the role of another. However, it differs in that the spy is completely alone and cannot lean on others for support. Whereas there are multiple mafia members and werewolves in the aforementioned games, there is only one spy. It puts an extreme amount of pressure on the odd one out–more so than other games in a similar domain. I think for this reason the game is worse. I personally enjoy having the ability to work with the two or three other “bad guys” when I am one. It makes the game feel like less of an attack. This is my biggest pain point with spyfall and would be the first thing I would change if I were to modify it. 

I didn’t find the game all that fun, though I did have a good time with my team members trying to wrap my head around the rules. I think the reason it was tough had to do with the fact that I was the spy. As I mentioned before, the game made me feel alienated and that was not a good time. I also think that even though we technically had enough people to play, the game was less fun with three people. It made for very fast and limited gameplay; it was too easy to determine the spy, so I would recommend increasing the minimum to four or five players. I’d consider this a failure, since the game ended so quickly that we couldn’t really get into it. 


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