Critical Play – Inhuman Conditions

Robot Interrogation is an online version of Inhuman Conditions by Tommy Maranges and Cory O’Brien kickstarted in 2018. It can be played on any browser. I picked this game because this was the only two-player game on the list. In addition, I am very interested in robots but never came across a game about it.

A little background about the game:

  • A ~ five-minute two-player game where one player is the investigator and the other is the suspect. The goal of the game is for the investigator to figure out whether the suspect is a Human or a Robot

For the purpose of this critical play, I will be focusing on the Robot Interrogation version of the game.

The interrogation and conversational game is designed to be short and easily accessible (no props needed). Therefore, the target audience should be pairs of friends who enjoy detective work specifically reasoning and analyzing people. I also notice the game has a very simple and extremely text-reliant UI with minimal virtual elements. Thus, we can conclude that it is targeted at adolescents and older people. There needs to be much more visual help to grab kids’ attention. Because of the roles required in the game, it would also appeal to people who enjoy creative roleplay.

Notable elements of the game: 

  • Players: This is a two-player (Player vs Player) game between the investigator and the suspect who is role-playing either as a robot or a human. 
    • However, sometimes it can be cooperative when the suspect is a human because both players would lose if the investigator incorrectly identifies the suspect as a robot. Thus they have to work together.
    • This is very interesting because I usually see strictly cooperative or adversarial games.
  • Objectives: The suspect’s goal is to convince the investigator that they are a human. When the suspect is assigned a human role they can simply respond to the questions proposed by the investigator. The Investigator’s goal is to correctly identify the suspect’s role.
  • Outcomes: The robot suspect wins if they convince the investigator they are a human. The investigator wins if they correctly identify the suspect’s role as a human or a robot. 
  • Procedures: First a punishment and topic need to be selected before going into a 5-minute interview. After starting the timer, the interviewer can ask the suspect questions on the selected topic. If the interviewer thinks the suspect is a robot they can click the robot button and end the game anytime. However, if the interviewer thinks the suspect is a human they can click the human button after the timer is up.  
  • Boundaries: The timer bounds both parties. The robot suspect is bounded by the rules they must follow in their responses. 

This game reminds me of games such as One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Spyfall. Aside from the fact that Robot Interrogation is a two-player game, there is role-playing involved in all three games. Plus, players need to vote to identify targeted roles in order to win. Specifically in Spyfall, you have to carefully analyze other players’ responses to correctly pick out the spy. 

I personally did not fall in love with the game because both the friend I played the game with and I do not enjoy role-playing and analyzing the other opponent. I think being the suspect is more interesting as there is more freedom in what to say. However, I did have fun playing, but it would not be a game I would voluntarily play in my free time. I would prefer more competitive games. I did like the fact that there are different interview packets the interviewer can choose to spic up the interrogation. I also think I did not enjoy the game because some of the penalties such as “compliment the interviewer” and “interrupt the interviewer” were too easy to spot which makes the game too easy. As we learned from week 1’s reading when the game becomes too easy it turns into boredom and that’s what happened in some rounds I played.

Some things I would change to make the game better:

  • The rules of the game are simple but there would be instructions on how to navigate the online version of the game.
    • Maybe a demo video or figures to show the stages of the game so the players know what to expect.
  • More interesting UI or some kind of incentive to keep the player playing.
    • Maybe a win streak tracker 
  • The button to start the timer should be on the top and not the bottom of the game.
    • When I first played I did scroll down and when instructed to use a timer I used my own timer. 
    • Moving the timer to the top would avoid confusion like this.
  • The player should be able to stop the game quicker
    • If the interviewer believes the suspect is a robot they can stop the game any time during the interview.
    • If the interviewer believes the suspect is a human he or she has to wait till the timer stops to end the game. 
    • When playing with my friend I was sure she is a human after 3 rounds of questions but did not have the option to end the game. This drags the game on and takes the fun out of it. 

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