MDA & 8 Kinds of Fun — Allie Littleton

One of my favorite games to play with my family is Taboo. When we play, we primarily experience fellowship and challenge. Taboo involves two teams taking turns to pick cards from a deck and describe the words on the cards to their teammates without saying any of the listed forbidden words. Within a team, players rotate each turn so each player gets a chance to give the clues. While one team tries to get as many words as possible in the allotted time, the other team keeps time using an hourglass.

Here, the mechanics of having an allotted time shown visually with the hourglass creates a dynamic of time pressure. The mechanic of having a list of “forbidden” words that you are not allowed to say contributes to the dynamic of creativity, as players must think of non-obvious ways to give clues. Both of these dynamics contribute to the aesthetic of challenge.

The mechanic of describing words to your teammates creates a dynamic of clue-givers catering their clues to their teammates. Often in Taboo, a word will have a specific meaning to one or two teammates, because of an inside joke, generational divide, etc., so the clue-giver will use that meaning to make it easier for his teammates to guess. This contributes to the aesthetic of fellowship, as teammates bond over these shared meanings and the desire to beat the other team.

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