Theme & Fun:
Skribbl.io maintains no discrete theme outside the doodle-y style of its UI. This seems to be an intentional choice though, since any theme would potentially limit the number of prompts they’d be able to provide or, worse, prime players to only consider certain responses relating to that theme. The simplicity and silly illustration style of the UI expresses to the user that the game is very low-stakes—that it’s okay if their drawings aren’t perfect. The game, above all else, promises fun in the form of fellowship (active chat) and expression (frequently drawing).
Each round, the game has one player choose one of three words to draw. They are then given about one minute to draw the word they chose. Everyone else who’s playing races to identify the drawing first. One interesting mechanic that’s afforded by the online format is that once one person gets it right, everyone else gets to keeps guessing. If this game were played in person, the answer would be spoiled as soon as one person blurted it out. This format also allows for the engaging scoring mechanic, which awards points according to how quickly a player guessed the answer. After each player has had the chance to draw 3 times, the player with the most points wins. As we continue to create our own game, we should more critically consider how we can create a scoring system that encourages players to be continuously engaged. The online format allows skribbl.io to differentiate itself from its competitors simply because it’s so accessible. The open-room format means that there will always be people to play with and ensures that a game doesn’t die if someone leaves: another player will hop in just as quickly as they left. The continuous nature of these rooms means that it’s just as easy to hop on for as little as five minutes as it is to play for more than an hour.
The game very effectively allows users in the room to kick out players who aren’t playing by the rules. If a player is drawing something obscene or isn’t drawing at all, the group can decide to kick them out with a majority vote. The game does not, however, allow players to kick out nefarious players who are misbehaving or being offensive within the chat. Due to the anonymity the game provides, it ultimately doesn’t have sufficient affordances to effectively mitigate abuse.
I would add the ability to kick out players even while it’s not their turn. Pure self-moderation is less than ideal, but it would certainly eliminate much of the abuse that happens in the chat. If I were wanting to make the game more engaging for continuous play, I’d allow for the creation of voice channels for communication. All the interaction currently happens exclusively through how people respond to the drawing, but the game could be much more memorable if you were able to better get to know those you’re playing with.