Critical Play: Competitive Analysis – 20 Questions and Kleptomaniac Chaos

Analyzing Twenty Questions

Both the game that we are making, Kleptomaniac Chaos, and the game I am analyzing, Twenty Questions, are guessing games. Twenty Questions is a two player (player vs player) spoken parlor game originating from the USA in the 19th century (creator unknown). In Twenty Questions, one player thinks of a special object, idea, or location. The other player asks up to 20 yes or no questions to figure out what the things is. The questioner wins if they guess the correct thing, and the question-answerer wins if the questioner can’t guess correct.

There is no theme or premise to the game, except to play by conversation. Thus, game mechanics are simple — each question gets answered by yes or no, and the next question is chosen depending on the previous answer. Generally, players ask questions to deduce what the thing is, starting with broad questions to rule out many things. For example, “is this thing man-made?”.

Fun in Twenty Questions

Fun is derived from conversing with the other player (fellowship) and deducing the mystery thing (challenge).

Compared to Other Games

Compared to other spoken parlor games that involve guessing, such as I Spy, Twenty Questions is quite simple in that it does not involve using any real resources (for instance, unlike I Spy, it doesn’t require the player to pick from their surroundings). Thus, it’s strength lies in the fact that no other resources are needed to play the game — just the players and the conversation. It’s rules are short and easy to grasp — the limit of the game is the player’s own creativity.

Graphic Design Decisions

The game is purely conversational, so there are no graphical decisions.

Abuse and Game Strategy Pitfalls

Because Twenty Questions is so simple, there is no way for players to abuse game mechanics with unfair strategies. In that way, Twenty Questions is a well-balanced game. However, one pitfall is that the game always starts with the player not knowing anything. Once players formulate a set of good questions, it’s typical for them to always ask those same questions at the start of every game, which makes it only fun to play in the latter half of playtime.

How it Could be Better

I played the game with my friend.

There were sometimes questions where the answer to which was not “yes” or “no”, but rather “well, it depends…”. To make the game more interesting, and to not completely mislead the guesser, I occasionally gave hints and added small modifications to the answers, rather than a direct yes or no.

For me, the spice and fun of the game is derived from the guesser being frustratingly close to the answer, but not quite getting it. It is not fun when the questioner is completely lost, because then it’s too easy for the other player to win.

Therefore, giving players the flexibility to answer with more subtle, complex answers rather than direct “yes” or “no” on a case-by-case basis is critical to making the game more challenging (and thus fun). Conversely, expecting players to answer beyond “yes” or “no” is not fair. Thus, another possible solution to keep the game from being too difficult for the questioner is to simply allow the guesser to ask more question (perhaps the game can by Thirty Questions instead of twenty). Otherwise, it is too easy to keep the guesser in the dark, unless they prevail by shear luck. Thus, the strength of social games like Twenty Questions is in allowing flexibility for players to be creative and modifying the game as needed.

About the author

I like animation and game dev yeet.

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