Critical Play: Competitive Analysis, Charades

Name: Charades

Creator: No exact creator, believed to have originated in France and popularized in England

Platform: guessing game, analog


Charades is a game that many people have probably played, even if at least once in their life. There are various modifications that a game can make, but at the core, the game is about a person trying to act out some word/phrase, while another person tries to guess the word/phrase using nothing else but the acting. This base game provides a blank canvas for a variety of spinoffs, perhaps with a common theme amongst the words/phrases, or simply one with the hard-to-guess prompts. Interestingly, this is similar to the base of our game, which has a general premise of “guessing who stole an object” from a bunch of different objects, but the play can be tailored based on the different kinds of objects used in the game. It can easily become food themed if all the objects involved are, say, a favorite snack from each player! Whether the original creator intended it or not, providing simple base rules gives the game a lot of flexibility and potential to last a long time (which it has!).

Pictured: a player trying to attempt to act out “stay” in different forms


The primary parts of the game are to give the actor a prompt, and for the guesser to not see the prompt while trying to guess it based on the actor’s actions. There is no limit on the number of players, other than having at least enough to form two teams (i.e. minimum 4 players to fulfill the base roles). Teams are working against each other to score the most points, but inside each team, players are working together to communicate and guess the prompt before the other team is able to. With the social competitiveness of the game, it definitely falls under “fellowship” under the MDA 8 types of fun, with increased “challenge” fun depending on how difficult to act the prompts are. The overall objective is to score the most points, though the number of rounds/prompts is up to the players. The only rule is that the actor can only communicate through action, otherwise, teams can be as creative as they want! This helps create an atmosphere that is fun in most cases, often leading to wacky and outside-the-box acting, and lots of laughter. However, there isn’t a specific guard against abuse in this game. While it is generally good-natured fun, there may be instances where prompts may be inappropriate or uncomfortable for the actor. Ideally, the person affected should tell the group about their discomfort, and the group would recognize that pick a new prompt, but the rules don’t have anything explicit. There generally seems to be an “honor code” of sorts, an implicit understanding that everyone wants to have fun, when playing the game, particularly among friends or in a social event. Perhaps themed versions of charades (i.e. a set of themed cards) in the future can also provide players with a “skip” card to allow them an explicit way out and avoid any judgement from others as it would be in the rules. 


Two similar games to Charades would be Guesstures and Pictionary. Guesstures is very similar in terms of having a prompt and acting it out, but is more formalized by being a board game. Players work in teams against each other and try to score points by guessing the prompts first, before time runs out (in this case, done by a timer that “eats” the prompt cards slowly). Pictionary has a similar guessing mechanic, except that it is done through drawing. Players progress on a physical board, and the team who makes it to the end first wins. On the board, there are different tiles that dictate different types of guessing rounds. These games all involve the same “guessing” core of Charades, but formalizes it in a physical board game, with some added features to change the gameplay. Charades doesn’t need to have any physical parts to go with it, making it easy to play anywhere and with anyone.


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