Critical Play: Competitive Analysis

The game I chose was Spyfall. Spyfall is a social deduction game that works optimally with 4-10 players, and I played with 4 others. The game requires that everyone have a phone that can access their website (there is also an analog version, but we didn’t play this one). All members of the group will initially receive a location on their screen, along with a list of other possible locations and a specific role that is relevant to the location (ex. chef for restaurant). However, within the group, one person will receive the role of a spy, and will not know the location of where the rest of the group is. You take turns in the group asking questions to one another that could be revealing about who the spy is, or for the spy, where the location is. When time is up (around 10 minutes), there is time to discuss and vote out the spy. If the majority choose to the correct spy, the group wins. If the spy guesses the location, the spy wins. The simple mechanics with the phone make the game very accessible both to a variety of players, but also with where and when you can play the game.

The game promises the fun of both challenge and fellowship. Through answering and asking questions to different players, we were able to understand group dynamics and personalities of group members during certain situations. In terms of a challenge, we had to find the balance between asking questions that would show that we weren’t a spy, without being too revealing about the location itself.

Even though the game itself doesn’t really center around the online interface, the graphic design of the website reemphasizes the storyline of everyone in the group being detectives, with post-it notes, file folders, and addressing players as “detective”.

I think one differentiation factor of Spyfall from similar games (like Mafia) is that it also all players to be involved in playing the detective. In Mafia, only special roles are able to participate in the night, and the discussion is focused around suspicions raised by those with special roles. However, since everyone is able to ask questions and deduce information using evidence of a player’s answer, everyone is more heavily involved in the decision-making process. I’m not sure if Spyfall handles cases of abuse in anyway, but given that they have an online version, it would be a good decision to have moderators of the game have the option to kick out players.

A couple of things I noticed with the game after playing is that there are often many question repeats (ex. what color do you generally see here?). I know that they have added a feature where the game suggests a potential question which is nice, but it would still be interesting to see if there can be even more improvements on that front. Additionally, I noticed that one way to identify the spy is to see who is checking their phone the most. Since the spy wants to deduce the location. they are the most likely to keep checking their phone and interacting with their screen. In contrast, regular players don’t really need to see the screen at all. One improvement would be to have the regular players have some sort of task during the game that requires them to also interact with their device to reduce the use of phone usage as evidence of a player being the spy.

About the author

hi! i'm a freshman studying cs. i love animation, vr/ar, and game dev!

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