Critical Play: Competitive Analysis – Heads Up!

Name of game: Heads Up!

Created by: The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Platform: iPhone/Android Mobile

Theme: Social/Party Game with select categories like accents, celebrities, etc.

For my Competitive Analysis, I’ve decided to analyze Heads Up! mobile, a social game supported on iOS and android created by The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Heads Up! is a multiplayer co-op game where participants have to guess words that others are describing or acting out. The target audience of this mobile app sensation is players ages 8 and up. Heads Up! Is very similar to our game concept “React!” Similar to Heads Up!, In “React!,” one player is given a reaction they cannot see and the goal is to have all players try and get such player to act out the reaction (a cooperative task). Due to Heads Up!’s similarities to our game, I feel we can learn a lot by analyzing its game flow, successes, and areas of improvement.

To play Heads Up!, players choose one player to guess the words displayed on the Heads Up! game screen. This player is to put the phone screen to their forehead as to be unseen by them but seen by all other players. The objective of the other players is to get the guesser to guess the word appearing on the screen through their actions or words. When the guesser guesses the word correctly, they flip the phone up to get a point. If they do not know the word and want to give up, they can flip the phone down to pass and move on to the next word. In order to win, the player must get as many points as possible within a given time interval.

The specific dynamics/mechanics of Heads Up! Include:

  • The constraint on non-guessing players is not to say the word or one that rhymes with it to get the guesser to easily guess.
  • Tilting the phone in order to guess a word correctly or pass on a word that’s too difficult. (Allows players to skip words and save time)
  • The time pressure of only having one minute to complete a round all the while guessing as many words as possible. This constraint  
  • The ability to alter the select category/theme of the round spices up the game and prevents people from getting too bored.
  • The facilitation of communication whether it be through forcing players to act out or describe a word to the guessing player.

In my opinion, Heads Up! is super fun and a genius social game! I played with my friends today and we all simply had a blast. We all experienced a sense of challenge when playing the game which made us all want to beat it and win! It kept us motivated knowing that we would always have the chance to replay and shoot for a higher score in the same or another category. Also, though it is technically a cooperative team game, I think the game also spurred a sense of competition amongst its players. While playing the guesser role, my friends and I would always try to beat the scores of one another even though technically we were all on the same team in the moment. We became upset when we were unable to beat our own/others’ scores and this frustration is what kept us coming back and having fun. We all also really enjoyed how the game promotes expression! With all the constraints and categories, we were all given the chance to think outside of the box and express our ideas in our own distinct ways! Though there are many things that make the game fun, the way in which it creates fellowship amongst its players is definitely the most significant. It allowed my friends and I to spend time with each other, enjoy each other’s company, solve problems communally, and just have a blast.

If I was to make the game better, I would:

  1. Make a point system that facilitates team competition where people can form teams amongst the players and go head to head.
  2. Create a leaderboard so you can compare your standing to top players as I feel like that would also motivate people to break records.
  3. I would definitely add more words in each category; while playing, a lot of words would repeat which made the game less enjoyable.
  4. I would add more difficulty levels/restrictions on the non-guessing players and their actions. At a certain point in some categories, the game became too easy for my team so we wished there were more ways to make the game harder.

I really enjoyed Heads Up! and I definitely think my group can learn a lot from its successes when developing our game! Compared to other social games like charades and Pictionary, Heads Up! Is definitely the most tech-savvy and modern. Though it promotes the same types of fun and holds the same mechanics, Heads Up! creates an entirely different experience in my opinion than other games of its genre due to the implementation of digital elements which make the overall experience more immersive and exciting.


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