Critical Play: Werewolf

Werewolf is a well-known classical social deduction game, which is the genre our team is currently working on, so I figure it’s good to return to the classic through a critical lens.

The theme, design and aesthetic of werewolf is notably open-ended, or even non-existent, determined by how one views it. There is indeed a standard narrative (the werewolf tale which gives the game its name) and is reconfirmed by lots of game kits/apps, however, few players seem to really care about those and are instead just playing a fun game, enjoying its mechanics. There are also alternative narratives such as Mafia, and “house-narratives” occasionally invented by players. The gameplay remains largely invariant to the varying theme, while the themes are in complementary status, either to fit into a particular (and sometimes themed) party settings better, or just stay out of the way and let you enjoy the game mechanics itself.

The game has a classic well-designed mechanics, which provides users the fun of Fellowship, Competition and Challenge. In the team-vs-team standard settings, the werewolf camp need to cooperate with each other as a minority group, and the villager camp on the other hand need to cooperate with people whose true identity might not be known. This already creates two totally different kinds of dynamics, with werewolves being cooperative within the team and villagers deciding between cooperative and competitive to other players. The dilemma for the villagers can in turn be exploited by werewolves, and that exploitation will in turn need to be countered by villagers. Through this conceptually infinite regression, a complex and enjoyable dynamics blending Fellowship and Competition arise, which also makes mastering such difficult dynamics and becoming good at the game a notable Challenge.

The game doesn’t explicitly handled abuses, but because it’s very human-centric and open-ended, players could solve any such issue on the spot. If there is a host/moderator, they are surely at the position to recognize such issue by e.g. kicking the player out. If this is dictatorial, the players can also vote out the malicious player, and either ask the host, or decide on their own, to exclude that vote round from supposed normal gameplay and have one more round of vote.

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