Critical Play: Bluffing, Judging, and Getting Vulnerable ( – Tristan Wang


For my critical play, I played with some friends. is an online Pictionary-like judging game. Players take turns drawing a prompt while the others try to guess the word. Players are awarded points based on how quickly and accurately they guess. The target audience seems to be quite broad. I imagine mostly friends, acquaintances, or family members playing together, although you can be paired with strangers as well.

Formal Elements

Players: It only takes 2 to play, and private rooms support up to 12 players.

Rounds & actions: Players rotate being the drawer. When it’s your turn to draw, you can choose from 3 randomly generated prompts. After selection, you have 80 seconds to draw the word with a pen (multicolored, with 4 stroke thicknesses), bucket, and eraser. During this time, the other players will be guessing the prompt via the chat.

All guesses will be made visible in real time to everyone. The system will also indicate if you guessed right (the correct answer will be hidden). Guessing the word faster earns you more points. At the end of each round, results are tallied and the scores are displayed. After a preset number of rounds, the game concludes and the player with the most points wins.

Relationships, objectives & resources: The mechanic of making all incorrect guesses public creates a dynamic of competitive teamwork. Especially for difficult prompts, players will use others’ guesses to adjust their own. Guessing correctly but mistyping can be a dead giveaway.

Types of Fun

  • Fellowship: Especially if you’re playing over Zoom or FaceTime, the game allows friends to bond. Much of the fun of the game comes from the banter, and from laughing at each others’ crude drawings (you can’t expect much more when drawing with a mouse or on you phone).
  • Expression: Given a prompt, a blank canvas, and primitive drawing tools, players must resort to their creativity to convey the prompt to the others. You express your unique perspectives through your drawings, and are also incentivized to think in the drawer’s shoes to guess the prompt.
  • Challenge: Players compete to guess each other’s prompts faster and more accurately than the others.


  • Add more words & categories of words: Frequent players may exhaust the word bank and find the prompts repetitive.
  • Incentivize picking difficult prompts: If no one guesses correctly, the drawer receives no points for the round. This incentivizes the drawer to pick easier prompts, which may not be as fun to guess because they are too obvious. I would change the game so that all prompts have an attached difficulty. Drawers would be offered an easy, medium, and hard prompt; the harder the prompt, the greater the point compensation (both for drawer and guessers).
  • Discourage spamming guesses: A guessing strategy involves quickly typing anything that comes to mind. I wonder if the game would be more enjoyable if players lost points for incorrect guesses.
  • Abuse prevention: Trolls can intentionally stall, draw inappropriate things, or write out the word instead of drawing it. Such actions detract from the gaming experience. As it stands, you can votekick such players, but it’d be nice if such abuse can be minimized and prevented (though I’m not sure how you’d do this).

Comparison with Other Games

One comparable game in the same genre is The theme of is more cartoonish (skribbl is more crude).

I like that the user experience is better thought out in various ways. Players are shown the rules of the game before they begin, for example. The answers chat is separate from the regular chat (unlike, which has one chat for everything). The objective of the game is also slightly different: players compete to reach a target score. However, I prefer’s hint mechanics over’s. tells you the number of letters in the word at the beginning. hides this information until much later, which I think makes the game too difficult and less fun.


In my opinion, exposes you to some (but reasonably little) vulnerability. There is the possibility of players voicing harsh criticisms about your drawing or guessing, or players not feeling confident in their drawing skills. But compared to other social games, players aren’t compelled to reveal that much personal or sensitive information about themselves.

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