Critical Play- Truth or Dare

Truth or Dare is a common social, get-to-know-you oriented party game that doesn’t require any equipment (usually) and can be played for groups of people spanning 4- 10 to beyond players. The theme of this game, if you could term it that way, would be reality and simply getting to know other people in interesting and unorthodox ways.

Truth or Dare uses questions and answers and turn taking as core game mechanics. Players go around in a circle and pick if they want to reveal a truth about themselves or a dare, so every person gets to be the object of attention at a time. If it is a truth, other players come up with a question they must answer truthfully. Otherwise, players similarly collaborate to come up with a dare that the turn-taker must do.

This kind of fun centers around fellowship, social interaction, and discovery- sometimes, depending on the dares, creation or the thrill of danger. If people go for the truth route, the game promises social bonding through explicit communication of new material that people in the circle are actively curious about, that also might be a bit taboo depending on what type of people are playing the game. If through the dare route, dares often include a certain thrill that often involves other people not playing the game, which also leads to a different kind of social interaction. This ‘thrill of danger” forms closer social bonds (or might break them, depending on what kinds of dares are added) and injects the physical, outside world into the game in a startling way. Thus, the obstacles in this game are primarily the turn-takers themselves, as they have to wrestle with which type of challenge they want- a mental or physical one, and then wrestle with their own inhibitions on being more vulnerable with the dare or truth.

This is where the underlying rules of the game comes through- with both truth and the dare, refusing to do the dare or lying would break the core mechanic of the game. Thus, these ‘action rules’- needing to pick truth or the other, needing to answer the question or do a dare, are critical to the game’s success within the group.

This also opens up path for abuse within the game. There is an incredible amount of peer pressure within a group to speak the truth or do a dare, even if a player might not be comfortable with it. Depending on the players, the dares actively are not supposed to be comfortable, but if the group norms are not set correctly, especially in such a game where all sorts of house rules exist, players can feel coerced into doing or saying something they genuinely are uncomfortable with. Without any written manuals that might have made it easier by suggesting dares/truths at a milder level, there is no barrier to potential abuse.

The game could be made better if there were standardized ‘levels’ groups could look through and pick up on, especially since when I played the game, people often had a hard time thinking of interesting truths or dares. A guide could list out example dares or truths in categorizable ‘levels’ and ‘types’ – personal, casual, spicy, deep, and each in specific levels- level one being the mildest and five, for instance, the most intense. Since all players can see this list, group norms can either be set explicitly by pointing out interesting levels/types, or implicitly by seeing what questions/dares each group member picks from, since the group will usually even out between levels. This could make norms more explicit as well as keep the game running more smoothly.

Compared to other games in its genre such as Never Have I Ever, Jenga (with dares), or Pizza Box, Truth or Dare uses a two-pronged approach to appeal to more audiences as well as get to deeper topics in a shorter amount of time. During my critical play, players often focused on more socially based dares (ex: tell us how many people in this circle you would kiss) as well, grounding the game as an inherently deeper social game, where the other games (ex: Never Have I Ever) introduce social aspects by adding in questions but not necessarily initiating conversation. Similarly, games that focus on dares (Jenga, Pizza Box), do not have the inherent social aspect backed into their dares.


About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.