Critical Play: Competitive Analysis

Although not a formally manufactured game, I decided to focus on the word game Contact for this critical play. First and foremost, Contact is a word guessing game, in which one player thinks of a word and the rest of the players try to guess said word. Guessers are given the first letter of the word, and then must work together to either guess the word correctly or reveal enough letters to spell out the word, while the word-master tries to keep their word secret. Players can gain letters by communicating with each other, giving hints that point out a word that corresponds to the revealed letters. Once two or more guessers think that they are thinking of the same word, they countdown and then say the word. If the word-master cannot guess the word before them, they must give all guessers the next letter in the word. Whoever wins the round gets to be the word-master for the next round, and the game is played ad infinitum.

Because of these mechanics, Contact mainly promises fun in the form of challenge (competing against either guessers or the word-master) and fellowship (working with the other guessers to stump the word-master), with a bit of expression (creatively giving hints and faking out the word-master/guessers) baked in. Because this is an informal, spoken game, there are no resources to comment on, however the format of the game makes it suitable for playing in any occasion, and is especially popular on road trips, hikes, meals out, or really any social setting. Unlike other similar informal games, Contact doesn’t require a specific setting or context, which makes it easily accessible for any situation. Additionally, the fast-paced guessing dynamic of Contact feels quite different from other similar games, which creates higher stakes and more fun. Compared to more structured, branded games, such as charades or taboo, contact offers a level of immediacy due to its lack of resources and simple mechanics, and requires no setup or cleanup.

In my opinion, I think that Contact could be improved by changing the word-master role to be slightly more involved throughout the game, as they do not take any actions unless directly opposing the guessers. I also think that one difficulty (although sometimes a strength of the game) arises when players have very different vocabularies/background knowledge, such that words that may seem standard to one person may be completely new to others, and therefore result in a round where the guessers don’t know the word that they’re trying to reveal.

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