Critical Play: Competitive Analysis

For our competitive analysis, I played the word game Taboo.

The rules are very straightforward, and the rounds were very fast-paced. An even number of players from four to ten sit alternating around in a circle. Players take turns as the “giver”, who attempts to prompt their teammates to guess as many keywords as possible in the allotted time. However, each card also has “taboo” (forbidden) words listed which may not be spoken. Should the giver say one, a “censor” on the opposing team hits the buzzer and the giver must move on to the next word.

What is the theme?

While there’s no clear theme, the game is based around its fast-paced cooperation element.

What mechanics do they use?

Teammates help give hints through words that are not “taboo”. The player guessing can attempt to guess the word by calling out potential answers. There is also a timer mechanic with a plastic hourglass

What kind of fun do they promise the player?

For guesser: Logical thinking, challenge, word-association

For hint-giver: Creativity, word-association

How is this fun and theme reinforced through graphic design decisions?

The “taboo” words are the most popular words that people would associate with, therefore this challenges players to come up with creative and chaotic ways to hint at words.

How does the game differentiate itself from other games in its genre?

Compared to other word games, this one is reliant on cooperation and knowing your teammates. It also relies heavily on creativity and the players’ ability to think outside the box to come up with good hints that are not “taboo”.

How they handle abuse (or don’t?)  Abuse is a critical concern for social games. 

One way players can abuse the game is to come up with variation of the word in question to give a blatant hint. They handle this by highlighting obvious words as “taboo” but other than that, it’s fully up to the teams on what they allow.

How would you make it better?

I think giving the players more personalized words would make this game incredibly fun. Trying to hint at iconic and relevant movies, songs, or other pop culture references would add a lot of dimension to this game. Perhaps giving blank custom cards to players to come up with words that are relevant to them might also be an option.

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