Critical Play: Truth or Dare

Name of game: Truth or Dare

Creator: Common party game without a known creator.

Platform: Takes place in real life.


Target Audience

Truth or Dare is typically played by a young audience, all the way from middle school to young adulthood. I’d say the popularity drops off a lot after high school as the game becomes repetitive and feels juvenile. It’s typically played at parties, whether that means a family basement after a sixth grade pizza party, or on someone’s college dorm floor at 3 AM. The game works best in groups where some of the people might be interested in each other (e.g. boys and girls if the players are heterosexual) to heighten the stakes.

Formal Elements

Players: Truth or Dare requires at least 2 players, but it becomes more fun once you pass a threshold of 4-5 players. The upper bound for the number of players is technically unlimited, but it can become boring if you get too large a group (over 10) as players have to wait a long time for their turn. There are no consistent roles for players, but they alternate being the “asker” and the “askee.” After their turn, the askee then becomes the asker. I will explain how this is carried out in more detail below.

Rules and Procedure: The game begins with one player (the asker) asking another player (the askee) the question “Truth or Dare?” The askee will decide if they want to answer a question (truth) or perform a task (dare). Based on their answer, the asker will either ask them a personal question (ex: “Who here do you find most attractive?”) or give them a dare (ex: “I dare you to lick your own foot.”). The askee must complete their truth/dare, although there is typically a custom of leniency if the askee doesn’t like the truth/dare that is given and wants a new one. In that case, the asker comes up with a new truth/dare. After the act is completed, the askee becomes the new asker and chooses someone in the circle to ask “Truth or Dare?” to. The game goes on indefinitely in this pattern. There are no rounds. There is not a formal rule about making sure all players participate, but there is a custom of trying to include everyone equally.

Conflict, Objective, Outcome: Since Truth or Dare is a simple get-to-know-you game, there’s no clear way to win or lose. The only way to pseudo-lose is to refuse a truth/dare that the group doesn’t agree with you refusing. Even then, you won’t be “out” — you’ll just lose the respect of some friends! Conflict arises in these cases: if a friend asks you a question you don’t want to answer, and you resist answering it.  The objective of the game is essentially to connect with your friends. You hope to see your friends perform funny dares, learn something about each other through truths, and gain some social approval/respect through your own answers and acts. The game simply ends when players get bored, so there’s no distinct outcome.

Resources and Boundaries: The only resource you can accumulate in this game is the appreciation of your friends. In terms of boundaries, people playing Truth or Dare often sit in a circle that you’d be expected to stay seated in. Other times, there is no set circle, but it is expected that you stay in the room that the game is taking place in, within earshot and line of sight of all other players. 

Types of Fun

Truth or Dare is all about fellowship: it brings groups of people together to socialize, and the activity itself is secondary. Humor and camaraderie are prioritized: we play Truth or Dare to laugh. If you played a laughless game of Truth or Dare, it would be an utter failure. The game involves conversing, building bonds with each other, learning truths about each other, and being vulnerable together. It also involves some expression: players get to generate creative truth and dare questions, share about themselves, and display their personalities through daring acts. The ability to share about yourself and learn about your friends (and to laugh at them) is what makes Truth or Dare so compelling. 

Genre Comparison and Improvements

I think Truth or Dare can feel repetitive after you’ve played it many times before at parties. There are a limited number of questions you can ask that are exciting “truths” and funny “dares.” It could be improved if there were prompts given that were updated monthly (e.g. in an app) to keep the game fresh. The existence of meaningful, interesting prompts makes We’re Not Really Strangers (another game in the genre) fun. I also think Truth or Dare gets old because there isn’t an explicit way to win or lose; perhaps you could heighten the stakes by making players “out” if they failed a dare or refused a truth. If you compare the game to something with higher stakes (e.g. Apples to Apples), the incentive to win in the latter makes it more enticing to play again and again.


The degree of vulnerability required in the game varies based on the group of people playing. You can engage in a tame, sanitized version of the game (“What’s your favorite color?” “I dare you to do 10 jumping jacks.”) A more fun version of the game involves more scandalous questions that do require vulnerability (“Who do you have a crush on?” “What’s your biggest fear?”) In general, I’d say a good game of Truth or Dare does involve at least some level of disclosure and vulnerability from its players.

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