For this play test, I chose to play skribbl.io. This game is a multiplayer drawing and guessing game. It is offered for free to play at https://skribbl.io/. It is created by mel (@ticedev on twitter). There doesn’t seem to be a specific target audience, but since the game requires some amount of vocabulary, I would say perhaps it is more appropriate for people with at least elementary school level literacy.
The procedures of the game is simple. In each round, one player chooses among three words and tries to draw something based on the chosen word. The other players guess what the word is as quickly as possible before time runs out. The number of letters in the game is given at the start as a hint. As time passes by, letters in the word will be revealed one at a time to help players who need more hints. I believe skribbl.io is a player vs. player game, since each player is playing for themselves. The player drawing gets points for players that guessed right. Players guessing get points based on how quickly they guessed the answer. At the end of the game, the player with the most points win. The objective of this game in my opinion is solution, since players guessing are basically try to figure out the solution of a word puzzle given the number of letters and the drawing. For the player drawing, they are trying to find the best solution for the problem of drawing something so that other players can guess the chosen word. The outcomes of the game is a ranking of points based on how well players were able to draw out their chosen words and guess other players’ words. Since the platform of this game is online, the only resource needed is a smart device that supports drawing in some way such as a laptop or a smart phone.
I felt that the core fun types of skribbl.io are challenge, expression, and submission. The game challenges players to guess a word based on minimal information and (potentially) bad drawing. I personally felt an immense sense of triumph when I was able to guess the word “poodle” in seconds by just a couple of pink and gray circles — and even more so when it turned out other players were unable to guess it out until several of the letters were reveled as hints. The game also promotes the expression fun type. I believe many people probably feel uncomfortable about exposing their drawing skills, but since this game is done often using a small touch screen or a mouse or a small tracking pad, it is expected that people can’t draw well. This game promotes expression not in the sense that people get to express how good their drawing skills are (though certainly some people do get that), but rather in the sense that people can express their creativity and wittiness by coming up with easy and iconic images that other players can immediate relate to the chosen word. This reduces the amount of vulnerability the players need to expose while playing this game. In addition, the game also supports the submission fun type to some extent. I felt myself playing aimlessly for several more rounds than I intended to just because it was fun to laugh at other people’s (often bad) attempts to draw things and throwing out ideas as quickly as possible until I get the right answer.
I think one of the main reasons skribbl.io was so successful especially during the pandemic was the easy set up and support for remote game play. People can join a random room any time they want and start playing immediately. They can also create a private room and play with friends or co-workers. People don’t need to be in the same space physically, and don’t need any other way of communication such as Zoom or group phone calls. It doesn’t matter if the players can’t draw very well, because it is the bad drawing that creates the most laughter and fun! The important part is coming up with iconic images that lead to the chosen word. I know that some companies used skribbl.io as a regular team-bonding activity in monthly happy hours because it is just a great way for people to relax, get their minds off work, and enjoy something fun with their co-workers.
Since this is an online game where players can get matched randomly with strangers to play together, and there is a space for free expression (the drawing board and the answer entry box), there is a “Votekick” button implemented to help avoid or stop abuse of the game. When a player is drawing something inappropriate, or not drawing anything at all (which could mean they have disconnected and are just wasting time), other players have the option to click this button and if all other players have voted to kick this person out, they will be removed from the game. However, I noticed that the answer entry box was also used as a chat box by the users to comment and communicate with other users. During the game play there were some inappropriate content in the chat, but the button only worked on the people drawing. There basically was no way to moderate the answer entry box. I think it might be a good idea to allow users to start a vote to kick a user out even if they are not drawing. Or, perhaps give an option to mute the other players in the answer entry box so that the player can only see their own guesses. Another possible solution would be to add an option to only allow players to type in words that match the word count — this would reduce the possibility of the answer entry box being used as a chat box.