Critical Play: Bluffing

For this critical play, I chose to analyze Fakin It by Jackbox Games. Fakin It is included in the Jackbox Party Pack 3 and can be downloaded through Steam. It is a bluffing, or social deception game. Based on the questions that they ask and the fact that lying is integral to the game, the target audience seems to be ages 14+. 

Formal Elements

3-6 players are needed to play  and each player needs a mobile device. Players should sit in a way so that they cannot see each other’s phone screens. 

The game consists of 3-4 rounds. Each round has 1-3 sub-rounds. At the beginning of each round, one player is randomly selected by the game to be the faker. Also, the type of answer to be given for that entire round is chosen by the group as either pointing, holding up a number of fingers, raising their hand, making a face, or a text prompt (in the final round). Each sub-round, all the players are given a prompt on their screen, except the faker. The faker is told to “blend in.” After a countdown from 3, all the players give their answer simultaneously. Then, they vote for who they think the faker is. A unanimous vote is needed to find the faker. If found, the round ends. If not, the next sub-round begins. At the end of the round, points are allocated to the faker based on how many sub-rounds they went unidentified as well as to any “sleuths” who correctly voted for the faker.

The objective of the game is to win the most points by avoiding detection as the faker or correctly voting for the faker. The outcome is zero-sum because only one player can win by earning the most points.

The Kinds of Fun

Fakin’ It supports two kinds of fun: challenge and fellowship.

Challenge comes from trying to deduce who is lying and trying to successfully lie to everyone else. If this obstacle can be overcome, points are gained. With each sub-round that passes, the obstacle can become more or less difficult. For example, if everyone unanimously votes for someone that is not the faker, the sleuths can narrow their search down by one, and it becomes more difficult for the faker to evade detection. If an unanimous decision is not made, it becomes easier for the faker to evade detection and harder for the sleuths to find them. Sleuths have 3 chances to overcome this obstacle each round.

Fellowship comes from the voting at the end of each sub-round. The group has an opportunity to discuss and work together to find who they think the faker is. While they cannot trust everyone, they do still need to cooperate.

Why does it work? How can it be improved?

I think Fakin’ It works because the prompts must all be can answered instantaneously. For example, at the end of the countdown, everyone raises their hand, points to someone, holds up their fingers, or makes a face at the same time. This prevents the faker from forming their answer based on everyone else’s.

I think that Fakin’ It could be improved by removing the faces category. When playing a faces round, I found it difficult to make a face while looking at everyone else’s. If I asked someone who happened to be the faker to make a face again, they could change their face to align with the prompt without my knowing. 

I also think Fakin’ It could be improved by including raising hands, pointing, and holding up fingers as a part of each round. For the faker, the raising a hand is easiest because they have a 50% change of giving an answer that they would have given had they known the prompt. With pointing, it is 1 out of however many people are playing, and for fingers it is 1/10. I would like Fakin’ It to start with hand raising each round and end with fingers so that the difficulty increases. It becomes unfair when a someone wins because they were the faker during a raising hands round.

How does it compare?

Fakin’ It is very similar to other social deception games. However, Fakin’ It is different from games like Werewolf in that sleuths are also individually awarded points even when the faker is not found by the group. Also, the faker changes each round, allowing most people an opportunity to deceive. Games like werewolf only last one round, and the winner is either the group or the werewolf. In Fakin’ It, only one person can win— the best sleuth and faker. For this reason, I think Fakin’ It is better. Werewolf can become quite boring if you are a villager who gets killed the first round.

How vulnerable do you need to get?

Fakin’ It works well when the people playing it are familiar with each other. It can be difficult to know when someone is lying if you just met. Also, depending on the prompts, you need to honestly answer embarrassing questions such as “How many times do you poop in a day?” The questions are not too personal, but they do require players to explain things like their poop schedule or who they would want to be stranded on a desert island with.

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