Critical Play: Bluffing, Judging and Getting Vulnerable…

For this Critical Play, I played Truth or Dare, a “getting to know you” game. I am unsure if the game has a creator, and I played with friends in real life.

If I had to guess the target audience of this game, I would say that it is mostly played by young people–from kindergarten to college.

This game can have two or more players. Each round, an asker picks another player to answer “Truth or Dare?” If the answerer responds by saying “truth”, the asker gets to ask another question to the answerer, which the answerer has to answer truthfully. If the answerer responds that they would like a dare, the asker gets to pick a task for the person to do. At the end of the round, the answerer becomes the new asker and gets to pick a new answerer.

There are no real objectives to this game other than getting to know the other players better. The real fun of the game is in putting your friends in slightly uncomfortable situations. However, one big weakness of the basic version of Truth or Dare is the lack of an opt-out. Depending on how aggressive your fellow players are, the game can make people do or reveal things they are completely uncomfortable with. This is coercive and wrong. In the version I played for this playtest, I was already friends with everyone I was playing with. Additionally, no one gave particularly heinous questions or dares. One good mod to the game is to add a simple opt-out to lower the stakes. For example, if you are playing in a setting where people are drinking, you could have an unwilling answerer have the option to take a drink to avoid answering a question or completing a dare. More generally, there could be a default dare that everyone agrees with before the game starts, that any player can complete in place of the question or dare given to them.

A similar “getting to know you” game is Paranoia. In this game, the asker privately prompts the answerer with a question along the lines of “Who in this game is most likely to X?” The answerer picks a player in the circle to answer the question, and the person who was picked flips a coin to see if the original prompt is revealed. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of either Truth or Dare or Paranoia. I feel like I’ve been a part of too many games that turn sour and people can get their feelings hurt. I prefer Truth or Dare because Paranoia can pit friends against each other more naturally. In Truth or Dare you aren’t inherently asking questions about the other players.

A great strength of Truth or Dare is that it can connect a group of people by putting everyone in a shared state of vulnerability. Games can force users to be very vulnerable. And while the game can certainly be fun, it needs better opt-outs to be a game that I would actually enjoy playing.

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