Short Exercise: MDA & 8 Kinds of Fun

One of my favorite games is Taboo. In this game, all players split up into two teams. During a single round, one player draws a card and tries to get their team to guess the main word on the card, e.g. SLEEP through an explanation that excludes related words listed on the card, e.g. REST, BED, EYES. If you say one of the forbidden words, then a point is subtracted from your team. For each word your team successfully guesses, you gain one point. You have a couple minutes to get your team to guess as many words as they can, before the deck moves to a member of the opposite team.

These mechanics make for an extremely interesting game. As you try to explain the word SLEEP, the things that initially come to mind are the forbidden words. There is no way to give up, as skipping also decrements your team’s points. There is a tradeoff between talking and thinking — the more you talk, the more information your team has to try and guess the word. On the other hand, the more you talk, the greater the risk for saying one of the forbidden words. Because of these mechanics, there is a choice to be made and a risk to be taken at pretty much every second of the game. They also create space for a very interesting strategy — thinking of an alternative meaning for the word that does not align with any of the forbidden words. For instance, for SLEEP, you may try and get your team to think along the lines of the film Sleepless in Seattle or the story of Sleeping Beauty. Perhaps “Seattle” or “Aurora” could get your team to guess the word. Deviating from the meaning assumed by the forbidden words also lessens the risk of saying one.

The mechanics of this game combine speed, strategy, brain power, and risk-analysis: your brain is constantly working to try and identify new patterns that the game creators didn’t think of.

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.