Critical Play 1: Spyfall
Spyfall is a game created by Alexandr Ushan and published by Hobby World online. This game is able to be played by anyone who can speak, probably like 6-8+, as long as people can understand a location and be consistent with answering questions.
To play this game, players are assigned a location, but one key player is left without the location that person is the imposter. Players engage in the primary game procedure of asking questions in a circle and try to deduce who the imposter is without revealing the location. If the players find out the imposter they win–this is the objective of the game–if the imposter successfully evades the other players, they win the game. The game can be played with 4 or more players and consists of players It can be scaled quickly and easily. We easily went from 5 players to almost 10 which makes it an interesting party game, but quite slow. This game primarily operates on the core aesthetics of fellowship and competition–players must simultaneously cooperate with their unknown team members by asking and generating questions that help expose the spy whilst keeping their location secret, and are actively trying to win the game.
Similar judgment and deduction games to Spyfall include Faking it, a jackbox minigame, as well as mafia. I think these games (faking it and mafia) have more solid bounds on what is being guessed and this makes them stronger and more enjoyable games to play. Syfall has potential, but I think it’s vague descriptions of locations made the game feel repetitive and generic. One of the locations we were given was simply “school”, but school can be broken down into so many specific sublocations that would make questions much more pointed and nuanced.
In terms of my enjoyment with this game, I liked the mechanic of trying to figure out the imposter. The mind game and social deduction present when asking questions and reading into body language was entertaining and different every game, as new players took on the role of being spy. This variable of psychology and behavior that was present in playing this game reminded me a lot like mafia and that is probably what I appreciated most about it. The vagueness of locations and repetition of questions though did make the game feel predictable and less enjoyable overall. The rate at which questions were asked made the game quite slow and not super engaging. Also the lack of specificity with locations made it quite easy to discover what the location was, and there were common question pitfalls, ie: “do you go to this place often?” or “do you enjoy this place?” which made the game feel repetitive. I would make the locations more specific so that they cater to a specific audience, ie: Stanford locations / buildings to encourage more specific questions and I might even generate some sample questions to inspire a variety of questions for players. This might make the game feel less repetitive and more engaging overall.