What do Prototypes Prototype? — Daphne

My group’s social game is a team-based one-word-at-a-time game with forbidden words. We’ll provide different decks of cards that suggest prompts for narratives the group will tell, and for different restrictions on what kinds of words different teams can and can’t say.

My first question about our game design is how to incentivize players to come up with their words more quickly and keep gameplay moving. A prototype that answers this question will have to incorporate some kind of timed mechanism, such that going over-time costs your team points. One option is a timer that restarts for each player, another is a timer that restarts for each team, and another is a timer that counts down for a certain amount of time, and whichever team’s turn it is when it finishes, they lose points. I think that the last idea will be the most fun for players, but may not motivate quick answers towards the beginning of the round.

My second question is whether players would have more fun using narrative templates and predetermined word restrictions or if they’d rather come up with them themselves. We can prototype this by simply having groups play the game with and without the cards. I predict that people will prefer using cards as long as they can fill in certain blanks in the template and customize the game experience around inside jokes.

My last question is about the effect of the game for groups of close friends vs. groups of people that are unfamiliar with each other, and what we can do to design the game with the latter group in mind. A prototype that would test this would to play the game in these two different kinds of groups and taking notes on what game rules contribute to fun and relaxing social tension, and what rules are too stressful and distract from the social element. I think that our findings might point towards creating different difficulty levels for the restrictions so that groups that are less socially lubricated have an easier time getting started and interacting with one another.

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