Critical Play 1 – Jake

For my critical play, I played Spyfall. The game was designed by Alexandr Ushan, and the format that we played was online and intended for 3-8 players. The game would be appropriate for any age, and anybody who can ask and answer questions would be able to play. However, the ability to be discreet as a spy requires a degree of skill that may not be present in young players. Thus, the target audience is probably around 10+. 

At the beginning of a game, each player is informed of a location and assigned a role that they play at this location, except for one player: the spy. The players take turns asking another player a question about the location or their role at the location. Non-spies will need to try to determine the identity of the spy based on answers to questions, while the spy will need to try to blend in with their answers. At the end of the game, which occurs when a timer runs out, if the players vote on who they believe the spy to be. If they guess correctly, they will win and the spy will lose, but if the spy is able to guess the location, the spy will win the game. Thus, non-spies will need to be careful not to reveal too much with their questions and answers. Spies can also try to strategically ask questions that might help them glean information about the location. Players generally try to build trust with each other over the course of the game.

Other games in the same genre might include Mafia and A Fake Artist Goes to New York. Spyfall is especially similar to the latter, as both include a spy who is trying to guess something that every other player knows. The main difference is that Fake Artist uses drawing, whereas Spyfall uses questioning as a main mechanic. Both games try to get players to earn the trust of one another. Mafia also falls into the category of social deduction, and trying to find the evil player among the group. Spyfall differs from Mafia in that there is less formal structure. There are no guidelines to what can be asked, such as in Mafia. Players can ask anything they want, which can offer a more humorous experience. However, gameplay can feel less tense than in Mafia, as players will not be “killed” across the course of the game. However, this does mean that all players will get to play throughout each game.

I found the game to be very fun, as the questions we asked each other were often very humorous. The game led to some nice bonding moments, where people would be trying to study each other’s mannerisms and thus learn about each other. One moment of success (for me), was when I, the spy, gave a terrible answer to a question. The location was a motel, and I said that I would go there once a week. The other players found this odd, but I was able to cast blame elsewhere, and they did not vote for me as the spy.

One thing I might change to make the game better would be to add a more rigid question-asking procedure. Players ask questions after they themselves have been asked a question, rather than going around in a circle. I would have players go around in a circle to ask questions. This might balance out the amount of questions that each player is able to ask.

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