Critical Play: Competitive Analysis

The game that my team chose to create was a beer-pong-relay-obstacle-course situation called Pongathlon. The premise of the game is having challenges of 3 different levels correspond to cups of different colors and each cup scored with a ping pong ball draws another challenge for the opposing team to do. Drinking games that use the building ease that comes with alcohol to increase vulnerability and trust are not new by any means so I chose to analyze Never Have I Ever – a drinking game so popular it had a show named after it.

The premise of the game is simple – players take turns saying ‘Never Have I Ever’ followed by something they’ve never done before. Player who have done this particular thing before have to drink. No follow-up questions. The more edgy or mysterious the questions, the more exciting the game. 


The theme of Never Have I Ever is pretty straightforward, somewhat comparable to Truth or Dare, where people are compelled to reveal weird or interesting or scandalous things about themselves an

d eachplayer can force another to do so with particularly scandalous or directed prompts. It is perhaps a little less boisterous than beer pong or rage cage but just as entertaining. Rather than relying on teamwork on competition it prompts people to share more about themselves and their lives. Typically, the drunker people get, the more willing they are to reveal more about themselves. In my experience, the game is great for a group of people that have just broken the ice but need mechanisms to form deeper relationships that are typically based on trust and sharing stories with one another.

In terms of mechanics, I think the one really game-changing thing this game does is allowing people to ask questions about things they HAVEN’T done before. I think doing this gives so much more room for imagination and aim than say prompting with someone you have done before. It allows people to be as narrow and targeted as they want towards one person or as broad and inclusive as they want to be. This creates one of 2 dynamics: 1) the dynamic of often concentrating focus and curiosity towards one person or 2) a round of people sharing funny stories about how they differently experienced a shared incident. Either way the game does a good job of cultivating trust and friendship and allows players to get familiar with the personalities of people they don’t know. It creates fun in the forms of fellowship and discovery which are both usually the basis of friendships.

While the game is entertaining, a few rounds in and people tend to get bored – there’s only so many things to prompt about until you have a relatively good understanding of the people in the room. I’d suggest modifying the game to also better suit people that have known each other for a while. ‘Never Will They Ever’ for instance where each player votes on whether Player X would do a certain thing or not. Player X then reveals their answer and the group discusses.

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