Critical Play: Competitive Analysis

For this competitive analysis I will examine the game Fishbowl. Fishbowl is a fellowship party game which starts with all players writing down four prompts, each on their own slip of paper. These prompts can technically be anything, by they have specific properties which I will discuss later. Anywhere from 4-20 players separate into two teams which alternate guessing the prompts. The formal element of Fishbowl consists of 3 rounds which each last until all the prompts have been guessed. In the first round, each team has 1 minute for 1 team member to describe a prompt using words. If their team guesses the prompt correctly, a point is collected by that team and they may continue to describe and guess prompts until the minute is over. Otherwise, the prompt is returned back to the bowl of unguessed prompts at the end of the turn. Once the minute is over, the other team has their turn to describe and guess as many prompts as possible. This pattern continues until all prompts have been correctly guessed. Most mechanics remain the same between rounds, however the describing-guessing paradigm changes. In the second round, the prompt must be acted out using charades, and in the third round the prompt must be guessed using only a single sound. At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins.

Our team is making a mod on Pictionary using Playdough to build prompts. However, through our playtesting we have learned that we need to add additional mechanics to the game to make the formal elements more complex. The mechanics unique to Fishbowl compared to similar games are what is on the prompts, and how a player describes a prompt. The mechanic of describing a prompt is altered each round to create a progressively more challenging dynamic. Fishbowl is designed in a way where the earliest round where each player only knows the four prompts they wrote down is the easiest. A subtle secondary element of Fishbowl is the opportunity for players to try to memorize as many prompts as possible and keep track of which prompts have been guessed and which haven’t. In the subsequent rounds where a player must act out a prompt, or describe a prompt using 1 sound, players can more easily guess difficult prompts by memorizing the pool of original prompts, and which are still in the bowl.

What is written on prompts is a defining mechanic of Fishbowl. Instead of prompts being taken from an arbitrary list provided by the game makers, each player constructs 4 prompts which makes each game of Fishbowl unique to the players playing the game. The fellowship fun of Fishbowl is enhanced by the prompts because players usually opt to contribute prompts which are known to all players, or are inside jokes among the players. There is an additional element of camaraderie which enhances the fellowship fun and suggests that Fishbowl is to be played among established friends, not as an icebreaker.

About the author

Leave a Reply

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