I want to know…
- How does the game handle bias, where two friends keep choosing each other as winners?
- What kind of fun do they promise the player?
- How does the game differentiate itself from other games in its genre (is it just What Do You Meme online)?
- Is this game accessible to all people or does it require meme knowledge?
Many of these questions are based on questions we’ve got about our own game. I’m curious to see what choices a comparable game makes, and if I agree with these choices when I play.
I played Make it Meme online with a group of strangers. I figured this would be a good game to compare to since it involves matching images with clever captions, and our social game is kind of like the opposite – matching your own photos with prompts to form a meme.
I played the online game “Make it Meme” (https://makeitmeme.com/), created by Sandro Wahl, Jakub Bilski, and Benjamin Reinecke in my web browser. While it was easy to start playing and I enjoyed creating the memes, I felt that there were too many players and being matched with random players made it difficult to create a meme that was funny for others.
This game played into the meme theme; players were given avatars of popular meme characters and used emojis to react to others’ memes. The purple gradient background made the website feel tech-y.
Players and their avatars – I was last and got negative points on my memes :’)
This game can be played with between 3 and 15 players. The objective is to write the caption for a meme that earns the most points from teammates, based on anonymous voting. It’s a zero sum game – one player wins and the others lose. The procedure is 90 seconds of creating a meme and then a short period of time to vote on each meme. Players like, dislike, or react ‘meh’ to each meme, and select one “Meme Buddy” to earn half the points of. After three rounds of memes, the winner is the player with the most points. Players can also use a live chat during the game. The platform encourages players to connect over Zoom or Discord, so the boundaries are the web browser and any chat apps used. Even though players were anonymous, I didn’t see any explicit or offensive comments in the chat.
Types of Fun
Dynamics: Players commenting on others’ memes and selecting others as “Meme Buddies” to receive mutual benefits.
Mechanics: Live chat, upvote and downvote buttons, and “Meme Buddy” feature.
Dynamics: Attempting to be funny, sharing one’s own experiences, expressing one’s own sense of humor.
Mechanics: Meme text entry box, and the ability to shuffle through 3 meme formats to find one we liked.
(Unofficial) aesthetic: Competition.
Dynamics: Downvoting other submissions to benefit one’s own. Commenting on others’ memes in that chat. Strategically selecting a buddy.
Mechanics: Ability to vote on a winner and converse in the chat. “Meme Buddy” feature.
Players judging memes in the chat
Me leaving a positive comment in the chat while my own meme is displayed
I’d say that the types of fun highlighted above were the ones intended by the authors. If anything, competition was the most prominent, because the ability to build relationships is limited (groups switch between rounds) and to appeal to a wider audience, I found myself conforming to popular topics that I didn’t find funny.
One round’s winning meme – I had a feeling the other players were middle schoolers
Graphic Design Decisions
The core elements of this game were the memes themselves and the voting buttons. I think the app did a good job of displaying the core elements by centering them, and making the memes themselves very large compared to the other text. The red button for upvoting popped in front of the purple background, perhaps encouraging positive feedback. The meme and voting buttons were aligned and grouped, but all the other components seemed haphazardly placed around the edges of the screen. The timer, download button, and chat didn’t follow any grid system, so the page didn’t look great overall.
Make It Meme interface
Other games in this genre would be Apples to Apples and What Do You Meme, since they’re based on choosing the best pairing of prompt and response. One difference is the player count; Apples to Apples and the game we’re designing are both intended for 4-8 players, while Make It Meme can have up to 15. I prefer the smaller play counts, because the voting period for 15 different memes was long and boring; after voting, I had to wait 20 seconds to see the next meme. I also prefer having a single judge over group voting, because this speeds up voting and prevents a faction of similar players from overwhelming the voting. Something that Make It Meme did well was offering text descriptions of the meme images, so that players who weren’t familiar with a given meme could have more context. Apples to Apples offers similar context on its cards.
In our own game, we’re trying to figure out how much to reference pop culture in our prompts (potentially excluding those who don’t get the reference), and if we’re okay with different interpretations when people don’t know how to respond.
The meme pictures presented by the game weren’t particularly family friendly (Breaking Bad references), and there was a way to put the middle finger emoji in the meme captions, but none of the content seemed particularly abusive. There was no option to flag memes, only downvote, so it does seem relatively easy to make a disrespectful meme without any consequences.
Improving the game
- Restricting chat. I felt that players’ comments in the live chat might influence the voting, so I wish the designers restricted the chat to before and after each game.
- Age groups / themes. I was randomly grouped with people who didn’t seem to like my taste in memes, so I felt frustrated when the winning memes were repetitive or simple. The memes that did the best generally conveyed, “I have so much homework” which wasn’t particularly interesting to me. I wish I could have played with different meme themes or age groups to seek out those with similar senses of humor. Maybe player bios would be helpful, so I knew more about my audience.
- Transparency in scoring. After the first round, I had -650 points (!) and I couldn’t see why I received that score. This made me feel frustrated, and I generally dislike the idea of rating creative submissions with negative scores (I would have preferred a 0) since it discouraged me from experimenting with more niche memes.
- Number of players. I’d limit the number of players to 8 max, so that voting rounds don’t take so long and the ratio of winners to losers isn’t so extreme. I’d also like to work with a smaller group of players to gain familiarity with their meme tastes, and this might help with fellowship.
Implications for our game
We will address 2) by playing our game in person, so players may already be friends or at least can converse in person to get a sense of each others’ likes and dislikes. Our scoring system is simpler, awarding one point to the winner of each round and 0 points to everyone else, addressing issue 3). A persistent issue is preventing bias in judging, since submissions aren’t anonymous and the judge may choose their friend’s photo (or close friends might have too much of an advantage). Perhaps we could have the judge rotate clockwise instead of being the winner of the previous round.