For this critical play, I played Taboo, a game that plays with language to create fun for all ages! The idea is that you have to describe a word to your teammate without saying any of the forbidden words in a limited number of time, around 1-2 minutes. This game is usually an actual card game but I found a digital version that seemed to have all the core elements of the game, like a timer and a game card, nothing else. Because most of the gameplay is actually physical and can’t be screenshotted, I’ve just noted down a screenshot of the main gameplay page. I played with three of my friends, and here’s what I noticed about its mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics, starting from aesthetics.
Aesthetics, Dynamics, Mechanics → Challenge
How they created this type of fun: Players came up with really creative ways of describing simple words! The fun thing about Taboo is that when you mess up, there’s a penalty that the team decides on for you (we played with just a small slap on the wrist). Everyone else pays really closely to the taboo words and laughs at you if you say them. It’s fun because you want to win and you don’t want to mess up in front of your friends.
Mechanics that supported: The forbidden words are what really make Taboo hard. Without them, the game’s a breeze!~
Aesthetics, Dynamics, Mechanics → Fellowship
How they created this type of fun: When you’re on teams, there’s a bit of fellowship you have with your teammates! You’re trying to win more cards than the other team so there’s a challenge there as well as mentioned earlier. It’s even possible to feel further from your teammates if you both keep messing up!
Mechanics that supported: You need teams to play! You could just play with two people, but then it’s not really clear how one wins since you could be really good at describing things or really good at learning other people’s mental models.
How does the game differentiate itself from other games?
Another game in the genre that I think of is Pictionary! The challenge there is sketching as compared to the forbidden words. Something about Taboo is that you don’t need much to play it as compared to drawing games where you need something to draw on, something to draw with, etc.
How to make it better?
There’s a feeling after 3 rounds of “Oh… I’m getting kinda tired of this” and I think it’s because there’s no other factor that’s stressing out the player, or no kind of real victory. I think further game mechanics (that my team introduces in our game!) like being able to sabotage another team would be interesting so that all teams are still invested as compared to waiting for the other team to finish.