It’s How You Don’t Play the Game

Have kept playing Rumble and Draw Something over the last days, with somewhat diminishing excitement, but definite commitment and continued enjoyment. The best thing about the games, once you get past their very basic natures of “you draw something and they guess” and “you make lots of words fast”, is to do with the elements that sit more or less outside the implied ways of playing. I already talked about how high-speed play eliminates the necessity for knowing the language in Rumble example. I’ve since encountered two more amusing experience of pay in the same vein.

The first, and most enjoyable, has been the continued interest, with Rilla, in the asynchronous aspects of time in Draw Something. In particular, as I sort of expressed last time, there’s a kind of “bringing together” of the two separate experiences of a drawing when you watch the replay of someone guessing your drawing, and when you imagine them watching the replay of your guess, as well. In the end the game succeeds in making the two times unite, somehow, in a very personal way. To which end we have added an element to the game where after having drawn the image to guess we kill time for long enough to assume the other person “would have guessed it by now” and then draw a little guy in the frame doing a thumbs up.

This works because when you’re guessing you watch the drawing slowly evolve, but once you key in the correct word all the rest of the drawing suddenly appear. Thus, assuming our partner guesses correctly at about the time we predict, they suddenly see a guy giving them a thumbs up appear as a kind of “reward”. Drawing this guy, whether he’s also holding flowers next to a coffin (“COFFIN”) or two thumbs up next to his neck (“BOWTIE”), has become the core interest of play. Our partner has also taken to drawing a giant grinning face at the end of his drawings, so it’s catching.

More bizarrely, I recently played a pretty good round of Rumble, the word finding game. I was playing against a Danish opponent and assumed we were playing in Danish since we had last time. Made it through the round randomly guessing combinations of consonants and vowels, things that looked more or less right, plenty of which seemed like nonsense and most of which I didn’t even really parse at all. When the round ended I noticed there was no “Danish” symbol on the game. And that is because the game was in English.

So, yes, not only can you play and win in languages you don’t speak, but you can play well in your own language without even recognising it as such. It must be one of the weirdest “language” games I’ve ever encountered.

23 April 2012
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