Settling down after a long day at work can be trivial when you can access and consume a plethora of media content during your downtime. An endless list of products has saturated people’s options regarding how they spend their free time nowadays, which is why it is difficult for companies to really stand out in today’s competitive consumer market.
For today’s case, we will be showcasing a particular type of social product: the party game. Whether it is with family, friends, or complete strangers, party games have been staple conversation starters and relationship builders for the longest time. However, people do not realise why we lean towards these games in certain environments, and why they are useful when learning to understand those around us. It’s curious to think about why games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Wordle, Cards Against Humanity, and UNO have all become household names and popular (for the most part) amongst people of all ages. What is the key to making a game timeless and appropriate for anyone to learn and play? It all boils down to a skeleton structure of game design.
Stage 1: The Concept
When we break down any successful project or product, every single reason for its success derives from its core concept and initial premise. Like when market research is carried out, a party game must fulfil its first role of needing to create play amongst a group of people. Take Monopoly, for example. Before this staple board game came around, there was nothing like it, so where did this project find its distinctiveness from the crowd of pre-existing household board games? We can derive Monopoly’s core concept from the use of money. That is easy enough to understand—it’s a medium used by everyone to carry out exchanges. A child can save up money to buy a new toy, or an adult can use their savings to place a down payment on their latest property. The universal accessibility of money is what makes Monopoly such an attractive game.
Stage 2: Items of Play
After creating a solid foundation surrounding the game’s concept, the ideas must be carried out using appropriate tools that inspire play. Typically, this would include a game board, player pieces, cards and dice. In many party games, the player pieces are imperative, as that is how each player is represented and how they can express their personalities. In Monopoly’s base game, there are eight player tokens: a dog, a battleship, a race car, a top hat, a cat, a penguin, a thimble, and a rubber duck. In couch co-op video games like the Overcooked! series, each player in the team can even serve up different chef outfits, anything from an ‘Onion King’ to a ‘Unicorn Chef.’ The attractiveness of a party game starts at the personalisation of each player, how they can feel involved before the game begins, helping spark conversation within the group.
These oversimplified controls are enough to lead to the most chaotic gameplay…
The perfect party game doesn’t need a level of mastery to play, but rather needs to be easy enough to understand that it gives you a competitive edge if you’ve played a few times but does not let new players be completely dominated over by others. That’s why a large quantity of games involve the idea of luck, always leaving you and your opponents on edge, because anyone can be a victim to a massive shift in luck no matter how long you’ve been winning. Randomisation tools, like a playing die or drawing unseen cards, keeps a level of unpredictability in gameplay, making it more exciting than if you could easily predict your opponent’s next move.
Stage 3: Mechanics and Rules
If you are inviting a group of people to your dorm or house, there will be times where you just want to start a quick game of your favourite party game. For party games to be successful, they must be as accessible as possible for their players. That means that setting up and learning to play the game needs to be fast and easy. All card games just require a pile to be shuffled and distributed amongst the players, whereas larger games like Catan require a bit more understanding of the rules to set up. Although Catan is still widely popular, more people would rather opt for a game of UNO due to its efficiency in its setup. Drawing the line between simplicity and complex rules is difficult when creating a game of any type, as you don’t want to set the difficulty too low or make it absolutely nonsensical to the average person.
‘Relatable’ is a prime example of taking modern concepts and transforming them into trendy party games.
By taking UNO as a prime example, it follows the traditional card distribution setup, with 7-card hands given to each player. Its appeal comes with its matching system and card variations, where players simply draw cards and play them by matching their card with the number, colour or action card on top of the playing card pile. Alternatively, in the couch co-op Overcooked! players only have 3 simple controls—movement, action button, and a pick up/drop button. With these easy game mechanics, players are left to cook recipes across different levels of different kitchen layouts. These oversimplified controls are enough to lead to the most chaotic gameplay worthy of winning some BAFTA game awards.
Stage 4: Staying timeless or relevant
There’s no doubt that there has been a countless number of ideas to create a party game. However, to create the perfect party game, it must stand the test of time, or at least be successful enough to trend on social media. The modern entertainment and consumer product company ‘Relatable’ is a prime example of taking modern concepts and transforming them into trendy party games. When looking at their games library, games like What Do You Meme?, Incoherent, and Let’s Get Deep all share the skeleton structure of creating a relevant party game, as they use common knowledge and create a meaningful and fun experience for all players.
Only a select few games can enter the hall of fame of classic games. When we all look at games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk, The Game of Life, Yahtzee and Cluedo, there is a certain distinctness in each board game, where its core concept remains timeless in every generation by building its rules and mechanics around everyday life and can teach players new things every time a session is in play.
Whether you’re a fresher or a returning student at Warwick, I highly recommend gathering a group of people that you may or may not know and playing a fun party game. You can learn a lot about your dynamic with others and bond over these moments, creating memories to start the new academic year!