Impostor Charades, a Zoom Game

Introduction

Ideation & Concept Map

To begin ideating for our game, our four team members each individually considered games that could meet our goals and provide fun in an online environment. Our initial list of ideas included racing through Wikipedia, an interviewer game in which you try to get others to do certain actions, and much more. We distilled our list of ideas into a virtual post-it note board highlighting our favorites, and we then distilled our ideas into a more concrete version for our eventual concept: imposter charades. You can follow our ideation process below:

Combining multiple of our original ideas eventually led to us a few options, of which we decided to choose “Impostor Charades”
We chose Impostor Charades because it met many of our main criteria

Initial Idea (Formal Elements and Value)

The advent of Impostor Charades’ core foundations stemmed from the initial goal of turning this game into a channel through which everyday folks — who’ve presumably been slouched over their bedroom desks for extended periods of time — can partake in an entertaining, physically active social escape from within their own homes via zoom. Consequently, we sought to tie the value players would derive from the game to the aesthetics of: 1) sense and pleasure — through by the act of physically moving around during gameplay, 2) fellowship — by working together with friends, and 3) fantasy — using a component of the game to temporarily ‘remove’ players from their rooms and place them into a world of make-believe.

Players

Four or more players compete unilaterally, by having several rounds where — for every round — the randomly assigned impostor was hoping to deceive all performers, while the performers— unsure as to who was and wasn’t a teammate — collaborated to single out the one impostor among them.

Objective

For both performers and the impostor, the core ongoing objective is to convince all other players that you were indeed a performer who was cognizant of the prompt; this meant acting in a way that emphasized an understanding for the prompt, and strategically accusing others or defending yourself during the accusation phase.

Outcome

While each round is characterized by unilateral competition, with a single impostor competing against a crowd of performers, the games outcome is reached and evaluated on an individual non zero-sum game basis, with players ranking first through last based on points scored over the course of the entire game. See our rules document to understand how scoring worked.

Resources

During the acting phase: for impostors, the actions that performers use to convey their understanding of the prompt serve as an important resource they leverage (through mimicry) to disguise their identity; for performers, their own physical actions serve as their own artillery with which they use to convince others they’re aware of the prompt, while the actions of others also serve as indications for who the impostor is.

Conflict

Conflict in Impost Charades is condensed into the one minute per-round of accusation, and occurs — ironically — among all players regardless of whether they’re on the same side (i.e. both performers). Performers skeptical of specific players, and impostors looking to draw attention to others, are likely to directly accuse said players, while said players are incentivized to — in return — accuse the accusers.

Testing & Revisions

Play Test #1 (in class with Jenny, Chinmay, Sid, and Olga)

During the first play test, we had six actors play the game while Sydney moderated. We ran the game twice, performing an ablation test on a particular aspect of the game we were unsure about: the accusation phase. In the first run through, we excluded the accusation phase, meaning the game consisted simply of two parts: acting out the prompt for 30 seconds prior to voting. After the first run through, while the play testers had fun, this version felt a little lacking, a belief that was confirmed by a number of our different play testers.

  • Second, we learned that the length of the acting period at 30 seconds was too long. Players would have a tendency to repeat dance moves after 15 seconds and the imposter would have too much time and to catch onto what other players were doing.
  • Third, while the accusation phase was certainly an enjoyable part of the game, the lack of structure created a bit of chaos which ultimately detracted from the enjoyment of the game.
  • Fourth, we brainstormed some additional ideas to try to mix up the gameplay such as pairing individuals together into teams.

Play Test #2 (in class with Shreya, Austin, Claire, etc.)

During the second play test, we had five actors. We decided to run the first round with the two modifications: a 15-second performance round and a revelation of the prompt at the beginning of the accusation round. We gave the simple prompt of making lemonade. The accusation phase here was a little bit awkward, some people were talking over each other. This group seemed a little more apprehensive about putting themselves out there overall. An innocent performer who was not very committed to her charades actually received all the votes, while the impostor got off free. In our second round, we decided to try the addition of teams — Rowan privately messaged everyone the name of their randomly-assigned teammate after the performance round. The goal was to defend your teammate during the accusation phase no matter what. It didn’t matter if you thought your teammate was innocent or the impostor. If you successfully defended each other and neither of you got votes, each of you would get double points for the round. This added another layer of doubt and complexity during the accusation phase — were people speaking the truth or simply defending their partner?

  • Second, we also got feedback that more complex prompts are more fun.

Play Test #3 (in class with Emily, Anatole, Brian, etc.)

We only played one round in our penultimate play test, this time taking a more structured approach to the accusation phase. We had everyone go around one-by-one and accuse one person, then explain why.

  • Secondly, interestingly, a lot of people requested some of the things we had taken away from our original idea: a longer performance period, no accusation phase, and different methods of voting.

Play Test #4 (in class with Jenny, Chinmay, Sid, Olga, Branden, Katie)

We played our final play test in a recorded Zoom session, which can be found here. Before this test, we adjusted a few elements to players’ behavior. We made sure that players turned their videos off when receiving prompts, so they could not make decisions based on reactions. We also returned to an unstructured accusation phase, as the individuals in our previous play test did not like the overwhelming structure.

  • Second, we realized that scoring was only fair if everyone was an impostor, since the impostor initially received a point for every individual that guesses incorrectly. We fixed this by deciding that the impostor only gets one point if a majority of players guess incorrectly.
  • Finally, our play testers still commented that the game was a lot of fun!

Final Game & Rules

To play Imposter Charades, start a Zoom with your opponents and follow the game rules here!

Potential Designs for Publicity

Finally, we have created a few potential designs for our game to take place in both a mobile app friendly environment and an online web portal.

Conclusion

We had a fantastic time creating this game and we hope that you enjoy playing! If you have any ideas for prompts to add permanently, feel free to compile your own list and play with it!