:: urbansheep (urbansheep) wrote,
:: urbansheep

  • Music:

[ Q ] The Play's the Thing


The image of players high-fiving is something that Cranium designers talk about with fascinated intensity. They see it as the apotheosis of a Cranium experience: a group of people who are simultaneously competing, yet also, you know, are not. Engineering that group-hug moment is a difficult proposition. If there's too much competition in one of their games, it'll turn into a snarling Nietzschean contest. But too little competition can be just as bad. That's just plain boring, and risks turning into a well-meaning but tedious educational game that "just doesn't have any juice," as Alexander puts it. For a Cranium game to succeed, the designers must hit a delicate balance between the two. The sense of competence and mastery must shift from player to player, so that no one is moping while another gloats.


"There is an overwhelming presence of negativity in our entertainment choices today, whether it's 'You're fired' or 'You're the weakest link' or who's going to sleep with whose girlfriend on an island," he says. "Many of the values that could decay human society are being celebrated on TV. We are a brand that represents a choice. Our games offer a sense of accomplishment and shine, versus a sense of alienation."

Tait and Alexander tell me about the moment they knew that Hullabaloo, Cranium's game for children 4 and up, would be a success. The game is like an electronic version of Twister: kids lay a bunch of colored mats on the ground and a talking voice box hollers out instructions, telling them to jump to different places, play-act roles or "dance a funky monkey." In one of the early play-tests, Alexander found that in a 15-minute game, each child had managed several times to be first to complete a task.

"So I asked them, 'What'd you like most about Hullabaloo?' 'It's that I won!"' He laughs. "They all say it."


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