Just about every time I've drawn a drunken room's attention to play a so-called party game (maybe the card-based Ultimate Werewolf or the mobile-based Spyfall), interest has run dry before the game even begins. I guess they can't be blamed; party games are meant to be ice breakers, and I think our drunker selves all find login URLs and convoluted deception strategies rather icy. But personally, I'm sentimental for the partygoers' toast, that moment where many scattered discussions unite under one central focus. I have found that party games lure even the unassuming wallflowers up to the social surface to make their contribution, and that's why they interest me. Among party games, Drawful draws the room together more quickly than any other I've played. It's hosted by console, displayed on TV, and played from smartphone. Open your browser and enter the code displayed on the screen. Bam. You're there. Then, each player privately illustrates a random prompt. Some prompts are cute, like "tables vs. chairs"; some are downright horrid, like "peahen eggs," or, gods forbid, "Dignity." In the next stage, each drawing is displayed for all to see, one round at a time, and players submit their anonymous guesses as to what the drawing is of. Then, players vote among the submitted answers, which are indistinguishable from the truth. The artist-player earns huge points if their drawing distinctively matches the real McCoy, while the guesser-players earn half points if they can bait out votes for their lies.
It's Pictionary-Balderdash, for witty players will quickly realize that if they can't deduce the true clue (your guess is blocked if it's exactly correct), their best chance is to submit a phrase sounding true-...ish. Other times you can win votes by charm alone, though the real test of skill lies in conceptual camouflage. I've witnessed one mild-mannered beginner absolutely wreck in this game. When I asked him what his secret was, he told me, "I guess I just know how to think like a robot." Above all, Drawful succinctly motivates a room full of idlers to entertain the hell out of other. For the simple efficiency with which it coaxes laughter, eureka's, and outrage from a diverse group of players, Drawful sets my standard for game of the year so far.
Drawful: Always-hilarious smartphone Pictionary, on PS3, PS4, XBox One, Android TV, Apple TV, and Steam! Half-hour rounds, with a bottomless well of questions.
I am a gaming omnivore. With the desperation of a thirsty alcoholic, I clamor for more and more diversions from life’s metronome, while facetiously demanding that these be awesome for free, and readily available. Anything can be a game, really, and any game can be fun. Even among cheap and dirty paper-bagged malt beers, one finds shining stars, and Miitomo resonates as one such guilty pleasure. Nintendo’s new cartoon avatar-oriented social networking game provides laughter without wit, fun without skill, and breadth without depth - and I play it every day. On account creation, Miitomo requests access to your phone's camera (to snap pictures for cute-ification into Mii-form) and preexisting Facebook & Twitter accounts (to import friendlists of friend-Mii's). From there on out, it's pretty much show & tell.
Imagine all your real-life friends as immortal tamagotchi’s: they dawdle; they chirp; they change, insignificantly, over time; and they don’t die if you forget to feed them. Now swirl in a Balderdash of personal questions and a bottlenecked daily clothes-shopping economy, and you have Miitomo. There is a Gabe Newell quote somewhere about industrializing the playerbase, drafting them into the game design production chain. Miitomo champions this attitude, as it does little else than translate your and your friends’ wardrobe choices and quiz responses into something bobble-headedly pleasant. But, you know what? For such a nefarious sham, it does this so well. Miitomo proves to me that a video-game needn’t challenge skills, command attention, nor broaden the imagination to delight. Sometimes it is enough for a game just to keep you company on a long busride home. And hey, who would've thought you'd be able to hear completely unfiltered profanity coming out of Nintendo toons?
Miitomo: Nintendo's Zen of daily-dose cuteness. On iOS & Android. Twenty minutes a day, for a week and a half so far.