#128CharGame playtesting

When we saw the hashtag #128CharGame on Twitter, we had to get involved. The challenge, started by game designer Zach Gage, was to design a game prototype where the rules can be written out in 128 characters or less. There were tons of great ideas tweeted, so we decided to give five of them a playtest!

Ready for round one?

1. Google street view your hometown (or a random town) and who finds a dog first wins #128CharGame

Four players, four suburban hometowns – surely only a matter of time before a dog was found! We set a time limit of five minutes, and naturally all four of us dived for the biggest park on Streetview. Problem: Streetview generally won’t let you enter parks. Ah.

After a few minutes of zipping around the streets, we began to think that dogs were afraid of the Google Cars and had all fled at the first sight of them. But then I struck gold, quite literally with what looks like a lovely Golden Retriever sat in a park in my hometown. Thanks, Dronfield, I knew I could count on you.

My winning dog.

My winning dog.

Alex at this point was trying to claim “a picture of a dog that I’ve found on Google” as a legitimate answer, before eventually spotting a nice Beagle taking a stroll. Ben took significantly longer (around 30 minutes, we’d moved on to other games) but finally found probably the best-looking dog, crossing a road in Sidcup.

2. Google image pictionary. Form teams. 1 player sends pics to teammates based on opposing teams clue. Time limit Play for points. #128CharGame

This one took a little while to set up as we discussed the logistics of doing this over Skype and email (despite the fact we were all sat next to each other). Eventually, Team A embarked on the word “bleak” while Team B tried to find images of “intangible”.

We strongly recommend you take a moment to try this for yourselves, for these two words. You’ll get a good idea of how hard it was. Team A resorted to breaking “intangible” down into small chunks, with pictures of a man in a box, a tanned woman, and finally a gerbil – in+tan+gerbil.

Sadly, it didn’t work.

Team B had the same idea, somewhat better executed: a bee and a leek left them with bleak. 1-0.

Team B had clearly hit their stride by this point; it took them a mere 30 seconds or so to get “concept” (mainly using pictures of concept cars, and the Comic Con logo). Meanwhile, Team A were scratching their head over “San Marino” before finally realising that “sand” plus a picture of a Marine / underwater scene and a national flag added up to the name of the tiny state.

3. Draw 9 dots on paper. One-handed, alternate putting fingers on dots. First player who loses grip on a dot or cant play loses#128CharGame

This one rewards long fingers and those who don’t mind getting somewhat intimate with their colleagues’ hands.

Ben and Alex go head to head.

Ben and Alex go head to head.

Surprisingly, it actually seemed to be better to go second: in a best-of-three, the player who went first lost each time as fingers were threaded and twisted into a strange squid-like creation. There is a definite tactical element in trying to work out which dot your opponent would most like to use next. Of course, you steal that dot before they can use it.

This game captivated us so much that our Head of Games even stopped by and insisted on having a go. He did raise an interesting question: is this a contact sport? He promptly knocked his opponent’s hand out of the way for the win. Perhaps that could be an Extreme version…

4. Players set their iPhones next to one another and try to call one another using Siri simultaneously. Caller wins, called loses. #128CharGame

iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S3 vs Nexus 4, voice commands only.

First up was the Galaxy vs the Nexus’ Google Now. Sadly for Alex, my name translated rather ineffectively as Ben Meeting, and he started trying to create an appointment while my Galaxy dialled me to victory.


Alex didn’t fare much better against Ben’s iPhone – even when given a headstart. So it came down to the battle of the Bens, iPhone vs Galaxy – and Siri wiped the floor with it. Siri, we bow to your excellent voice recognition software.

5. Player 1 & 2 co-op. Both put on pirate eye patches, count consecutive hi-5’s. #128CharGame

The final game in our playtest proved very easy – too easy in fact (at Miniclip, we are awesome pirates). So we tried it with both eyes shut. Again, this is easier than you might think. Ben G and Ronak lined up their hands before starting and so were able to string together high-fives as though they were clapping. They would probably still be going now if Big Rob hadn’t strolled in wondering what was happening.

Alex and I tried for the even-more-ambitious approach, starting with our hands down by our side. We are clearly skilled with high-fives: we managed four or five before slipping off target.

Wrapping up

As it turns out, a lot of fun can be had with 128 characters! We really had great fun playing the games suggested by the good people of Twitter. If you’ve got half an hour to spare, we’d thoroughly recommend trying them out!