*This is a continuation of a series of blog posts for my Games and Learning course. In this journaling exercise I am going to play social games and analyze the game mechanics, design, and play experience, to identify how the game can be applied to learning in formal or informal setting
This weekend I was at a small gathering of friends, when we decided we needed a shake up our entertainment and used an appleTV device to cast a mobile app game to the television. We often gather on Friday nights and have identified a collection of mobile apps for classic game shows, such as Wheel of Fortune or The Price is Right. We cooperatively play, with the whole group calling out answers and playing as one team. This week we channeled our inner Richard Dawson to play the crowd favorite Family Feud.
This is a newer version of Family Feud then we are use to playing so there was a lot for this group to master in the game. One of the new features is a tournament mode. In this mode eight players are trying to find answers to the same question. In Family Feud 100 people are surveyed and their answers are hidden on the game-board. The players try to guess all the responses and are awarded points based off of how popular the answer was. In the tournament the two players with the lowest score after each round do not move on to the next round. So the first round has eight players, the next has six, then four, and for the final round only two players are left. This is a departure from the classic game play where only two players compete at a time, over four rounds.
The knockout nature of the tournament forced us to adjust our game play. In the past our goal was to guess all the answer on the game-board, with the less popular responses seen as unique and therefore the most prized responses to guess. In the knockout games earning the large point responses first, the popular choices, was key because we discovered that ties went to the team who scored fastest. This made the group slow answers down and focus on what the popular answers could be not just quickly calling out answers and reaching for the obscure responses.
To play in the knockout tournaments players have to collect coins that can be slowly earned in the standard mode or can be obtained quickly in though in-app purchases. There is also a large reward for winning a tournament and second place prize that is enough to pay for another entry to the tournament. In the previous version of this game coins could be collected by watching advertisements. This is a feature we used a lot, it would have been nice if it had been included in the new version. Companies may have not seen that as effective advertising but could have tried trading in-game currency for responses to marketing surveys, there by collecting valuable information and users the opportunity to collect more coins.
I believe that the knockout tournament featured was included in this new version of Family Feud because players of the old version were “gaming the system”, defined by Deterding as a situation when players “find a way to exploit any rule loophole” (2014, p.310). We knew how to game the old version’s advertising model to get more in-game currency and how to guess low probability answers early when there is more leeway in time and chances then give high probability answer when the round is almost over. Removing the payments for watching advertisements and including a time dependent knockout tournament effectively stopped our what we thought were sneaky game play strategies, forcing us to discover new ways to game the Family Feud app.