Final Project Proposal: Mobile Drinking Games

From my research in a few bars I have noticed a propensity of younger people to use their smart phones and other devices as a means to avoid social contact. In many cases these people would be with a large group of friends in a social space, once their conversations have come to an awkward halt, there was an overwhelming amount of people that would pick up their mobile devices as a means to avoid the silence. Initially I thought that the problem in this situation could be resolved with an app that deterred people from using their smart phones. This solution assumed that usage of mobile devices, in an implicitly social environment, was making people less social. Through closer investigation of my research I discovered that in these awkward silences people would mostly resort to checking and updating their social networking accounts. This lead me to the assertion that mobile devices were not making users less social, in fact they are making us more social, there is just a lack of applications that allow users to integrate a digital social sphere with physical social sphere. So for my social justice application I suggest the implementation of a game that can be played with those that are in your immediate vicinity with mobile devices and also shared in the digital social sphere over social networking sites.

My idea stems from the popular drinking board game, Cards Against Humanity. In the past couple years the game has become a cult classic with younger people. It is distributed under a creative commons license that allows the company to sell printed sets of the game in the typical board game fashion for a price of their choosing. They also have made sets available in PDF form that can be downloaded for free and printed and cut out by fans of the game. They have also provided blank cards to allow for user-generated decks to make the game more personal. The game is basically a more adult version of apples to apples, in which players are challenged to make the most crazy and entertaining statements based off of community and player held cards. The most entertaining version of the statement is determined by a vote from the players.

A black card posing a statement with a blank spot is posed. Each player is tasked with choosing the most entertaining solution to the blank with a white card from their hand.

I would like to digitize this pop culture phenomenon in an app form in which users would be able to post their winning statements to the social networking sites of their choosing. Users would also be able to develop decks before they even gather in the social environment of their choosing whether it be a bar, restaurant, or at a friends house. Visually I imagine the application hosted on a private server so players can store and connect to their friends on a whim. I also imagine once an agreed upon deck is chosen that hands are dealt to each device and selections are viewable through their mobile devices. Once each play is made a voting aspect of the game will be sent out to each player. Once the winner is selected the winner will have the option to post the statement to their facebook, twitter and other social networks. This app would integrate both the digital sphere and physical space into one social experience. If this app were to be developed it would have to be done so through the Cards Against Humanity Site.

Some areas in which I have sought research are in various articles in books that look at game theory and the interplay of sociality in different types of games. First I will draw on the research of Stenros, Paavilainen, and Mayra from the University of Tampere on sociability in gaming. They look at sociability in both single player and multiplayer games both in the physical and digital realms. I will also draw from the book Social Game Design: Monetization, Methods, and Mechanics by Fields and Cotton. I hope to uncover methods of how to design and implement this social game to ensure its success in an ever growing market for independently developed and published mobile games. I will also be sourcing some research that I have already done on game theory and design in a previous classes term paper.

As for the schedule of completion, I plan to meet with Kristina DeVoe between April 7th and 18th. If I cannot secure a scheduled meeting with her that works for either of our schedules, I am confident that I can set up another meeting that will work because I work at Paley Library over 20 hours a week. In late April I hope to have both my visual design and presentation nailed down with either a working prototype of the app through an emulator or a video demonstrating the uses of the application. The first week of May I plan to work on and complete the paper aspect of this project through which I will implement all my sources and field research.


5 thoughts on “Final Project Proposal: Mobile Drinking Games”

  1. I think this is a great idea, man. I like that you noticed that people tend to feel uncomfortable in an awkward lull of conversation, thus inhibiting them to their cell phones for a social life update. Some people view that we turn to our cell phone to avoid conversation. It’s important to note that conversation is usually started by someone seeing a funny tweet or ridiculous Facebook post. I know some restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings have an interactive quiz style game intended to network people while they have down-time. Maybe checking out if that actually works or not could help with your project. What if there were an app that made conversation an important part of the game? It could be used more of a silence breaker. As a consumer, I would like to see that in a social app.

  2. The social justice component of this project needs to be fleshed out a bit more. It’s certainly social, but where’s the justice? A good place to look to talk about social justice social games would be TiltFactor at Dartmouth (creators of Pox and Buffalo) or “The Metagame” by Eric Zimmerman, Colleen Macklin and John Sharp. Games for Change ( would also be worth looking at as they have a lot of research on making games that promote social change. Those are probably more useful empirical and theoretical sources than commercial and general social game research.

    It would also be worth considering your visual design component in more depth. How are you going to illustrate what this app is and does. Also, you call this a drinking game, but it’s unclear why it has to be framed as such (arguably the social interaction it engendered doesn’t require alcohol…). I like the idea of it, and reminds me a bit of bars that have board games to produce just this type of sociality. But make sure you hit on the key points of the assignment requirement as well.

    The link above is an Apple Store link to an app made by a company called Evil Apples. It is inspired by Cards Against Humanity. You should download it for free to get ideas about how they’re doing it and refine their idea. See their design, take what you do like, and strip away what you don’t like. Simplify it. You’ll want to be careful with using the name Cards Against Humanity because, even though the creators are pretty liberal with how people distribute their idea, I can guarantee at this link: –
    that the Cards Against Humanity people had their name service marked at the US Patent Office. They can’t patent the mechanics of a game (because game mechanics are subject to idea/public domain), but they can definitely service and trademark their name and their marketing of it. That’s why Evil Apples had to label their game generically.
    So fundamentally it seems you are trying to address a social issue and not necessarily an issue of social justice. Yes it’s true that people don’t communicate much anymore directly because of their phones, but does bringing people together bring justice to a part of society that lacks agency? For instance, the app could be designed to turn the awfulness of Cards Against Humanity on itself. Like… Cards for Humanity? Now I’m not suggesting you take the game’s name literally, but I argue how could a card game, in the form of an app, make humanity better? How could a card game be for humanity? What types of people struggle to find inclusion in games? Could this game be used by the blind? How could this app be used by somebody with Autism? The challenge would be to figure out how to bring together not only people of able bodies, but level the field and make it so all bodies can contribute. Humor is a universal instrument. I agree that Cards Against Humanity uses it well, but how can we bring that instrument to more people? After all humor is indeed the fart that everyone needs to smell when times are dreary.

  4. This is a brilliant idea! I really like the idea of using social media as a means to interact more with peers while out at a bar. I can see this as being a great way to bring people together through humor. I’m curious to how this will look and what your layout will be like. Will you be able to add friends with this application? This is great so far really curious to see what you come up with. Good Luck!

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