Short Game Assignment 1: Analyze a board game that is over 1 hour in length and allows for 2+ players. Use the class readings for support and guidance.

BeezerWizzer

BeezerWizzer Game Session

The game used for this analysis is BeezerWizzer (Mattel – $28.99). The game night included two couples and a last minute fifth player all of which had never played the game prior to that night. The social ties between players added an interesting layer to the play. During the game both of the couples used their personal affiliation to influence their partner’s decision on whether or not to make a strategic move against them (ie – “You shouldn’t switch my categories because you are going home with me…). The group sat in as much of a circle as we could create with a rectangular coffee table but it is interesting to note the literal circle formed for our own “magic circle” (Huizinga, 2006) of play.

Round One – Cooperate!
In considering the play and game aspects of the evening, the first time through Beezerwizzer was much more play than game. Much of the first round was spent examining and re-examining the game rules. Tuckman’s (1965) “forming, storming, norming and peforming” occurred as the group dynamics began to develop around the discussion of the game rules. Where rules were unavailable or unclear (eg – Can you zwap after someone puts down a beezerwizzer? Can you zwap your own tiles?) the group brainstormed and came to a consensus which essentially created house rules.

Round 2 – Fight!
Once the rules were established and understood, more strategic and less cooperative play developed. At this point everyone had taken ownership of their play, were comfortable with the rules and were now motivated to win.  There was a sharp change in the social atmosphere of the game the second time around as well. The group dialogue was lively when the group was discovering the rules but quickly dissipated once the rules were set and the “serious” game began. This is what Tuckman would have called the “performing stage” and it was during this time when “higher-risk trust activities and values exercises” (Thompson 2010) were explored. During this second round, when trust was at it highest, one player decided to try a deceptive and tactical move by pretending not to know the answer to the question. In response, another player tried to “steal” the question by providing another possible answer. As a result, the first player (who knew the answer from the start) received full points for the question and the challenging player was forced to move back 1 space due to an incorrect answer. Interestingly, the player who challenged felt slighted after the game which may or may not be attributed to the loss in trust which resulted from the tactical move the first player made. Although there was a “magic circle” of play for the game that night it would appear that this “magic circle” may have a longer half-life than just the space and time in which the game was played.

BeezerWizzer Game Board

BeezerWizzer Game Board with category and action tiles

Gameplay explained: Beezerwizzer is a trivia game wrapped in a strategy game surrounded by a game of chance. The team (or individual) that makes it around the board first is the winner. Each team chooses four six category tiles from a bag at the beginning of the game which correspond to categories of trivia questions they may be asked. Each category tile is placed on a board below the point value that the team anticipates they could earn if they got the question correct. Ostensibly, the more knowledgeable you are in category, the more points you would give that category. Each team also has two “BeezerWizzer” tiles and one “Zwap” tile. The BeezerWizzer tiles are used to “steal” a question from another team by answering the question correctly when/if the other team cannot. If an attempt to “steal” a question is made and the thief gets the question incorrect as well then the would-be thief’s piece is moved back one space. The Zwap tiles are used to swap any two available tiles; including two of your own or those of two other players. The BeezerWizzer and Zwap tiles add an element of strategy to a genre of games (ie – trivia) which usually do not entertain strategic gameplay. Using these “Beezerwizzer” and “Zwap” tiles makes it possible for the other team to steal your top category especially if they consider it a strategic advantage to do so. The game is designed to go through at least two rounds in order to traverse the entire board and these Beezerwizzer and Zwap tiles are recharged every round. This means that there are at least four chances to “steal” a category and two chances to swap categories each time you play the game. The points collected allow you to move your piece around the board and the first team (individual) to the last square wins. 

On a side note:
The choice of game was originally limited to the assignment criteria and a price point at or under $10. However, this price point was adjusted to allow for an actual choice of games. It was disheartening to find only a handful of games for under $10 at Target. It was no great surprise to find a few more than that at Walmart. In both stores, “cheap games” for under $10 were either table games (ie – checkers, chess, mancala), card games (ie – Uno, traditional deck, Go Fish) or low budget games (ie – Don’t Break the Ice, Memory, Yahtzee). Award-winning games were the highest priced with some coming in at over $45. As developers continue to create cheaper mobile versions of these games for smart phones, tablets and e-readers one begins to wonder about the future of the physical board game market. If one can purchase a mobile, electronic version of Catan for $3.99, why would you spend $41.99 for a bulky off-line version?

References:

  • Huizinga, J. (2006). Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon. In K. Salen & E. Zimmerman (Eds.), The game design reader: A rules of play Anthology (pp. 96-120). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Thompson, P. (2010). Play and Positive Group Dynamics. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 19(3), 53-58. Last retrieved on February 1, 2012 from http://readperiodicals.com/201010/2271091531.html
  • Tuckman, B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384-399.
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