Saturday, May 14, 2005

Who? What? Where?: The Board Game

Gameplay: You are given three cards, each depicting a person (celebrity, public figure, or famous fictional character), an action, and a location. For example, if you are given "Albert Einstein", "Playing Football", and "On the Moon," you will attempt to draw a reasonable likeness of Albert Einstein playing football on the moon, but you can get creative. In three rounds, draw the person doing whatever action in the specific location. You have four minutes to draw. Upon completion of the drawing phase, pass your drawings around to the other players, who must guess who you are trying to depict.

Doing boardgame night at a friend's place, we got to put our drawing skills to the test. This is what I ended up drawing. Let's see if you can figure out what I'm trying to draw. Click on the image to see a larger version. Highlight the text to see the answer. Ready? Let's go!

NOTE: Answers are discussed below.

#1: Who? Michael Jordan. What? Rock climbing. Where? Statue of Liberty.

#2: Who? Snow White. What? Bobbing for apples. Where? Nuclear power plant.

#3: Who? Tina Turner. What? Doing a belly flop. Where? On an airplane.

(And just for fun, please leave a comment with your answers!)

Discussion: Psychology is not my area of study or expertise, so any analysis to do with the human mind remains speculative. Still, it's interesting to see how we tend to associate things, especially when we can't quite get images across due to limited art skills. Admittedly, my art skills aren't the best, even worse when I'm given an extremely short time span to come up with an image.

Drawing faces can be challenging, especially if you lack formal art training or practice. So, if you were to Bill Gates eating a hero sandwich in the Sahara dessert and your drawing skills are only slightly above stick-figures, what do you do?

The Sahara dessert is simple enough, just draw a few stick figure camels and a cactus, and you're done. Hero sandwich might be tough, but if you can figure out how to depict eating (e.g.: a long sandwhich with a bite out of it), then you got that nailed down too. But if your caricature skills are lacking, Bill Gates becomes tough to render. That's when associative skills come in handy.

A common technique in the game is to have a thougth-balloon depicting a few images that one can associate with Bill Gates. A big fat dollar sign would work (universal symbols are permitted by the game rules), a huge bag of money, a computer on fire, or whatever comes to mind.

Some players get fairly inventive. One guy had to depict "Julius Caesar," and not being able to get a dead-on likeness, simply had thought balloons coming from his head with two somewhat familiar icons: a drink cup (representing "Orange Julius") and a salad (representing "Caesar Salad").

It was easy enough for the second round - Snow White bobs for apples on a nuclear power plant. Being that I couldn't remember for the life of me remember what the Disney version of Snow White looked like, I drew seven little stick figures around her glass coffin with a guy coming up to her on a horse.

Some made some amusing visual clues where drawing skills were lacking. One player in particular depicted a male and female stick figure standing side to side, with a thought balloon from the male stick figure depicting the American flag...and a female stick figure on her hands and knees performing oral sex on the male stick figure. The connection is fairly obvious. Unfortunately, the player in question didn't have the foresight to have an arrow pointing to the right stick figure...her "who" card said "Hilary Rhodam Clinton," but everone else guessed either Bill Clinton or Monica Lewinsky.

I thought I was in for some real trouble with the third round. Not knowing how to properly depict Tina Turner's haircut, I just drew a music note coming out of her, to imply that she's a musician. Not knowing what else, I drew another music note with a heart next to it. Then it hit me. I then drew an stick figure giving the female stick figure a black eye while she's singing a love song (music notes next to a heart symbol). Almost everybody got it, although one player guessed "Whitney Houston."

It's somewhat amusing and sad at the same time that it's harder to associate famous people with what they're supposed to be associated with. We don't associate Bill Clinton with a American presidency during a robust economy and prosperity among the people, instead we associate him with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. We don't always associate Tina Turner with a successful music career that spans many years, instead we associate her with getting beaten up by Ike Turner.

I shudder to think of what people would've come up with for Michael Jackson (a stick figure man dropping a stick figure baby out of a balcony), Kurt Cobain (stick figure with a guitar in one hand, a shotgun in the other, and a head that's half-missing), or Courtney Love (strung-out-on-heroin stick figure with very obvious plastic surgery, standing next to a stick figure with a guitar in one hand, a shotgun in the other, and a head that's half-missing).

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