Why you should be playing Draw Something

News Sarah Dobbs
29 Mar 2012 - 20:05

It’s Pictionary for the touch generation, and Sarah wants you to join in and Draw Something…

Have you got an iPhone? Or some kind of Android touchscreen phone? Then I want you to play Draw Something with me. You might have already heard of the game, since everyone on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr seems to have been banging on about it for the last fortnight. But if you haven't got round to playing it yet, here's a quick primer, it's a drawing game, obviously. It offers you three words, you pick one, and you draw it for your opponent, who has to guess what your picture was (using a selection of letters offered by the game) before they can take their turn. It's basically Pictionary on a smartphone.

And just like in Pictionary, half the fun is in watching your opponent draw. When it's your turn to guess a drawing, you don't just see the finished result, you get to watch the whole process. So you can see if your opponent messed up and had to trash the whole drawing and start again; you can see if they tried to draw a face and got it lopsided several times before the eyes lined up.

Because you get to see the animation, though, you can get creative with how you express an idea. You can draw the same thing from multiple angles, or sketch out lava oozing down a volcano. One of my friends drew a piece of bread, scrawled yellow across it for butter, then added streaks of red on top to express jam - the finished thing probably wouldn't have been as expressive as the multi-layered image she created. It's fascinating to watch how people think.

The words the game suggests range from the mundane and generic (bread, apple, watch, cat) to the ultra-specific (Britney, Rihanna, Skrillex) to the amazingly geeky (Twoface, Riddler, The Lorax). How your game works depends on who you're playing it with - it's not wise, for instance, to attempt Effie or Katniss with someone who isn't a Hunger Games fan.

Although I've used the word opponent to describe the person you play Draw Something with, they're not really in competition with you. Actually, you're playing the game together: if you correctly guess what their drawing is supposed to be, you're both rewarded with coins. And the game keeps a tally of how many drawings in a row you've guessed correctly, too, so there's a certain amount of satisfaction to be had from keeping a really long streak going.

There's no ultimate goal to the game, you can't ever win, as such, which is maybe why it's so compulsive. If you never stop drawing and guessing, the game will just continue, indefinitely.

It sounds simple, and it is, really. But there are some brilliant things about the way the game works in practice that make it really addictive. For one thing, playing with your friends means you can build in all kinds of cultural references and in-jokes that you know they'll get. For another, it's just kind of hilarious watching your friends try over and over again to draw something particularly difficult, scrapping or rubbing out one indecipherable scrawl after another.

It can be quite fun to watch them guessing, too, particularly if you've been a bit lateral with your drawings. The provided letters do make guessing easier, but that can be really, really helpful sometimes.

Also, the longer you play it, the more inventive you tend to get. Because the pool of words is quite limited at the moment, you might find that you sometimes encounter words you've already had to draw. It can be fun to draw increasingly elaborate images, leaving the crucial part till the end, then, when you watch the playback of your opponent guessing your drawing, you can see at exactly what point the penny dropped. I learned that trick from a friend of mine who's an illustrator by trade. He drew an incredibly elaborate night time cityscape on his turn, and then finally added a beam of yellow light shining on the sky, and then drew in the bat signal. The word he was drawing was just ‘bat'.

Alternatively, you might just try to see exactly how simple you can make your drawings and still manage to get your point across. I've seen a game in which players illustrated everything using the same octopus character, in different situations, in every drawing. It's what you make it, ultimately.

Plus, because the game is basically electronic finger-painting, there's no real artistic barrier to entry. Everyone is reduced to jabbing at their screens with their fingers. If you have a bigger screen, like an iPad, you've got a slight advantage when it comes to getting precise details right, but you're still mostly just blobbing primary colours about like the rest of us. You really don't have to be the best artist in the world to be able to play Draw Something. You don't even have to be very creative really, but the game encourages you to try stuff out.

And because you can watch how your opponents draw, every finger swipe of the way, you can learn from them. There aren't any sophisticated tools built into Draw Something: you can't automatically fill an area with colour, and you can't undo any of the drawing you've done, so if you make a mistake, you'll have to rub it out using the eraser tool. Somehow, that's part of the game's charm.

The only thing I don't like about it is that you can't save your drawings, but since I figured out how to take screenshots on my Galaxy, that's not such an issue. Now I just have to restrain myself from posting every new brilliant picture I've drawn, or watched being drawn, to Facebook (Seriously, the person who drew an approximation of Magritte's The Son of Man to illustrate ‘hat', you are a bloody genius.)

So, if anyone wants to play Draw Something with me, come find me. My username is staggeringly uncreative, and I'm always up for a new game.


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