Draw Something & the art of cheating

In his article in the LATimes, Cheating rampant on OMGPOP’s Draw Something — what to do? David Sarno writes:

“There’s no real way to flag a player for cheating, or to ban or block them — or even to message them to ask them to stop. (Enterprising players, this writer included, have tried to use the actual game interface to paint out a plea to opponents to please stop cheating. Sometimes it works, most times not).

“When people write out words, the other player usually doesn’t answer and deletes the [match],” (OMGPOP CEO Dan) Porter wrote. “We log this behavior which helps us figure out which players are best to match. So people who write out words a lot over time get less matches.”

I, on the other hand, like this about the game. A lot. I like the game (well, I like helping my wife Rocky play it) anway: I like how it invites creativity, how you really don’t have to be a good artist, how the people you play with keep on coming back even though they don’t have to… In fact, I like that part also especially, the part where you don’t really have to commit to playing, so that by playing you demonstrate the fact that you want to play, that you are having and sharing fun together. But I especially value the cheating part. It’s a strange kind of cheating, because it helps both of you. But it is really cheating. It breaks something. It makes the game fragile enough to make you want to protect it. It is, after all, an unwritten rule. I mean, nowhere does the game tell you your not supposed to cheat. And there are times when you really almost have to cheat, because the word you chose turns out to be much more difficult to represent than you anticipated. Sure, if you write down the whole word you kind of break the game. But you can make it a kind of art, the cheating thing. Make it an act of, well, shall we say “creative cheating.” You could make a rebus, write maybe just the first letter (starts with…), or last. Or the last couple letters. Or write the etymology of the word, or its Hebrew root. Get, you know, creative about the whole cheating thing.


  1. Lily on July 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    That’s funny. It’s like in pictionary when someone starts guessing “way off” what you’re drawing and finally you just have to tell them the part you’re drawing. As in “that’s water! not curly hair” and then they finally get the phrase “moby dick” or whatever it was you were drawing. A little cheating can go a long way in keeping the momentum of a game.

    Love and laughter,

  2. Shelly Immel on July 6, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    coming back to play because you want to play with someone feels pretty great from either side of that interaction. :-)

    To me, it matters most how each person in the specific game feels about it. In some circles, bending Pictionary rules (I don’t play drawSomething, so that’s my closest analogy) draws catcalls and possibly blood. In other circles, one team may help the other if they get badly stuck because that’s more fun than watching the other team suffer. Knowing your co-players is key, however the wider world feels about it.

    And if you’re going to cheat, doing it “creatively” is much more fun!

  3. Natalie M Kinsey on July 16, 2012 at 8:40 am

    my daughter plays this with an older woman named “Debbie” who can’t really draw at all, while my daughter is an absurdly talented artist, and there’s something in this pairing that has them now nearly to 100 no missed guesses turns.

    the other day I walked in and Frankie was huddled over her computer screen staring at a the most bewildering assortment of lines. She moaned, “it’s our ninetieth turn and she had to try something tricky!” I sat down with her and tried to wrap my head around the drawing, but my mind couldn’t see it. Below the picture is the assortment of letters to choose from and the the right amount of blanks. I randomly shot some letters into the thing and on the first go I got it right, or write or writeright. It was a pair of shorts. Or a rough first draft of a cubist impression of shorts. I felt kind of elated to be so accidentally helpful, and also curious about what the heck that THING is that I have that lets me find the entry point into nearly any playground, even ones beyond my skills or understanding…it it full willingness? magic beans? secret unicorn horn?

    What happened next, totally surprised me, when Frankie went to draw, she surmised, from her choices, that Debbie would not be able to get any of the drawings, even though Frankie doesn’t have the problem of not being able to accurately convey something through drawing, she knew, from her prior playing with debbie, before they found this groove, that she didn’t get those fine distinctions where the answer lies in a drawing. But Frankie loves this relationship that lives entirely in play, so she just wrote the word, instead of drawing it. She said “I’d rather keep playing than be right”

    She told me that the quality of the game was richer now that they’d had 100 successful guesses, as if they were playing on top of a mountain, together, and Frankie wasn’t ready to leave. It was worth sacrificing a turn, in order to keep this heightened manifestation of the game going.

    • Bernie DeKoven on July 16, 2012 at 8:55 am

      “I’d rather keep playing than be right.” How wise, how wonderfully wise. Thanks so much for sharing this. A deep insight into the fine art of cheating for fun.

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