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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

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Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for BBCNews.com.

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

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Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

The games people play: Cruel 2 B Kind

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Yesterday, myself and Matt Biddulph went down to Dolores park to take part in playtesting Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost’s new game, Cruel 2 B Kind. It was the first time that the game’s been run, so we and five other teams of two were the guinea pigs.

The game is based on ‘Assassins’, and the idea is that you have a weapon, in this case a random act of kindness such as congratulating someone or blowing kisses at them, and a weakness such as having someone congratulate you or blow kisses at you. So you have to go round the park, using your weapon on anyone you suspect is in the game. If they look at you puzzled, then they’re not in the game. If they say ‘Oh, you’re too kind’, then they are in the game but you haven’t managed to assassinate them because your weapon doesn’t match their weakness. If they surrender, then you assimilate them into your team and get more points.

Matt and I had a bit of a chat about strategy before the game, which went something like:

“We’re British. We’re going to lose.”
“Yup.”
“And it’ll be embarrassing to wander round a park doing… whatever it is we have to do.”
“Yup.”
“We should try to be as conspicuous as possible, so that we can get assassinated as soon as possible, so that we’ll have more fun.”
“Yup.”

However, I didn’t expect us to be assassinated quite as quickly as we did. Essentially, we sat around for about 10 mins, scoping the place out and looking for anyone else who was scoping the place out. Then we decided to go for a bit of a wander. Within a matter of seconds, a girl had come up to us and asked Matt what his camera was, and then congratulated him on it.

Of course, being British, Matt said “You’re too kind!”, which I’m pretty sure I’ve heard him say lots before, so the would be assassins started to slope off, knowing we were in the game but that they hadn’t killed us. Took me a second, but eventually I realised that a) they were in the game and that b) being congratulated was our weakness and that c) we’d have to confess to our deaths.

So our game lasted no time at all, but I have to admit, it was much more fun going round in a group blowing kisses at strangers than it was working in a pair wondering if we were going to be insulting people by doing same.

Eventually, we ended up with two marauding packs in a Mexican stand-off. We sat on picnic rugs playing Duck Duck Goose (a new game to me), and they lurked behind some trees trying to look inconspicuous and failing. Eventually, with only 10 mins to go, the other group rushed us - using a non-game playing couple with a dog as a decoy, and running straight out of the sun at us, deploying their final, fatal weapon. We were, essentially, kissed to death.

The game was, without doubt, fun. It was also a bit confusing. Much of the organisation, such as sign-up on the day and the deployment of weapons was done over SMS via email, which is new to us Brits as we don’t have that system in the UK. Phone funkiness (my old Treo doesn’t always announce that an SMS has come in) caused a bit of confusion, as did the rules.

I think you were supposed to all deploy your weapon at once to everyone in the opposing team, but when Matt and I were assassinated, I’m not sure the assassinating team did that. They congratulated him on his camera, but didn’t congratulate me on anything. I don’t know if that’s how it was supposed to work, or if congratulating one person in the team is enough.

It was, in fact, pretty hard to remember your weapons, your weaknesses and to remember that when you assimilated a team then you took on their weapon and kept your weakness, in order to ensure that the game can still be played (after all, you’ve just used up your weapon on their weakness, so theoretically you need their weapon in order to have any effect on anyone else). That was kinda hard to keep in mind in the heat of the moment, especially as we thought we added their weapon to the arsenal, rather than expiring ours and using theirs.

That confusion actually did have a significant effect on the outcome of the game. It turned out that being kissed to death wasn’t our weakness, so in the end, we should have won that final showdown.

It would have seemed churlish to argue these points at the time, though, as everyone was having a good time and no one was really all that bothered about winning. But I would say that the rules need either simplification or lots of clarification. The tech side of things - the text messages - also need to be clearer and more timely because they did get a bit confusing too.

This was, though, a test and we were there to help iron out wrinkles, so I really hope that Jane got enough info out of us to make the next game play more smoothly. I wish I was here next Sunday to take part, but I’ll be back in London, trying to catch up on my email.

Meantime I’ve put my photos up on Flickr, as has Matt.

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9 Responses to “The games people play: Cruel 2 B Kind”

  1. Kevin Marks Says:

    If you say “You’re too kind” when you aren’t caught, you should say “Sir, you have the advantage of me” when you are.
    This is a few tweaks from a game of Austenesque seduction…

  2. Jane McG Says:

    Hi Suw! Thanks for playtesting with us, it was really great to have such enthusiastic testers, and to get such specific and helpful feedback like this. We have indeed made some simplifications to the interaction and clarifications to the rules… next Sunday’s playtest will definitely reflect that. At the same time, this is an experimental research game, and one thing I do a lot of work on is the idea of collaborating and self-organizing at increasingly large scales. So what you pointed out as potentially confusing– keeping track of new weapons/weaknesses as they are absorbed and collectively deploying and defending them as the teams grow larger– is, I guess you would say, an intentional element of gameplay. Can large groups self-organize, direct and mobilize strategies in real-time… this is the kind of social game that certainly begs to be played multiple times (much like Werewolf!) to allow for strategies and skills to be developed by individuals and partners. The complexity of the game is therefore, for me, desirable, even if it takes playing it once or twice to get really good at the kinds of play it requires. We’ll get a chance to see that next week, as some of our first round of players have already registered to play again! :)

  3. Suw Says:

    I was thinking just after I posted this how like Werewolf it was in many ways. Matt and I were deliberately trying to be conspicuous, but I think if I had the chance to play again I would definitely try and be a bit more stealthy. In fact, my behaviour here mirrored my behaviour in the first game of Werewolf, which was basically to sort of sit there feeling confused.

    So maybe that’s just me. ;-)

  4. Steve Says:

    Suw,

    That sounds like such an interesting and fun game. You also might want to try playing tag in a grocery store. Since there are heaps of aisles, it is hard for people to know who is it or not once the shindig gets going. Thus, you cannot trust anyone unless you know that you are it. However, it is fun to tease people by pretending to be it (spontaneously creating a second it person would also make things interesting). This is a fun game since you have to act nonchalant enough that the grocery store staff does not suspect anything because the game ends when y’all get kicked out.

    While it may not have any collaboration or self-organization elements — nor blowing kisses (sorry!) — it is still wicked fun.

    I’m curious, Jane McG, does Duck, Duck, Goose have any application to collaboration and self-organization?

  5. Suw Says:

    Steve, I’ll have to see if I can find people to play tag with in a supermarket, although I fear it will be less fun if it’s just me and Kevin.

    Duck Duck Goose was not a part of the games trial that Jane was conducting. It was a bit of improv from us to try and make us harder to approach.

  6. Steve Says:

    Suw,

    I guess I’ll have to come over to London sometime so that you and Kevin will have someone else to play tag with.

    “It was a bit of improv from us to try and make us harder to approach.” We tech savvy types can come across so anti-social at times… LOL!

    You had fun playing both games; I’m jealous.

  7. Jane McG Says:

    LOL– actually, though, I couldn’t help but be reminded on Sunday of the duck duck goose flash mob Kiyash and I threw in the very same park more than 3 years ago… amazinlgy, still chronicled here http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2003/08/11/DD115584.DTL. So Suw, perhaps you were really onto something after all! :)

  8. Lloyd Says:

    Two things:

    firstly, I’m sure the people talking about the Olympic cultural fringe for 2012 would be interested in this kind of thing.

    secondly, next time we have lunch, as well as having a mutual therapy session, could we also talk about how *I* get to hang out in SF playing games in the park ;-D

  9. James Says:

    are you sure about that? Because I had different results actually..