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Pictionary – Then and Now

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By Mark Isaiah David

“Bye. Bye. Birdie!!” Monica yells furiously, as she jabs the white paper in frustration because her friends couldn’t guess her illustration. Her incredulity magnifies when Rachel, who draws a teeny-tiny bean, gets an unlikely (yet correct) ‘the unbearable lightness of being!!’ guess from Joey. It was 1994, in the first season of the hit sitcom ‘Friends’, and Pictionary was a monster hit whenever people gather.

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The game continues to go strong throughout the years. Even now, the game is still featured in TV shows such as ‘The Big Bang Theory’, Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’, and ‘Ellen’. New games with various gimmicks may come and go, but Pictionary’s simple game mechanics and penchant for riling up fierce competitiveness among friends make it an eternal crowd pleaser.

The shift to digital, however, has been slow for Pictionary. While numerous similar drawing games can be found in the Apple and Google app stores, the game – with all the appropriate rights and branding – has taken the loooooong road before coming to smartphones. Five years ago, Draw Something exploded in the market, but its popularity has dwindled, and now seems a good time for the original to claim its rightful place.

Last April, social games developer Etermax – with the blessing of Mattel – debuted the first official mobile version of Pictionary. The game is available on Android, iOS, and even Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

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The app lets you play on two modes: a Turn-Based mode where you can draw a word and send it to your friend so s/he could guess it, and the real reason why this game is exciting – the Quick-Draw mode where you team up with a person and do a 2v2 battle with other people by trying to guess the word while your partner draws in real-time.

There are thousands of words you can draw, grouped into categories: Person/Place/Animal,Object, and Action (like ‘throw away’). Supposedly, there’s a fourth category – ‘Difficult’, but I haven’t encountered that one yet. The app provides tools likecrayon, highlighter, paintbrush, pen, pencil, and the ever-useful eraser so you can get your art on.

The game is easy to use – the controls are intuitive and you’ll immediately be able to dive into matches. As expected, there are digital purchases available in the game if you want to make your creations easier/fancier. The game itself is free.

And while Pictionary on mobile is still fun and offers the massive convenience of not requiring that almost-mythic, nearly-impossible-to-find common free time among you and your friends, it has its own drawbacks.

First (and this is my smallest complaint), depending on the number of games you’re in, your phone could be dinging non-stop with the app’s notifications. It’s annoying, but controllable.

Second, there are lots of people who cheat by writing out clues or even the actual words themselves. While I get that you can get frustrated when you’ve drawn your masterpiece and the doofus on the other end of the line still can’t guess the word, cheating breaks the game. I mean, what’s the point if you’ll just spell out the word? Why would you even play? While there is a ‘report’ function, cheating is still prevalent in most of the matches.

Third – and this is the app’s greatest limitation – there is no easy way for you to communicate the incredibly obvious truth that this is an airplane, what kind of an idiot are you that you can’t see that?!? Incredulous stares and furious tapping are currently unsupported by the app. Maybe on the next patch? One can only hope.

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