A long, long time ago when I was taking Psych courses, I got the idea drilled into me that subjects must voluntarily and willingly take part in your studies. You must get consent. Which, as an experimental psychologist, is a bummer, because you can learn all sorts of exciting things if you pounce on people at unawares and subject them to your intricate and nefarious mind games. But despite how productive it is, it’s totally unethical, because maybe they just wanted to go to the grocery store and buy some milk, not be lured into your staged mugging to test “bystander intervention” and “diffusion of responsibility”.
I play games with strangers all the time. Lots and lots of strangers. Playing with people you don’t know adds a whole realm of issues, even more so in games where the personal stakes are higher, like story games that ask you to contribute creatively and cooperate (compared to something like Chess where the players don’t even have to speak or look at each other).
Now imagine playing a game with strangers, except the strangers don’t know they are playing. That’s the idea behind SpeakEasy, a new pub game now on Kickstarter.
Fascinating? Disturbing? Risky? Unethical? Maybe all of the above? Could be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting design space to explore. And the people I’ve seen play it have definitely had fun. Take a look and decide for yourself:
Full disclosure: I’m a friend of Jerome, one of the creators of the game. You may recognize him from our Salem Fiasco game or hosting meetups at Story Games Seattle.