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This May Be the First Promising Smartphone-Based Card Game of Our Time

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech

(Luke Stern and Sam Wander)

Any dull party runs the risk of becoming a room full of people looking at their smartphones. So it might seem counterintuitive to promote an activity that encourages your friends to stare at their glowing screens. But Game of Phones, a card game in which you race your friends to find the weirdest things on the Internet, might just have found a way to turn display-gazing on a device into a fun party activity.

The Kickstarter project is a deck of cards with different smartphone prompts written on the card faces. Game play is simple: One person draws an instructional card. Each card contains a command ranging from “Show your yuppiest app” to “Next to get an Instagram like wins this card.” The players rush to demonstrate their obscure internet knowledge and unique sense of humor and then present their results to the card-drawer. He determines whose entry is the best and awards that person the card. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the game wins.

Game of Phones is the latest in a canon of activities that have evolved from Apples to Apples, a classic that depends on a person’s ability to create entertaining combinations and gauge the judging card holder’s likes and dislikes. Cards Against Humanity (also a former Kickstarter Project) improved upon that model by catering to pop culture fanatics with dark senses of humor. Now Brooklyn-based project founders Luke Stern and Sam Wander have taken the concept to another level by incorporating a skill that many of us love to show off: the ability to find ridiculous things on the Internet and manipulate social media channels.

According to the pair, the game removes the worry that someone might be lost in her phone altogether. “We’d be at parties or eating at a restaurant and everyone is looking at their phones even though they’re with their friend,” Wander told Yahoo Tech. “We were interested in the ways that maybe we could take something from what was happening there and make phones more part of how you’re interacting with your friends.”

Just like Cards Against Humanity, the game encourages players to push the limits. For instance, there’s a card that asks the group to find the most NSFW photo out there. For that reason, it doesn’t hurt if people drink while they play. (This is a theory tested by Wander and Stern themselves, who first tried out their Pad prototype of the game with a group of strangers in a bar.)

But there are cons to playing a game that relies on functioning electronic devices. People might not be able to resist the distraction of notifications streaming to their home screens (which could very well be part of the challenge). And there are also inherent technical inequalities built into the game, when you consider that faster phones, with longer battery life and better carriers, will ultimately triumph in a game of speed.

That being said, Stern said they’ve found ways to turn those disadvantages into extra points; for instance there’s a card that’s awarded to the person with the lowest battery percentage. And not all rounds require an Internet connection.

There’s also the fact that non-Snapchat or Instagram members may be shunned from some rounds. Though Stern insists that, too, is part of the fun.

“They feel almost left out of the round, and it encourages them either to get that thing or to think about it a little harder,” he told Yahoo Tech. “But I think that’s almost a good part of it.”

Still, it’s no doubt that Game of Phones would be a lonely ride for the sole BlackBerry Bold owner in a room full of iPhones.

If you choose to back the project, a $25 contribution will get you a 100-card deck that will likely ship this August. That’s reasonable, considering it’s the same cost as a (very-hard-to-get) Cards Against Humanity deck. Who knows? If Game of Phones catches on like that one did, you may soon be the belle of the activity-night circuit. You’ve got until April 24 to make up your mind.

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