Brooklyn Designers Use Smartphone Game to Jump-Start the Party

By Gustavo Solis on May 27, 2014 2:23pm 

BROOKLYN — If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

After growing weary of seeing people stare into their smartphones in social settings, a pair of design students from Brooklyn invented a game that turns their devices into the life of the party.

“We knew we wanted to create something around the anti-social use of phones in social situations,” said one of the designers, Luke Stern, 26, of Fort Greene, who came up with Game of Phones with his friend Sam Wander, 30, of Williamsburg.

The game is a bit like the popular party game Cards Against Humanity, but instead of playing only with cards, it makes people’s phones the main tool.

The way it works is one player pulls out a card that says something like “Find an ugly baby.” The rest of the players then use their phones to look for a photo, and the player that picked the card decides which baby picture is the ugliest.

“By bringing phones into the game, they somehow become less of a distraction,” the inventors wrote in their Kickstarter campaign page. “No time to check your email when you’re in a heated round of ‘Find the weirdest Google Image search for your name.’”

Stern and Wander — both interaction design student at the School of Visual Arts — conceived of Game of Phones in February. They developed a prototype and tested it out at Bounce Sporting Club in the Flatiron District by approaching strangers, half-expecting to get told off.

“There was one group that seemed fun enough to try it,” Stern said of their first attempt. “Half the group was into it with the first card and the other half joined in for the second card. At the end they were like, ‘How do we get it?’”

Some of those people contributed to the fundraising campaign that raised $16,856 in two weeks. Their goal was $6,000.

With the money, Stern and Wander will refine their design and increase the deck form 50 cards to 100. They plan to ship out the finished decks by August, Stern said.

The game can be as tame or as dangerous as the people playing it. Most of the cards are PG, but some are NSFW, Stern said.

The two hope the game changes the way people use their phones while in groups. Some trends, like banning phones at parties or “phone stack,” ignore the fact that smartphones have become a part of people's lives, they said.

Game of Phones is different in that it recognizes that fact but challenges people to use their phones in more social ways, Stern noted.

“I think it’s just the culture that we live in,” he said. “People are always on their phones, especially at bars. It’s in our face all the time.”

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