Smell Me playtest

This is the second post of two covering the playtesting of two games designed as part of the gameful.org Summer Challenges. This particular game was designed in response to Gameful Challenge #6: Strangers No More.

The game concept arose out of the constraints laid out as part of the original challenge. You can find out more about the specifics of the challenge by visiting the forum here. My original post at gameful.org describes the original concept in some detail which you can read here. The original title of the game was Eau de Memoir, although through playtesting, the name Smell Me evolved as a way of branding the game cards in a way which would grab people’s attention.

My original planned venue unfortunately let me down due to permissions around giving away loyalty stamps for anything other than coffee, but some very awesome people over at the Orchard Cafe (pay it a visit if you’re in the area – their chocolate fudge cake is to die for!) stepped into the breech and saved my bacon (their bacon is also rather good). They even offered to award extra loyalty stamps to anyone who would play the game, and advertised it on their Facebook and Twitter feeds!

Since I made the original thread on gameful.org, the logistics of the game changed slightly mainly due to suggestions on the thread. The main change was that the game was run with Memory Boards for each card (they were colour coded) which had the table numbers on them so that people could locate each other if they found a matching card on the board:

Memory boards

The cards were placed on each table with a pen (kindly provided by the cafe – did I mention they are really rather awesome?):

Smell Me cards

Despite the fact that the game was designed to run itself without a gamemaster present, I did get proactively involved in the second main playtest of the game as in the first mini playtest, I remained intentionally passive to see if the game would take off spontaneously. Although people noticed the cards and smelled them and even read the game rules printed on the cards, nobody wrote anything down. For that reason, on the second try I got involved and asked people if they would like to play the game. I got almost universally positive responses (although one or two overtly hostile ones – spoilsports!) and everyone had an interesting response to the smells on the cards.

I started with two different scents – hay and Old Spice – which I thought would evoke strong memories or emotions in a suitably large proportion of the population. As it turned out, the hay was just too subtle a smell for the environment in which the game was played and for the second playtest, the hay was abandoned and the Old Spice reigned supreme. Almost everyone had a strong response to the smell, although taken out of context very few people could identify it. The memories reported ranged from recently deceased step fathers (whoops…) to bars of soap:

The second playtest was quite successful with a particular group of giggly school girls and a lovely social worker and her friend being awarded loyalty stamps for both citing soap as a feature of their memories:

Loyalty stamps

Happy customers

Here were some hastily captured reactions when they initially smelled the cards:

 

A card-smelling social worker

On the whole, everyone who picked the cards up was intrigued and although not everyone had the confidence to actually play, at least it gave them something to talk about over coffee. Plus at the end of the day, some school girls and a social worker ended up finding they had something in common. Will they meet up for coffee again? I doubt they’ll be texting each other to arrange to meet up, but if they spy each other across the buzzing floor of the Orchard Cafe again, they’ll still know that they have something in common with each other, and that feels like success to me!

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