Telephone Pictionary by mail: MetaFilter edition February 5, 2019 12:04 PM   Subscribe

This one's for all the mefites who like to send and receive snail-mail. (You know who you are!) Last month I authored a Projects post about the "correspondence edition" of Telephone Pictionary I developed. Briefly: Telephone Pictionary is a pen-and-paper party game that adds a visual (drawn) component to "telephone," that game where people sit in a circle and whisper a phrase to one another, usually corrupting the original phrase in the process. In Telephone Pictionary, players alternate between written descriptions and drawings, going back and forth until the big reveal at the end. The "correspondence version" of this is done via snail-mail, so it takes a few weeks. I am interested in facilitating correspondence games of Telephone Pictionary among mefites, and I'd like to know if folks on the site might be interested in taking part!

If I do find that there's interest, I'll post a sign-up form in a fresh MetaTalk thread. I'd like to take this thread to (1) gauge interest and (2) work with the community to hash out logistical details / answer questions. (Big thanks to Fig for taking the time to share insights from the MeFi card club!)

A few things to know:
  • This game is super-fun and super-easy. More details, including scans of completed games, can be found on my personal site, which is linked from the Projects post.
  • No particular artistic skills are required. Some players are amazing artists or doodlers, and that's always cool. Others, like me, can't even draw stick figures that well. Given that the game centers around frequently-unsuccessful attempts to interpret drawings, "poor drawing skills" are all part of the fun! Yay!
  • My expectation is that we'd be running multiple chains at once, with a set number (9ish?) per chain. You'd be able to sign up for one or multiple chains. Depending on the level of interest, we may also do "US only" and "international" groups, along with other categories if enough people are into it.
  • The last person in each chain would be responsible for either scanning or photographing the finished product, and sharing the finished product with the community. (I have a spare Google account I created for Telephone Pictionary projects, and could pool all the photos on a shared Google Photos album--or we could do something else. I'm open.)
  • Hopefully I don't need to belabor this point... sometimes people enjoy Telephone Pictionary and other "open-to-interpretation" games because they allow for "transgressive" humor. Often this just means "being an asshole." Please don't! :-) Keep it fun and inclusive for everyone playing.
posted by duffell to MetaFilter-Related at 12:04 PM (63 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

This sounds like a blast. I'm in!

My friends and I used to play something a lot like this but everyone made a drawing without any text description. We did six panels on a sheet of paper and based each drawing on only the most recent panel while hiding the older panels (if any). "Unsuccessful attempts to interpret drawings" certainly added to the fun.
posted by exogenous at 12:25 PM on February 5

This sounds like so much fun!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:29 PM on February 5

I'm in. I've always heard it called Eat Poop You Cat. I have no idea why.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:39 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]

I'm so in. I've never wanted to be part of something so much!
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:52 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

Oh, yessss.

I gave a boxed version of the game to my brother's family for Christmas, and have barely heard from him since; I assume he's just been busy with other stuff. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:10 PM on February 5

Sounds fun! Count me in!
posted by bookmammal at 1:33 PM on February 5

posted by Metroid Baby at 1:50 PM on February 5

A use for that international postal stamp I've been sitting on!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:03 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

There's a ready-made version of this for playing in person called Telestrations and it comes in both 6-player and 10-player versions.

For extra fun, make everyone play with their non-dominant hand. It really evens the playing field.
posted by msbrauer at 2:12 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]

This sounds awesome, I would definitely participate, with terrible drawings.
posted by the primroses were over at 2:25 PM on February 5

Sign me up!
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:38 PM on February 5

I can draw a mean stick figure. Count me in!

... and other expressions too. But always stick figures.
posted by widdershins at 2:42 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

I wanna play! (My art skills may vary...)
posted by Weeping_angel at 3:19 PM on February 5

Sounds fun! Yes please!
posted by OolooKitty at 3:58 PM on February 5

Consider me subscribed to your newsletter. I can contribute both awful drawings and delays in the chain due to posting to/from the UK! You are welcome.
posted by billiebee at 3:59 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]

I'm in. *sharpens pencil* *dons beret*
posted by missmary6 at 4:20 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]

I'm not 100 percent sure I understand how it works, but count me in!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:06 PM on February 5

posted by capricorn at 5:23 PM on February 5

Oh yay I was hoping this would happen! Yes yes yes!
posted by danabanana at 5:36 PM on February 5

Yes please! Great idea.
posted by MrBobinski at 6:01 PM on February 5

+1! Terrible drawer, but getting better, especially sketching things like near misses and forklifts for safety training purposes.

(and, you're welcome! This sounds like a fun project, thank you for putting it together!)
posted by Fig at 6:40 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]

Yes but all my drawings look like stick figures drawn by stick figures, so good luck with that everyone
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 7:14 PM on February 5

Like The Underpants Monster, I’m not completely confident I understand how this works but it sounds fun so I’m in!
posted by theappleonatree at 8:13 PM on February 5

oh my God I have a festival art project version of Telephone Pictionary:

It's in a carnival booth and passers-by play as they walk past.

After midnight at festivals, people are generally drunk and it tends to devolve to everyone just drawings dicks.

So I made a "trolling" installation of it for one event wherein after midnight I covered the booth with a sign that said "if you're just going to draw dicks, go over there ---->

"Over there" was an installation with signage for a Penis Drawing Station. The Station consisted of a child-size chair, children's art easel, and crayons. It was incredibly popular.
posted by twoplussix at 8:26 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]

Here's a photo album of the Line-Draw-Line booth by daylight, at a kids' event:
posted by twoplussix at 8:29 PM on February 5

As far as people not knowing how to draw:

this game is actually better when you are a bad artist. It's not like Exquisite Corpse where the result wants to be pretty.

For this game, it all just needs to be confusing, and that GREATLY helps make the chain go off the rails and become hilarious.
posted by twoplussix at 8:32 PM on February 5

I'm in!!!
posted by Gray Duck at 8:42 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

I want in!
posted by nightrecordings at 9:57 PM on February 5

posted by phunniemee at 10:33 PM on February 5

I am equally baffled and intrigued! So yes!
posted by mochapickle at 10:38 PM on February 5

Heck yeah I'm in.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:54 PM on February 5

Yes I'm in please!
posted by peacheater at 11:57 PM on February 5

also, I'm in.
posted by twoplussix at 1:47 AM on February 6

this sounds fun, I'm in!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:02 AM on February 6

posted by Etrigan at 4:04 AM on February 6

With the reassurance that poor drawing skills are fine, yes, please!
posted by needlegrrl at 5:29 AM on February 6

Yes please! One more for your international cohort.
posted by mdonley at 5:31 AM on February 6

I like your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter, yes please.
posted by JanetLand at 6:03 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]

Looks like there's interest in the idea, hooray! Here's what I'm thinking, and I'd appreciate any feedback:
  • Each chain consists of 9 people (you need an odd number to start & end on a written step).
  • We'll have signups for a "US only" group and an "anywhere in the world" group. (The latter will, of necessity, take longer to complete.)
  • The first person in the chain gets to come up with the initial phrase, which is a fun thing to do! But the first person is also responsible for setting up the materials. Personally, I like to use a little memo book and conceal past steps with a paper clip. There are other ways of doing this--we can discuss in this thread.
  • The last person in the chain will be responsible for taking photos/scans and sending them along to a dedicated email address, (other names were taken).
  • Once you receive your mail, you should try and complete the next step and send it along within a few days! (No peeking at previous steps!)
  • Since being "first" or "last" requires a bit of extra work, I'll ask for volunteers in the sign-up form.
  • Once the signup form is closed, I'll assign folks to cohorts, and email each cohort with the list (1-9) of folks in their chain--along with detailed instructions, of course!
  • If folks sign up for more than 1 chain, I'll do my best to change up the participants, so they're interacting with different folks in each chain--and I'll also try and make sure they get at least 1 turn drawing and 1 writing.
  • If it goes well, we can do a fresh round of signups in the future!
Thoughts? Pushback? What am I forgetting?
posted by duffell at 6:09 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]

This sounds like so much fun! Two questions—Does the memobook you link to require additional postage to mail? Will it fit in a standard envelope?
posted by bookmammal at 6:57 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]

The memobook fits easily in a standard envelope, and it usually pushes the weight of the mailing juuuuust to the limit for one Forever stamp (US domestic mail). Just to be safe, I usually affix two stamps. If mailing from the US to, say, Turkey or Vanuatu, you'd need something like 4 Forever stamps. (Or go to the post office and pay at the counter.)

Another option (#2) would be to include 9 index cards (or similar)--as long as there's an easy, intuitive way to differentiate the steps that have been completed already. The main thing is that each person should only see the step immediately before their own. But this ought to keep the postage cost down.

If you're feeling mildly crafty, you could (#3) take a few sheets of paper, cut them in half, and fold into a booklet stapled in the middle. That ought to keep the postage cost to the minimum required for mailing a letter, too.

Option #3 is a solid choice for our purposes, I think.
posted by duffell at 7:11 AM on February 6 [2 favorites] this! So easy and low-tech I didn't even need to get up from my desk. 5 sheets of paper from a memo pad, trimmed an inch or so from the long side (so it'd fit in the envelope), cut in half lengthwise, folded, stapled, paper-clipped. Just a minute or two of labor.

Bonus points for the photo I took with my flip phone, thankyouverymuch
posted by duffell at 7:20 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I'm posting this and then I'm walking away for awhile.

I made a very rudimentary booklet (Word / PDF) that includes instructions for game participants on the cover page. The first person in the chain would need to print this, assemble, and staple it before completing the first (written) step in the chain.
posted by duffell at 8:13 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]

I'm interested too! Cool idea.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:39 AM on February 6

I made a very rudimentary booklet (Word / PDF) that includes instructions for game participants on the cover page

Ok I didn’t totally understand the whole thing until I read your instructions on the booklet (which btw marry me) so thanks for this!
posted by billiebee at 11:06 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]

Yes! Oh yes. Phenomenally excited for this. I had no idea Pictionary Telephone was so widely known! I learned about it ~10 years ago from a relative, and every time I’ve brought it up at a party since (I love it), no one there has ever heard of it. I need to hang out with more mefites more often, clearly.
posted by miles per flower at 11:25 AM on February 6

The memobook fits easily in a standard envelope, and it usually pushes the weight of the mailing juuuuust to the limit for one Forever stamp (US domestic mail). Just to be safe, I usually affix two stamps. If mailing from the US to, say, Turkey or Vanuatu, you'd need something like 4 Forever stamps. (Or go to the post office and pay at the counter.)
They also sell global forever stamps, which can be used to send, greeting cards, for example, globally. But I've no idea the relative weight of the memo book to the standard greeting card.
posted by peacheater at 11:34 AM on February 6

The booklet is great, but you might want to specify somehow that you should NOT do your writing/drawing on the page facing the previous drawing/writing, or there will be no way to see your contribution without also seeing the previous work.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:21 PM on February 6

Good point—I’m assuming that each person uses a full double page spread to either write or draw, correct?
posted by bookmammal at 1:42 PM on February 6

I play this with the teens at my library. Somehow they were all able to accurately draw Rihanna eating a mango.
Sign me up.
posted by Biblio at 4:41 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]

Definitely interested!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:59 PM on February 6

I love this game and haven’t played in years!! Absolutely in.

I would also be interested in trying an experimental chain in which we see how far off the rails you get if you extend the chain well past 9. In in-person games there are limits imposed by attention spans and paper sizes; could those be transcended here?
posted by eirias at 1:16 PM on February 7

This sounds fun, I definitely want to join.
posted by bettafish at 7:27 PM on February 7

I'm also in!
posted by odd ghost at 3:47 AM on February 8

OK! Excellent. Getting the sign-up form finalized. I'll post the form to MeTa early next week.

I'm going on vacation soon, so once the sign-up form is up, I'll leave it open for a couple of weeks while I'm out and aim to get everything organized and sent out at the beginning of March.
posted by duffell at 6:43 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Oh i would definitely do this! We always called this "the foldy-over game" , on account of how it required a longish skinnyish piece of paper (er, like letter or legal size paper cut in half length-wise) which we'd start at the top with a silly sentence and then as soon as the drawer drew the sentence they'd fold the top bit down so the next captioned couldn't see the original sentence.

I used to save these from parties .. maybe I can find one somewhere to scan and link to..
posted by elgee at 7:33 AM on February 8

I want to play!
posted by bendy at 4:41 PM on February 8

When playing this game at parties, I've always seen people make thin strips of paper out of something like 11x14 paper cut in half lengthwise, and, after you've drawn or written your own contribution, you would fold under the previous person's work (meaning the prompt that you responded to) in order to hide it. I like the idea of a paperclip and the instructions that tell you to not peek.

Here's what the results look like for my festival version of this game:

The actual paper I used was these cheap rolls of children's drawing paper, the sort of thing you see on a kids' art easel. They're usually the width of a regular piece of paper (ie 8 or 10" or something). I cut the wide rolls into narrower rolls with a saw.

If for some reason we want to use narrow strips instead of the memo pad idea, let me know- I could start the chain by making some strips out of my collection of paper from my art project and I think we could make them of a size that would fit into a letter envelope. I still have thousands of feet of this stuff now. The version I made is about 6" wide- you can see how that works for drawing on here:
posted by twoplussix at 2:31 PM on February 10

Also, we've tried many different ways of phrasing the instructions- I think the ones in your PDF are perfect.

We eventually realized that we had to 'prep" the paper, which is why in that picture of the "art gallery" of results, you see that we Sharpied instructions at the top of each little square of drawing/writing space. The instructions there read "drawing:" or "phrase" just to remind confused people to not combine the two.
posted by twoplussix at 2:34 PM on February 10

Yes, I am in, I am so in! We just call it The Game. Nine people per round sounds perfect to me. I have noticed that if you make the string long enough, the concept goes off on a tangent and then comes back to the main concept. It is amazing how this happens.

The only problem we ever have is that newbies sometimes forget they need to make their contribution on the next page, not on the same page underneath the previous entry. You made everything really clear in your instructions though, and I really like the paperclip idea to avoid inadvertent peeking. Bravo!
posted by queensissy at 3:31 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]

I also know this game as Eat Poop You Cat, and I am SO IN.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:26 AM on February 14

In case anyone missed it: new thread with instructions to sign up
posted by exogenous at 8:24 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

Thanks, exogenous. Yes! Sign up if you haven't! Join the fun!
posted by duffell at 9:10 AM on February 14

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