Monday, July 6, 2015

Lessons from Family Feud

So, we have been playing a lot of family feud recently. It all started on our smartphones with the family feud two app. This got me thinking about how simply beautiful of a game that family feud really is in the way that it . So many game shows are about testing your knowledge of trivia or book-learning, but this game really seems to be testing a totally different part of our intelligence. Being good at this game does not seem to have much to do with your intelligence in the sense of remembering facts or solving problems as much as other games, although that might help some. Instead it seems to have more to do with creative thinking and with understanding social norms. To do well, you have to be able to identify what do most people in the US think like and how is that different from the way I think and what might they think of that I usually wouldn't, For example, with some of my answers, I often find myself thinking in terms that are too clever involving wordplay or too specific if I have a lot of knowledge about the topic area (like guessing hard drive for a question about something on a computer).

Not many other games really challenge you to think in these kind of terms, to try to fit in with everyone else and think they way they would think even if this is a dynamic we are all struggling deciding how to interact with all the time in our lives. We have to decide if we want to fit in with social norms and attempt to gain other's acceptance or feel like we are doing things the right way that others would approve of or that will yield the best results (Japanese style) or to intentionally buck the system and go against the norm or anywhere in between. Family Feud seems to be training us to be more in touch with ourselves in this sense. This seems especially interesting when I started to think about this in terms of Myers Briggs personality types. People who are SJs (sensing and judging) are the biggest part of the population when it comes to the 4 overarching personality characters. They are also the ones who really care about social norms and bringing people together and following the rules. They are often police officers, principals, all those type of jobs that like to enforce the status quo. This show seems to be right in their wheelhouses, whereas something like jeopardy is much more for people who have a certain level of traditional intelligence or ability to remember facts. We often think of games and game shows to be more of a chance to show off knowledge in a way where the people on their are really smart and sometimes even out of touch with social norms because they are too busy reading the encyclopedia, Yet, it seems like games rarely try to appeal to this kind of level of the common person.

Of course this is something many games and especially recent video games are doing to try to make themselves more accessible and get more people into them and make more money. Family feud has been doing this for years though and is remarkable not only in its accessibility and widespread appeal, but also the way that it reframes how we think about intelligence and puts it on more of a social level. This social aspect is something that games are really starting to play up more (like more and more MMORPGS) and something that seems to be one of the primary appeals to many games and something that can make gaming seem like less of a solitary activity that people are doing in their mother's basement without bathing frequently.

Playing the Android game got me thinking about the old family feud game from 1987 that we had on our old XT dos computer and I booted up dosbox to give it another spin. It was really remarkable how much different the two games were. The Android version actually has much worse and lamer graphics I would say even with the benefits of much better technology. In the dos version you get to see your family, along with all of their tacky 80s clothing, and how they react to each answer. You also get to hear the digs and see the board reveal the answers just like the looked on the show. The Android version looks much more like you are not actually on the show. There are no graphics of the families and no graphics of the host and the host has like 3 annoying and obnoxious sound clips that it repeats over and over for wrong answers. So much about the game screams that it was rushed out and had the family feud label slapped onto it because they know people would download it just for that. Much of the energy for the Android game was figuring out places for you to have ads and trying to get you to buy coins so you could play more than the daily limit of games. The nicest graphics in the game are when you get to spin a slot machine to get your coins for signing in that day. You also don't get to play the second half of the fast money round when you win, making it almost impossible to even get above 200 points. Meanwhile the older game seem to be more immersive and really make you feel like you are on the show even with its primitive graphics. You have twice the amount of time for each answer, can use a keyboard instead of a touch keyboard on the screen of your phone, and don't have to feel like the game is constantly taking you out of its world to pester you about coins and other Android apps.

Somewhere in here it seems important to realize how looking at these two family feud games is indicative of how corporations and their advertising has changed in the last 30 years between the releases of these two games. Of course the old family feud game and the family feud show are trying to make money as so much of our capitalist society is focused on, but it did it in a way where they created something that immersed you in a game world more so than encouraged you to obsessively collect coins. I don't want to sound like an old fogey here not liking new technology just because it is new, but where is the point here where we realize that the Android version of family feud has fewer features and more annoyances than a game made 30 years ago and that is not okay? This isn't the only kind of product that this has happened with either. So much of our food, toys, appliances, so many different products are cutting corners more and more without most customers noticing much or being able to do much about it. Of course, lots of video games do a much better job of not losing their immersion like the Android version of family feud while still trying to get you to buy more content like DLC or expansion packs. And it seems to go back to that same mentality of many people (especially SJs) wanting to fit into social norms and not question what they are living their lives as much as they want to fit in. Many people don't think critically about the products they are buying outside of how it is fulfilling a need or want for them. Except for more niche markets of people who want to nerd out and get the best, most customizable product they can for their money, we have slowly been conditioned by advertisers to expect a worse product and be okay with that. We are the ones spending the money. How have we allowed this to happen?


  1. Its all about that paper son. Take our washing machine for instance. I'm sure it was crazy expensive. More than our last one that lasted about 17 years. The dumb thing is it requires you to use "high efficiency" detergent which is expensive. But why? What's the fucking difference? The detergent receptacle is totally cheap and designed to break. But the machine tries to fool you by making Zelda chest opening sounds all the time. Its BS. Companies design appliances to break after a period of time so you have to spend more money on them even though they have the technology to make them more durable. But what are you going to do? You've got to wash your clothes.

    I'm gonna go watch Fight Club now....

  2. Also I like this post. I'd like to see more of this type of thing on here.