Sunday, March 01, 2015

Party game - picture telephone

A few years ago, I learned an untitled party game from a friend's friend who was visiting DC. In any case, the exact source is lost on me but the game continues. I've showed it to friends and family of all pages and every time received rave reviews. The mechanics is a bit like "draw something", that mobile game which was really popular. and a bit like "telephone", where a "secret" message is passed from person to person, until it turns into something totally different from original. I looked it  up online and the game seems to have various names: telephone pictionary, paper telephone, telestrations, visual telephone, etc. I'm just going to call it picture telephone. 

Since not everyone seems to know this game, I thought I'd at least write down the rules and attach an example of a recent gameplay. Hope you find the directions simple to follow and enjoy it at your next group gathering!


Most party games require some kind of board game or video game setup. For this game, you just need a small group of people (4 is a good number, but more merrier) and paper/pens/pencils for writing and drawing. I find it easier to number the pages just to keep it orderly in case people shuffle their papers out of order as the game progresses. 

Determine how many pieces of paper to pass out to each player. If you have 4 people, 4 piece would be fine. If you have 10 people, you can do up to 10 or fewer. (once you read the rest of instructions, you'll see why). 

Game Play

Everyone writes a phrase on paper #1. It can be a proverb, a motto, song lyric, movie quote, cards against humanity selection, inside joke, or whatever other thing that is on your mind. 

As soon as everyone is done with the phrase, pass the entire stack of papers to next player. You can figure out if you want to do clock wise or counter-clock-wise. 

Next player looks at the phrase, puts #1 on the bottom of the stack, then draws that phrase on paper #2. After everyone is done drawing, pass entire stack of paper to next player.

Third player looks at drawing, puts #2 on bottom of stack, then writes what he/she thinks the drawing is supposed to be (remember, at this point, the player has only seen the drawing and has no idea what the original text on #1 was). After everyone is done writing/guessing, pass entire stack of paper to next player.

Basically the game switches between text mode and drawing mode and at the end, the entire stack is returned to the original player and people can share what the original phrase has transformed into! Some people who claim to be "bad artists" are actually better at drawing/expressing the idea than trained artists. If you cannot guess what the drawing is, make it up. The funnier the better!

Sample game

Pics of a recent game I had (seven people in group) where the original phrase is "ice skating in Central Park". this one ended up being fairly close to the original but still nice to see the drawings. Some other phrases in the group had turned into very funny drawings/text later on. 


A friend suggested that index card sized post-it-notes would work as well. I've also seen a version online where you use a large sheet of paper and just fold it down as you pass it to next person.

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