How we used Agile to make a drinking game

Part 1: The Positioning Document

Life is Life: the game of absurd judgments 
 My best friend and I just launched Life is Life: the game of absurd judgments on Kickstarter. I’m a Product Manager and my co-founder is an Operations Manager. We both work at Amazon.

About 6 months ago, we got in a lengthy conversation about how everyone plays the same few drinking games. We wanted to make something new that involves everyone and could be played by larger groups. Most, of all we wanted to encourage story telling. We had some vague high-level ideas but not much structure.

We realized what we really had was a grouping of feature requests, not unlike a backlog of feature requests at work. Could the same product management process work for a drinking game? We decided to give it a try. Our goal was to make a fun, creative side project that we would enjoy playing ourselves. This post series describes how we applied Agile product management frameworks to make our game.

What is Agile?
Agile is an approach to software development that emphasizes breaking tasks into small increments, iterating frequently, and teamwork and collaboration. On the product side, Agile means being market-driven, starting from the problem, and creating customer-centric requirements.

The Positioning Framework
First, we created a Positioning document to structure our thinking. The Positioning document is a common product management artifact that explains precisely how your product fits customer need (i.e., is a solution to the problem). There’s a lot of different approaches, but a Positioning document should include the following:

  • Problem statement
  • Solution statement
  • Positioning statement
  • Description
  • Problem-oriented features

The Problem Statement
Always start with the problem. What’s wrong? What are you trying to fix? Clearly identify the problem before you find the solution. There is a shortcut that makes identifying problems a lot easier: be your own customer. Problem statements clearly define and breakout the assumptions you are making about your customer.

Life is Life Problem Statement
Twenty and thirty somethings like to drink. Drinking alone is not socially acceptable, so we drink with our friends. Bars and clubs are expensive and intolerable sober. At pregames, people often end up standing around on their phones.

Meet the Drinking Game. Beer Pong has always been the gold standard of drinking games. We love it, we play it often (when we can get on a table…) but it usually ends with everyone hovering over 4 players yelling “elbows” and “next”. You came over to meet a cute girl but ended up chained to a table with 3 other dudes for 4 hours.

We love to share experiences and hear new stories — especially when drinking. We wait all pregame for someone to ask about our trip to Puerto Rico so that we can talk about all the crazy stuff we did…but no one ever does. Groups are kind of random and consist of many different personalities. People come late and leave early. Groups also have the attention span of a chipmunk.

Life is Life Problem-Oriented Features
Once you have a problem statement you want to dig into the necessary solutions to address each part of the problem. The clearer the problem statement, the easier it is to identify the problem-oriented features.

We referred back to our problem-oriented features when we brainstormed new cards, developed our play-testing methodology, and whenever we thought about the direction of our game.

  1. Our drinking game is a card game
    We’re attached to our phones. We don’t want to sacrifice our phone to the group to play a “social app.” Also, drinking games and phones inherently don’t mix (drunk people spill, it’s a guarantee). Cards are a good way to prompt players — no more awkward “Never Have I Ever” rounds where someone just “can’t think of something they’ve never done before.” Cards also easily scale to groups of all sizes.
  2. Our game encourages story-telling, physical contests, and poking fun at one another
    We love boasting about our own highlights reels. But we love telling embarrassing stories about our friends even more, and we’ve saved up a lot of memories and Snapchat screenshots over the years in preparation. Our friends have a lot of dirt on us too. We all just need a little push (and maybe a shot of two) to jog our memories and get the stories flowing. Also, because our game relies on the experiences of the group and players get new experiences each day, our game has a built-in mechanism to avoid staleness.
  3. No no one likes a jerk. Our cards won’t make people feel bad
    We won’t include cards that make people feel like crap.
  4. Our game embraces all personality types and encourages them to participate
    Our friends are all “special” in their own ways, and that’s awesome. Everyone in the group will be a contender. We all know that one guy who just won’t shut up — but our game isn’t just about who is the loudest.
  5. Our game has special cards to mix up game play
     As we said earlier, groups get bored easily. We will use special cards to change tempo, which players are involved, and the game flow.
  6. Players can leave and join the game at any time
    Some people are always late. Always. We won’t make them sit around until the next round. We will get them playing as soon as possible. If someone has to leave the party, this doesn’t mean that ours has to stop.

Solution Statement
The solution must address all problem-oriented features. This is where creativity really comes into play. We thought deeply about how these features work together and against each other and how to make the value proposition a no-brainer for our customer.

Life is Life Solution Statement
Life is Life: the game of absurd judgments is a game of Most likely tos. The objective is to bask in the glory of “that time when” and discover what strangeness and debauchery your friends think you’re capable of. A rotating judge decides which player in the group is “Most Likely to [X].” E.g., “Most likely to wear yoga pants with no intention of working out” and “Most likely to blackout at a family event”. These cards will prompt stories, physical challenges, and make people laugh. While drinking is encouraged throughout the game, everyone drinks together each time a player gets 7 cards.

Positioning Statement
 The positioning statement is the elevator pitch. Why would someone buy your product? Why would someone play your game? It’s usually pretty high-level.

Life is Life Positioning Statement
 Life is Life: the game of absurd judgments is the card game you’ve always wanted to play. Are you the Ambitious Contrarian? The Naïve Sex Addict? The Alcoholic Hipster? Find out who your friends think you are. You’ll hear new stories, judge physical challenges, and see photos that were “accidentally” not deleted.

Description
 We like to use the description section to describe the high-level user workflow in as simple terms as possible. For our card game, we used this section to outline the objective and “how to play” (the workflow) in very simple terms.

Life is Life Description
 Life is Life: the game of absurd judgments is a card game where the objective is to get cards.

  • In each round, the judge draws a card and reads it aloud to the room.
  • The group debates which player best fits the card.
  • The judge awards the card to one player and the judgeship rotates to the next player.
  • Once a player reaches seven cards, the group cheers “Life is Life” to the winner. The winner discards her cards and starts over. The other players keep their cards.

Life is Life Positioning Document
 There you have it. Check out our Life is Life Positioning document. In our case, it helped us take some high-level ideas and make a structured game that exactly addressed our problem. You’ll notice we used a lot of this exact wording in our Kickstarter.

What’s Next
 Ever play a game that’s a one-man show? We worked hard to make sure that everyone gets cards in Life is Life — after all, there’s a lot of ways to live life. Next week we’ll walk you through how we developed user personas (the next part of the product management process) to do this. We’ll also walk through how we used these personas to develop our detailed requirements: our user stories and play-testing framework. Which user persona are you? Are you the cave-girl contrarian, perhaps? Or the basic hipster? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out Life is Life: the game of absurd judgments on Kickstarter. We have a nifty video. Tell your friends. And thanks for the support. We’d love to hear your feedback.