Every good boy does fine

Some years back, I regularly played an online game which I originally knew as Acrophobia. I first played it on a bot on Internet Relay Chat, then as a standalone game called Acrophobia, and later, after Acrophobia was shut down, as a standalone game called Acro Challenge.

Basically, the game works like this. You need several people to play. The computer generates a random series of letters. Each player comes up with a sentence (in most cases, the ideal is a complete, correct sentence) for which those letters would be an acronym.

In some games, the response can be anything; in other games, it must conform to a particular topic. “Couch” games mean that the winner of each round sets a topic for the next round.

AcroChallenge has different game rooms so that you know what type of game to expect. This includes not only rules (computer-generated topics, topics generated by the round winner, or no topics at all), but things like whether you want to play squeaky-clean or whether risque acros are allowed. The game is most fun when you’re playing with other people on your wavelength — people who are old or young enough to get your cultural references, your vocabulary, or what have you.

In this example, the letters were “WDBSS” and the topic (look at the upper right-hand corner, or the chat box at the bottom) was “911, what’s yer emergency?” my response was “Weird, demented burglars stealing stuff.” That wasn’t a complete sentence, but in this case it was an answer to the question posed by the topic, so it was OK.

Once time has expired, all of the answers are displayed (anonymously) and each of the players votes on his or her favorite — you cannot vote for yourself. You’re looking to reward acros that are funny, or clever, or (if you’re playing with topics) that most closely align with the topic.

You get one point for each vote, plus bonus points if your response got the most votes. You also get a point if you voted for the winning entry (this is to discourage people from intentionally voting for bad answers in as a defensive strategy). The first person to 30 points wins the game. In some variations, the top two scoring players have a “faceoff” voted on by the other players.

Several years ago, I played this game pretty frequently. At one point, I was even on a team, with people I didn’t know in person, and a couple of people in the team were so into it that they would make and mail out little tchotchkes to the rest of the team. I still have my coffee mug. The team broke up when a couple of the members were caught cheating, private messaging each other so that they could always vote for each other’s acros. I couldn’t even fathom this — there was nothing at stake, and the whole point of the game is fun and collegiality and rewarding the best entries. Cheating just seemed … stupid.

Anyway, I kept playing as an individual, until at some point I drifted away from the game. I think it was a combination of factors — I had trouble finding games with people who were on my wavelength at times when I was available to play. I think the game was just in a bit of a lull.

At some point I had liked a Facebook page for AcroChallenge players. The page wasn’t very active, but a few days ago, someone posted on that Facebook page that a new game was about to start. I popped in — and had a fantastic time. There were a few usernames that I remembered from my previous experience, but others were new.

I’ve played several times since, including tonight. I like the idea of putting out the word on Facebook that a new game is going to start; it seems to work better than dropping in and simply looking to see if there’s a game going on.

Anyway, if the game sounds like fun to you, stop by and join us sometime.