Picture This! | CS247G

Social mediation game made by Avni Kakkar and Cathy Yang

Artist Statement

Picture This! is a social game that brings players together through expressive, fun storytelling. Within the game, players take turns being the “storymaster”, a role that allows them to choose an expressive image from which other players will write creative stories. Players are encouraged to write short, interesting, and funny stories based on certain “story goals” that will impress the storymaster and earn them points.

The game is extremely flexible and can be played both in person and remotely over video chat. Picture This! is designed for three or more players. The game can be enjoyed by groups of friends or complete strangers, and it is suitable for most ages. Especially when people are stuck at home, Picture This! provides players opportunity to use their imaginations to regale their friends with tales of murder, chaos, romance, and more! Picture This! truly allows players to get their creative juices flowing and embrace the art of storytelling.

Concept Map

Click here to view the full document.

Initial Decisions


In order for the game to be competitive it needs at least 3 players, but it can be played with as few as two players. We wanted to build a social party game that is easily adaptable, which is why it can support many players. There are two player roles: storyteller and storymaster. There is only one storymaster at a time and the role rotates between players every round. The storymaster is responsible for choosing an inspiration image each round, reading story submissions, and picking their favorite story. Storytellers are responsible for writing a short story related to the chosen image that satisfies their story goals.


This is a social sandbox game, so players are tasked to be creative given a certain set of tools. In Picture This!, the tools are a set of “story goals” and a storymaster-chosen image that players use as inspiration for short stories of their own. The objective is to write the best story each round so the storymaster chooses your story and gives you a point.


  • Players take turns being the storymaster, starting with the person who had the most recent birthday.
  • Each round, the storymaster finds an image and shares it via Zoom’s screen share feature.
  • Each player writes a story that fulfills one of their given story goals and messages their story to the storymaster.
  • The storymaster reads out all the stories and selects one story, whose author receives 1 point.
  • The game is complete when everyone has been the storymaster once. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!
  • Of course remember to play fairly and do not tamper with other player’s stories, images, or points in the spreadsheet.


Conflict arises between players as they compete to write the best stories and earn the most points. However, conflict can also arise internally as users continually challenge themselves to be more creative. Overall, however, Picture This! is not designed to be an extremely conflict-ridden game, and more of a fun social activity for friends!


One player wins each round for an extra point, but all players get a point for the number of story goals they fulfill each round. Once each player has had a turn being the storymaster, the game is over, points are tallied, and the player with the most points wins the game!

Testing and Iteration

Developing Picture This! was a highly iterative process, we iterated during the brainstorming phase to settle on a social storytelling game. Once we decided that we adopted elements from similar existing games as well as twists we as gamemakers enjoyed and then began playtesting. We conducted several rounds of playtesting: the first with just the game makers, then two rounds in class, and then three rounds with friends and family. In each round of playtesting we learned what players enjoyed and what they wanted to improve, we then adjusted the game to emphasize what was enjoyable and change what was not.

First we learned that storymasters really enjoyed choosing their own pictures, it allowed them to show an image of a favorite pop culture moment (like Tiger King) or something referencing an inside joke amongst the players. However, they wanted some inspiration photos or the option of preselected photos if they could not come up with an image themselves. To fix this, on the homepage of the prototype we added links to Google Image searches that we think yield good results as well as another sheet filled with preselected images. We also learned quickly that people enjoyed using multiple story goals. Even though we stated in the rules for our first several playtests that you were only allowed to use one story goal per round, every time some players ended up using two or even three story goals in their story to make it more interesting or funny. Some players even said the multiple goals got their creativity flowing more than just one, and since flexing your creative muscles is part of the game we decided to allow players to select up to three story goals to use per round. We adjusted the points so that players get rewarded for using more story goals as well. Instead of just the winner of each round receiving a point, every player gets a point for the number of story goals they used that round and the winner gets an additional bonus point.

By testing the game with groups of friends, we realized that some people finished their stories faster than others and found themselves bored waiting for others. To minimize wait time, increase energy, and streamline game flow we decided to implement a 2 minute time limit to write stories that the storymaster enforces. Finally, we learned that people really liked being the storymaster and having the ability to choose an image and a winner. At first we were worried about the role being boring because storymasters do not write a story for their round, but were pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback.

Beyond the basic game structure, we got a lot of feedback on the technical game mechanics aspect of Picture This!. We learned quite quickly by moderating the games in class that just Zoom and an instructions sheet was not enough for a self-standing game. The moderator had to do too much work, from privately messaging people their story goals to collecting the stories and messaging them to the moderator to preserve the anonymity of the submissions. This level of interaction would make the game near impossible to play without outside guidance. To solve this we decided to transfer the game mechanics to a Google Sheet where there was a scoreboard, rule sheet, deck of story goals, a place to display the chosen image, and a place to collect the stories for each round. To preserve the anonymity of the story submissions we created a Google Form that players anonymously fill out with their story each round. The results from that form are linked to the stories tab of the sheet.

Overall, the process of playtesting was extremely valuable and we got to see the game really shine amongst groups of close friends who were able to truly take advantage of the flexibility of the game by referencing inside jokes as well as people and places the group had been together. While Picture This! Is a flexible and adaptable game for many types of groups, we believe its best use is for groups of friends of young adults.

Playable Prototype

After some playtesting, we were able to incorporate player feedback to arrive at our final prototype. Our playable prototype is built using Google Sheets and Google Forms. You can play it by accessing the document here.

Design Mockups

Moodboard for color scheme

Our initial moodboards and design sketches utilized a simple, bright color palette to emphasize the creative nature of the game. You can see this palette used in our playable prototype as well, al though with much simpler styling.

In our thumbnail sketches, we emphasized a simple interface that allows the player to focus on the central image and crafting interesting stories.

Layout sketches for tablet application interface.

We envision our game to be playable both as a mobile app and a website, since it requires a device that the players can easily type on. The mobile interface is similar to our prototype, with simple instructions and intuitive controls.

Layout sketches for mobile application interface.



The focus of CS 247G is an introduction to theory and practice of the design of games. We make games (digital, paper, or otherwise), do rapid iteration, and run user research studies appropriate to game design with the goal of improving and refining our design instincts.

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