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Conrad Zimmerman avatar 8:12 PM on 01.26.2008  (server time)
On the Table: Eat Poop, You Cat!

This week, I'm covering a game that can be played anywhere, at any time by practically anyone. There's no limit to the number of players who can participate (though five or more is preferable) and there is nearly zero expense required. All you need is a writing implement and a piece of paper.

Remember Telephone? It's that game you no doubt encountered in a grade school classroom or summer camp where one person whispers a message to another who tells it to another and so on until the result is almost incomprehensible from the initial output. Eat Poop, You Cat! is a game that operates under the same principle with some variation.

One person writes a sentence on the top of a piece of paper and passes it to someone else. The next player must then draw a picture that represents the sentence. They then fold the paper so that the original message is no longer visible and pass the paper along. Now, with only the image, this new participant must deduce what the picture is of and caption it with a new sentence, folding the page again in order to hide the picture. Once the page makes its way back to the originator, it is unfolded and hilarity ensues.

This version of the Telephone game improves on the original format in several ways. Personality plays a much larger role in this exercise, as different people will interpret sentences lacking emphasis or crude images in completely different ways than they would spoken-word. Instead of relying solely on memory and attentiveness, you must consider the best method of conveying the messages visually or consider what the previous person intended when they drew Bhudda, a penis and a house. More importantly, after the game is done, you have a written record of the entire thing that allows you to see the logical progression of events from beginning to end.

Eat Poop, You Cat! is best played with a large, odd number of players. This ensures that the game both begins and ends with a sentence. In the event that you're playing with an even number, you might consider having several games going on at the same time (always a good idea, really) and simply stopping one person early, having the person who would be drawing the final image read the first and last sentences instead of the originator.

One of the things that makes this game great in comparison to other drawing games (such as Pictionary) is that lacking in artistic prowess can be a benefit instead of a hindrance. Since there's no real objective to meet, no individual victory to be had, you can't really fail by drawing poorly. And, if your art is harder to decipher, it can lead to wilder results that make the game more entertaining for everyone.

I've often thought that a website based on this game could be excellent. The only concerns I have with such a proposal would be internet fuckwads and the amount of time it might take for people to make new images. Fortunately, a group of wanna-be game designers called inTime Games has no such fears and created EatPoopUCat, an online version of the game. Images can be added to the phrases either by upload or creating them in the web-based paint program and finished series are rated so that it's easy to find the best ones. Totally worth checking out just for some of the lulz.

Eat Poop, You Cat! is one of the ultimate party games. The non-existent learning curve, high humor potential and low investment level (both in time and effort) makes it ideal for casual gatherings of any kind. You can play it for twenty minutes or twenty hours and it continues to feel fresh and interesting. It can even make a pleasant diversion when participating in other, more focused activities. Try throwing around a few of these at your next LAN or cocktail party and you'll be surprised at what you wind up with.

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