Is It A Watermelon? – Doodle Or Die Review

Remember that game of Telephone you used to play as a kid? A message (A Pizza Man) is quietly whispered into the ear of another, along a line of people until the last man goes up to say what he’s heard (Liza Minelli). Everyone giggles and snorts at everyone else’s dire need for hearing aids, and then the world goes for pizza.

Doodle or Die is the same thing, but with drawing. It’s like chain pictionary, but hell of a lot more addictive.

This artist’s crackden was created as an innocent entry to a node.js knockout (a web-applet competition). It took just 8 hours to finish, thanks to the magic abilities of Dylan Greene,  Aaron Silverman, Dan Noble and Garrett Miller. The site clinched the Utility/Fun award category, but people don’t realise what it really means until they enter the Doodle or Die homepage and realise that hours have been mysteriously lost. I mean, I borrowed my brother’s Wacom Intuos 4. I was that into it.

There are 2 main things you’re asked to do in this game. The first is to draw something based on the description another user has provided. You have a basic palette of colors and different brush weights to give you just enough creative detail to draw what you think is appropriate. Once you’ve submitted your masterpiece, you are asked to do the second task, which is to caption someone else’s picture as best as you can.

While it’s only just alternating between drawing and describing, Doodle or Die lets you see the entire history of the message chain, traced all the way to its origin, and where your art stands in the midst of stringy roundbrush chaos. And it’s AMAZING. You get to see how easily information gets skewed and misinterpreted, forever lost in translation because some guy thought your drawing of a person sleeping in a bed was really a dog doing splits.

What? I followed the description.

The most common denominators of digression are watermelons, rainbows, and snakes. Of course you’ll get a couple of trolls who refuse to draw at all or only draw the occasional cock and balls, but most of the time, you’ll get to guffaw at how everything develops as its passed along to other players to make sense of.

That’s the magic drug of Doodle or Die – you’re always curious about others’ perceptions. What do they see in my drawing? Did I do it accurately? Am I really looking at a Mexican Pirate? Shall I start derailing here?

If you’ve drawn and captioned enough, you’ll eventually be asked to start a thread, but you may have to wait a little before your picture or caption gathers responses. Don’t worry, it won’t take long. Over 20 000 visitors are on it at a time now, so there’s not going to be any shortage of pictures, descriptions or chains to spend your time on.

The only thing that would make this better would be if they had a registered user database. Scrolling through old chains the length of the equator can be tiresome. And after creating so many threads and pictures, it’s always nice to be able to archive and revisit old works of art in an organized way. Guess I’ll just have to settle with the print screen button and deal with it for the time being.

Just to feed my terrible obsession with this, I started to post daily scribbling on my FB page, screencapping mayhem and mishap from Doodle or Die, which you can try it out here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the addiction.

Edit, Oct 3

Good news! The creators have been taking notes and now you can revisit chain histories like you would your embarrassing-but-fun yearbook just shortly after becoming a senior citizen.

Pity that this wasn’t up earlier when the trolls started to flood the servers, but hopefully with some time, they’ll clear out and terrorize another place and we can get on to having silly mis-translation fun again.

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