Fun With Effective Communication & Braincog’s Game, Portrayal
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CONTACT: William Jacobson
Fun With Effective Communication & Braincog’s Game, Portrayal
MATTHEWS, North Carolina – August 15, 2007 – Braincog, Inc. recently released its newest game, Portrayal. Braincog CEO, Amanda Kohout, describes Portrayal “as the game where 1000 words are worth a picture.”
Portrayal is a social interaction, family, and party game for three or more players. It’s patented game play tests players’ ability to describe, draw, and evaluate wacky illustrations and images.
The game is one you’d expect to find in any home’s game closet. But the game has also been played during corporate training and team-building meetings. Portrayal has been used to demonstrate the importance of providing quality feedback, the impact of diversity on business communication, and the consequences of making assumptions. Playing Portrayal provides a non threatening segue to more serious discussions about issues like these that have become increasingly relevant to effective communication in our age of one-way voicemail and email messages. The game’s creators have even provided informative PowerPoint presentations for free download on their website for meeting facilitators to use to prepare for and go through during game play sessions.
In each round of Portrayal, one player (the portrayer) selects a game card with a (typically hilarious) image on it. Also on the card are a set of ten “criteria” that describe something about the image. For example, on a card titled “Eye-Scream Cone”, there is a cartoon picture of a woman screaming in horror beside a large ice-cream cone. One of the scoops of “ice cream” is actually an eyeball. Criteria number eight on the card reads, “There are at least seven sprinkles on the topmost scoop of ice cream”.
The portrayer places the card into a “concealment folder” so he or she cannot see any of the criteria on the card. An electronic timer is activated which counts down 90 seconds. The portrayer must describe the image on the card using any words he or she wishes. However, the portrayer cannot use gestures.
At the same time, the other players each have a special score sheet and pencil. As the portrayer describes the bizarre image, each of the “artists” attempts to draw the picture based solely on the description. They cannot ask questions or look at other artists’ drawings.
“The player acting as portrayer for a given round is in the spotlight,” says Kohout. “The words he or she chooses to use, the precision of his or her instructions, and what is left unsaid and thus up to the artist’s to fill in based on assumptions, is very revealing. Analogies and generalizations about how people play Portrayal and how people interact with customers and colleagues in the work environment really do get people thinking about how to communicate better.”
Once the time has expired, the artists trade drawings. This is typically where laughter ensues. “The portrayer usually has to speak fairly quickly in order to mention all the details before the time expires,” says Kohout. “Meanwhile, the artists are trying to keep up. It isn’t always possible, and so much of what the portrayer says is open to interpretation. The drawings the artists come up with are often much different than what was actually on the card.”
Now the portrayer proceeds to read off, one by one, the criteria written on the card. For each criterion, the artists must judge the drawing created by another player to decide if the criteria has been met or not. Kohout describes this part of the game as extremely interactive, “For example, players can get into hilarious debates about whether a cat drawn in a picture is actually wearing shoes or not.” Some of the criteria are also open to multiple interpretations and the judges have to decide which makes the most logical sense. During this part of the game, none of the players except the portrayer has yet seen the actual image on the card. Once all of the criteria have been read, points are awarded to the artists and the portrayer based on how many of the criteria were satisfied. Finally, everyone gets to see how their drawing compared to the actual image on the card. “The resulting art show generates a lot of laughs,” Kohout says.
“The good thing about Portrayal,” says Kohout, “is that you don’t have to be da Vinci to do well at it. In fact, artists usually do better by drawing stick figures than by getting fancy. You have to draw fairly quickly in order to keep up with the portrayer’s description. None of the criteria have anything to do with how well something is drawn.”
An informative PowerPoint presentation, titled “Playing with Communication”, is available for free download on Braincog’s website at http://braincog.com/games.html. The presentation covers the “communication loop” and one-way information flow, provides several tips for offering and receiving constructive feedback, discusses how diversity in the workplace impacts business communication, and features bullets about the balance between seeing details versus the “big picture”.
“A local medical center held a team building exercise playing Portrayal and it provided opportunities for nurses and administrative staff to talk about how providing instructions to customers who were of different backgrounds could result in misunderstanding and thus poor quality service,” explains Kohout. One department of a large financial institution used the game to generate discussion about how managers could offer feedback that had the greatest, most positive impact.
In each game of Portrayal, everyone has at least one chance to be the portrayer and several opportunities to be an artist and judge. Everyone plays during every round, so no one is ever sitting idle waiting for their turn or acting as a “timekeeper” or “scorekeeper”. At the end of the game, the player with the most total points is the winner.
Portrayal retails for $29.95 and can be purchased directly from Braincog’s website at http://www.braincog.com. It is also becoming available in game, book, and specialty gift stores.
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