The Greatest Game in the World

The Greatest Game in the World, also known as "Greatest Game" or "Telepictionary," is a party game similar to Telephone Oracle both in that it involves papers being passed around and in that it is enjoyable regardless of intoxication level, talent level, or... well, basically anything besides sense of humor, which is a must. It is derived from the French surrealist random generator game "exquisite corpse", and occasionally goes by that name.


  • At least six people (twenty is about the max; fewer than six, or more than twenty, creates issues)
  • A piece of paper for every player
  • A writing implement for each player (different colors optional but fun)
  • Adequate flat surfaces


Players sit in a circle, each with a piece of paper and a writing implement. To begin, each player writes a sentence on the top of their paper, then passes it in an agreed-upon direction. Then, upon receiving a sentence, each player will attempt to draw a picture that depicts the actions of the sentence. After drawing this picture, they will fold over the paper so only the picture is visible, then pass the paper again. Upon receiving a picture, each player will then write a sentence to describe the picture. This continues, sentence-picture-sentence-picture-sentence, until the paper is full (or nearly full). Each paper must end with a sentence.

After all the papers have been finished, players find their own papers, and then in a circle read their initial sentence and what it turned into along the way. Sharing of the pictures attached is also highly encouraged, since often they will be hilarious (and the sentences inexplicable without visual aids).

Tips, Tricks, and Strategies

Artistic talent is unnecessary, but don't tell Sean Hayes '08.

  • Don't worry about your level of artistic talent. If everyone could draw like Sean Hayes, artist of the above, there wouldn't be much movement in a game. Usually a mix of players of different drawing skills produces the best games, with a higher level of artistic incompetence producing more hilarity.
  • Starting with a sentence that has several blatantly undrawable concepts ("the thermal coefficient of expansion," "zero-sum game," statements related to time, etc.) tends to yield funnier results. Other starting-sentence types that work well are song lyrics, quotations, and ending sentences from previous games.
  • One sneaky strategy common in groups of mixed sensibilities is conscious censoring of "inappropriate" content. (Conversely, some people will consciously inappropriatize formerly clean content.) Also seen in Telephone Oracle, it is not quite fair in Greatest Game but can often lead to funny contrasts.
  • Don't use technical jargon, because people will look at you funny. (It's okay if you're passing to people within your field, though.)
  • Being upstream of Sean A. Carollo '07 may be deleterious to your mental health and general sense level.

Theory and Principles (or, Overthinking)

For those who like to think too much about their Greatest Game, several interesting principles present themselves during an average game: conservation/mutation and visual vocabulary.

  • Conservation/mutation refers to which concepts tend to remain the same throughout a game (conserved concepts) and those which tend to change wildly (mutating concepts). As might be expected, the best-conserved concepts are usually those that are easy to draw. The best-conserved concept in the author's experience was "dreidl," which managed to survive an entire game. Other examples of well-conserved concepts include "toaster" and various phrases involving camels. Mutating concepts, on the other hand, tend to involve things that are tricky to draw or obscure; time, in particular, tends to go very mutated very fast. (One memorable game established that Greatest Game players could not accurately report or draw the time on an analog clock.) Special cases in conservation include non-obvious things that are still well known within the playing group; an example was one game in which "don't threaten me with that giraffe!" remained intact for nearly half the game, as a result of the phrase being very prominent in the collective consciousness of that group.
  • Visual vocabulary denotes the code of pictures that tend to develop in a given group over many games; over time, simple representations will become coded for common objects, which increases conservation of those concepts. The most common additions to visual vocabularies seem to be individual people or groups of people, for whom a stick figure represented with a specific object usually suffices. (For example: a stick figure with glasses will often end up representing "nerd," while the "nerd" stick figure with various accessories will represent individual nerds in the group consciousness.) Visual vocabulary is usually built up over many games and represents a distinct difference between groups of Greatest Game players.

As both of these concepts suggest, the enjoyability of Greatest Game is often enhanced by playing it often with the same people. Once a visual vocabulary has accumulated, any number of strange game permutations can arise.

Where To Play

With your friends, in your common room, probably. If for some reason you don't have friends who want to play this, the Deviants are usually up for a game.