Spyfall

Website review by
Erin Brereton, Common Sense Media
Spyfall Website Poster Image
Online board game is simple without video chat for play.

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Educational Value

Kids can learn about utilizing logic, deduction, and strategy when playing the game. The game structure also offers opportunities for kids to practice communicating as they phrase and answer questions, which touches on vocabulary use and sentence structure. Kids get a chance to strengthen their time management skills by trying to figure out the location or spy's identity before the time on the clock runs out. In general, they don't get much direct feedback or guidance from the site, but they'll be able to flex and hone a few critical thinking skills when playing the game.

Positive Messages

The game encourages kids to be inquisitive, trust their instincts, and make decisions.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spyfall is the online version of the board game of the same name. Kids will have to be in the same room or use videoconferencing services to play, since some of the interaction that's required, such as asking other players questions, can't happen on the game's site. Spyfall is free to play, and kids won't see a ton of ads or feel pressured to buy anything. They don't need to register or enter any personal information. Players need a code from the game organizer to be able to join a game, so kids shouldn't come into contact with any strangers.Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content to be found.

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What's it about?

Kids try to determine which player is a Russian spy in the online version of the SPYFALL board game. The person who receives a spy card instead tries to figure out what location the round is set in. Four to ten players ask each other questions in person or via videoconference about the location. The game ends when the spy tries to guess it, someone suggests the spy's identity, all players agree, and find they're right or wrong, or time runs out. Kids can play one six- to ten-minute round or unlimited rounds and award points for correct guesses.

Is it any good?

This online version of the popular board game provides the barest bones of the experience, but players need to rely on other tools to enjoy these rounds of deduction. In Spyfall, someone receives a card designating them as the spy. That person's goal is to figure out what location the round is set in. The other players all see a card that lists the location, and they try to determine which player is the spy. Any player could be -- so, even though all players except one can see game locations, the main action involves players asking each other questions about the venue's characteristics. One player may ask another, for example, "Is this place generally relaxing or thrilling?" Presumably, the spy's questions might indicate the person doesn't know what the location is.

Generally, the sparse site serves more as a tool to help play the game than an actual board to play it on. The game organizer can set a time limit for each round, which is displayed by an on-screen clock, and kids can mark off locations people have guessed on the game page. Players all need to click a button to indicate they're ready to start a round, and potential questions they can ask about the location appear every minute or so on a sticky note on the bottom of the screen. This can be helpful if kids run out of ideas. But the players are responsible for managing many of the aspects of the game -- including asking and answering questions, which all needs to be done offsite, either in person or through a video chat hosted by a separate provider. There's no way to share questions or responses with other players. The game interface also doesn't indicate whose turn it is, so kids will have to oversee who asks the next question. Points, too, need to be tallied by hand if they're keeping score. That can be challenging to shuffle back and forth between video chat and Spyfall windows just to play the game. It doesn't provide all of the elements you need to play, but if you're looking to start up a game with friends you haven't seen for a while, Spyfall could be a decent way to reconnect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about effectively asking questions in Spyfall. How can you phrase a question that will prompt someone to give you a helpful answer? 

  • In real life, how can you make an educated guess about something when you don't have much information?

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  • How does patience come into play -- and what benefits can that approach offer both in Spyfall and in life?

Website details

  • Subjects: Language & Reading: following directions, reading
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, asking questions, decision-making, deduction, investigation, logic, making conclusions, solving puzzles, strategy, thinking critically
    Communication: asking questions, conveying messages effectively
  • Genre: Gaming
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Last updated: August 25, 2020

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