Something Different: What Am I Thinking?

I’m in a bit of a lull right now…most of the games I really want to talk about on this blog haven’t had rule sets released yet.  So here’s another game to try out when you don’t have access to your collection.

I listen to a lot of podcasts.  I started doing this when I had to commute an hour each way to school a couple of years ago.  As time went on, I got caught up on all the back episodes of the gaming podcasts and had to start searching for non-gaming podcasts to listen to.  I finished grad school last May and don’t have nearly as long a commute to work anymore, but I still listen primarily to podcasts.  I find it to be much better than the radio, and since I’m around music all day, I don’t necessarily want to listen to it in my spare time.

One of the podcasts I’ve been listening to recently is Comedy Death Ray Radio.  The host is Scott Aukerman, and he frequently pulls out a couple of games to play with his guests.  One of them is Would You Rather, where you have to decide which of two typically undesirable options you would choose.  The other game is What Am I Thinking, where you have to simultaneously say the same word as the other person.

Here’s how it works.  Two people independently think of a word.  As soon as they are both ready, they count down then say their word.  They then must think of something that is halfway between the two words.  When they are ready, they count down again and say their new word.  If it doesn’t match, they think of something halfway between the new words.  The procedure continues until they eventually say the same word.

Here’s an example.  I look outside where it’s snowing and think of “snow”.  You, meanwhile, are really hungry and so you think of “lunch”.  We say our words simultaneously, and now must think of a compromise between snow and lunch.  We count down, and say our words – I say “ice cream” and you say “milk”.  We didn’t match, so we both think of new words and say them simultaneously – I say “cheese” and you say “chocolate”.  Again, we think of new words – I say “cake” and you say “cake”.  We win!

I’ve tried this a couple of times, and it’s fun (if slightly stressful).  I want to institute a scoring system for the game so it can be used as a party game.  It would be nice to have a bunch of cards with words on them because it’s sometimes hard to think of a starter word.  You start with ten points.  If your first guess doesn’t match, you lose a point.  That’s your first guess, not your starter word.  If your starter word matches, you get five bonus points.  You lose one point for each word you don’t match.  Our example above would score eight points (two missed guesses).  If either of you ever fails to say a word with the other person, or if you repeat an already used word, you lose a point and have to start over with new starter words.  If you get to zero, your round is over.

In order for this scoring system to work, everyone playing has to have the same number of turns.  You can set that at the beginning.  You also must use a different partner each time.  Whoever has the most points at the end wins.

It’s kind of a silly game, but I enjoy it.  You can play without points, that just adds some competition.  As with any party game, it’s probably better as an activity than a competitive experience.  If you give it a try, let me know how it goes.  Thanks!



  1. What if, when you play this, your answers actually diverge?

    S and I just tried it — we started with sock and camera, then knitting and my socks, then wool and brown, then sheep and stripes, then zebra and cotton ball (?), then cloud and seersucker suit, then Rolling Stones and Kinks (??), then Doors and Beatles, then The Who and Bob Dylan, then curly and Woodstock, then Jimi Hendrix and pubic hair (?!?), then Are You Experienced and Foxey Lady, then bong and Crosstown Traffic.

    We had a few moments where we came tantalizingly close, but we couldn’t quite get it together. I wonder what the record is for *not* coming up with the same word?

    Does this bode ill for our marriage?

    Seriously, though, it’s a fun game — we’ll have to give it a go at game night. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    P.S. Any way to make it so more than one pairing could play at once? I’m just thinking with seven or eight people there would be a lot of down time. Fun down time, but down time just the same….

  2. You know, you really ought to make this into a game — especially if you can get the down time ironed out.

    But I’d change the name to What Were They Thinking???

    And I think I’d use poker chips for points. Give 10 chips to each of the two players, and each time they don’t get together they have to put a chip in the pot.

    Before the round gets started, but after the two starting words are announced, all the non-guessing players put one of their chips on a track numbered 1 through 10. Sharing spaces is allowed. If the two who are guessing get it on the third try, then any non-guesser who put a chip on the 3 space gets all the chips put on the track and all the chips donated to the pot by the two guessing players. If two non-guessers had chips on the 3 space, they’d split the winnings, etc.

    So if eight are playing, 6 will put chips on the track. Say two put chips on the 5 space, and this is the number of turns it takes for the two who are guessing to get together (they failed to connect the first four times). The two who were guessing have put 4 chips each into the pot. The winnings for the two bettors on the 5 space would therefore be 4 x 2 = 8 plus 6 chips on the track = 14 split two ways = 7 minus the one chip they each contributed = 6 chips. The guessers each get 10 – 4 = 6. The other four non-guessers each lose 1.

    Does the math work? 20 chips came in to the game, 6 x 4 = 24 chips were won, 4 were lost. It checks.

    Might want to ramp up the scoring in later rounds, so players who are behind still have a shot at it, but I think there’s a very good game in the works, here.

    A couple interesting things, here: 1) everyone has a stake in how well the two guessers do. 2) they can’t really control how well they do, so they can’t throw it deliberately (unless they choose to guess badly, which likely won’t be in their best interest). And 3) higher numbers pay out more for the non-guessers, so there’s a built-in tendency for them to want to go high.

    If no one puts a chip on the right space, then either the pot rolls over (my preference) or it goes away (less tense, but also less random).

    Want to continue this conversation via geekmail? My username is ddgdrs…. 🙂

    • Hey, thanks for the comments! The betting aspect is a pretty good idea…keeps other players invested. I would be worried that the guessers might just give up after enough guesses go by. After all, earning one point would NOT be a good trade-off for giving someone else 20. It’s a good thought, though…I’ll think about it and get back to you. Really, I was just thinking of something for people to do in a restaurant or in the car or while waiting in line. Points are really secondary to the guessing.

      Again, I appreciate the comments…it’s encouraging to me to hear that someone else likes an idea.

      PS: I have gotten it correct on the first guess before, but I’ve also had to go well past 10 (beyond the point where I was even counting).
      PPS: I did think about getting several people going at once. In that version, maybe the first two people to match could get the points. It might be tough to judge that…chaos would DEFINITELY reign.

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