Cheating rampant on OMGPOP’s Draw Something -- what to do?

If you’re one of the millions of new players of the addictive online Pictionary-like game Draw Something (which earned its maker, OMGPOP, a $180-million payday from buyer Zynga), you know there’s one thing that Draw Something players can’t seem to erase: cheating.

For those who haven’t played, the game mechanics are simple. You, the artist, are given a palette of colors and a word to draw out with your finger. The object is to get your opponent to guess it correctly. If she does, you both get play money that can be used to buy in-game stuff like new paint colors and brush shapes.

If you’re not careful, it can be hours of fun. But those hours are often interrupted by anonymous Internet players who, having abandoned efforts to actually draw the word, opt to simply scrawl out the answer with the paintbrush. “DRIVERS SEAT” or “FIREWALL” or “MONA LISA.” You as the guesser can still submit the ill-gotten correct answer if you want -- but that would be like dealing yourself a royal flush in a card game at a child’s birthday party -- do you really feel like a winner?

Certainly there are worse problems in the world than cheating on Draw Something -- but for a game that may be the fastest growing original mobile game ever with 50 million downloads in 50 days, we thought it was worth asking what the game’s makers think of the issue.


Dan Porter, the chief executive of OMGPOP, said that as the game has evolved from a PC-only title (“Draw My Thing”), cheating has become less of a problem. For one thing, unlike the Web version, which matched Internet players against each other, the mobile version is designed to be played with people you know, Porter wrote in an email. “When you play with your friends there is less reason to write out a word because it defeats the purpose of playing -- friendship is not about making things less fun for your friends.”

But some players may find that none of their friends is online and ready to play -- and the only choice left is to play against strangers. Porter acknowledged that was where it gets murky.  

“Most of the writing out comes in random matches, with people you don’t know,” he wrote, adding that the vast majority of matches are between friends.

There’s no real way to flag a player for cheating, or to ban or block them -- or even to message them to ask them to stop. (Enterprising players, this writer included, have tried to use the actual game interface to paint out a plea to opponents to please stop cheating. Sometimes it works,  most times not).


“When people write out words, the other player usually doesn’t answer and deletes the [match],” Porter wrote. “We log this behavior which helps us figure out which players are best to match. So people who write out words a lot over time get less matches.”

But with 50 million players and counting ferreting out all the anonymous cheaters may take a while. Hope you have a lot of friends!


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