Friday, September 10, 2004 · posted at 1:32 AM
Psychoanalyze this. While I'm no fan of the icebreaker, group games can sometimes be fun (the rabble-rousing Catchphrase being the prime example). The recent game of choice? Psychiatrist.

I came in the middle of a game and watched long enough to decide that while better than Mafia, Psychiatrist is Pat Boone to Catchphrase's Elvis.

The premise of Psychiatrist is that a player (or two depending on the size of the crowd) is designated the Psychiatrist and sent out of the room as all other players discuss what object/character/pattern they are going to be as a collective. The Psychiatrist comes back to the room and begins asking all the players questions in order to figure out the pattern (e.g. objects in the room, things that rhyme with "bee," etc.). Essentially this is Twenty Questions group style except without the limit of only twenty questions and with the possibility of the game stretching endlessly.

Psychiatrist has Monopoly syndrome – fun for the first few rounds, but you'd like to see an end in sight. Although we gripe about the incessant beeping from handheld Catchphrase, having a timer ticking down not only limits each round of play, but intensifies the game and creates a sense of urgency (which leads to faster talking, more decibels, and plenty of potential for messing up and not getting "herbs" when the clues are basil, rosemary, and oregano). The loss of an apartment or NBA playoff game is that much more devastating when punctuated by the deafening sound of a buzzer.

While Psychiatrist has potential to be entertaining, the Q&A is so random and players aren't even answering truthfully – they're answering according to a theme. This means that you end up with a lot of "F*** sh**!" Tourette's like answers when you don't know what the favorite color of the third person on your right... or stuttering "Mama" because you can't think of another word that starts with "M" to satisfy the J-I-M-M-Y-J-O-N pattern.

Catchphrase acts not only as a filter for whether or not your friend knows what a dirigible is, but also as a way to sneak in inside jokes. It doesn't even matter if you know the other players or not because who doesn't laugh at clues like "it's what Hong likes to cut off his shirts" (sleeves!) or guesses like "inadequate in bed" in response to the clue "my ex-girlfriend says I'm this."

Clue: Christina's favorite group game (or, you know, game to be played over the phone)

Answer: Anyone, anyone?

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