Have you been to a work lunch and found everybody staring at smartphones? Easter Sunday dinner and even Grandma is staring into the iPad the kids gave her for Christmas? Everywhere you go: People looking at their smartphones. One nation under its own thumb!

But wait! Putting on my Jungian symbology-meets-reverse-psychology hat, would it be, you know, counterintuitive to coerce friends, family, colleagues and the lodger into practicing an activity that actually encourages your friends to stare at their glowing screens? Now that we have Game of Phones, a card game where you race your opposition to find the strangest, most obscure things on the Internet, you might just have found a way to turn the zombified-era masses onto something other than staring at a screen and complaining about sore thumbs.

Game of Phones on Kickstarter

Yet another Kickstarter project, due for release just before Christmas unless you order in advance now, it’s a deck of cards with various smartphone prompts written on different card faces. It’s a very simple game to play: One chosen person draws an instructional card and reads a command, like “Locate the worst hockey game” or  “Show your yuppiest app.”  Players have to work diligently and demonstrate their obscure Internet knowledge before presenting their results to the assigned card-drawer. Power mad, or mellow, dependent upon the personality of the card-smith, they decide in Solomon-like fashion just whose entry is the best and award that person the card. The player who has the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.

The game’s founders, Brooklyn-based Luke Stern and Sam Wander, have taken the concept they sketched out in Apples too Apple, a very interesting game dependent upon on your ability to create entertaining combinations and gauge the judging card holder’s likes and dislikes to another level by incorporating your deft set of eccentric show-off skills to find ridiculous things on the Internet and manipulate social media channels.

Game of Phones on Kickstarter

Their follow-up game, Cards Against Humanity improved upon that model and definitely ratcheted up the fun quotient by catering to pop culture fanatics with dark senses of humor.

Thus Game of Phones is the latest in what is turning into a plethora of activities that stretch the old gray matter beyond mere clichéd bagatelles. According to Yahoo Tech, Mr. Wander feels the same dread as the rest of us mere mortals. This new game, he hopes, will be one more means of removing the worry that any old Tom, Dick, Harry or Maria might be lost in their phone altogether. “We’d be at parties or eating at a restaurant and everyone is looking at their phones even though they’re with their friend. We were interested in the ways that maybe we could take something from what was happening there and make phones more part of how you’re interacting with your friends.”

Game of Phones on Kickstarter

The game definitely encourages players to push the limits. For instance, there’s a card that asks the group to find the most NSFW (Not safe for work!) photo they can locate out there.  Obviously then, it’s okay if people drink alcoholic beverages while they play.  And, of course, Wander and Stern themselves always try out their Pad prototype of the game among a group of strangers in a carefully selected and classified Brooklyn bar!

Naturally, there are negatives vis-a-vis engaging in a game that relies on electronic devices. And, of course it’s e a lonely ride for any of the tragic geek-mavericks who suffer the ignominy of being the only BlackBerry owner in a room full of iPhones.

There are, for instance, inherent technical inequalities built into the game, when you consider that faster phones, with longer battery life and better carriers, will ultimately triumph in a game of speed. But Stern said they’ve solved that issue by turning disadvantages into extra points; like, there’s a card that’s awarded to the person with the lowest battery percentage. Beats the shit out of the trickle-down theory!

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