But is it a game?


Recently an inventor/self manufacturer contacted me asking if I would review her game.  She sent me an email with a brief description of the item and after much agonizing contemplation I agreed to take a look at the product.  Why the hesitation?  I don’t think her product can be called a “game.” (And as you all know, here at The Game Aisle I review games.)

A sample of Inspiralus arrived and I played with it for a little while but I still was not convinced it could be called a game.  It’s a thoughtful, adult fortune telling product that uses a hatbox filled with phrases called “spiri” to help the user answer a question.  Sound familiar?  It’s like a complex, adult version of Mattel’s Magic 8-Ball.  But wow — the Magic-8 Ball has been a game aisle staple for over sixty years.  So then is it a game?

I’ve always believed that the core feature of a game is that it has winners and losers.  Sometimes there is one winner and lots of losers, sometimes there are lots of winners and one loser, sometimes there are big winners and little winners like in poker but to be a game I’ve always believed that you need to have someone come out on top.  Now I wonder if my definition of “game” needs to be broadened.

Back in my Meyer/Glass Design years I worked with a brilliant and successful inventor named Randy Klimpert who told me that a game is simply a “toy with rules.”  So following that mentality, Inspiralus – and the Magic 8-Ball – are both games.

I think I’ll toss it out to the group here.  What do you think?  What makes a product a game versus a toy?

Inspiralus Stats:
$39.95 at Inspiralus.com
1+ Player(s)
~2-5 Minutes (per question)
Ages 9 and up

Magic 8-Ball Stats:
~$6 at pretty much anywhere that sells toys/games
1+ Player(s)
~1 Minute (depends on how long you shake it)
Age: Anyone who can read


Add yours
  1. PMG

    Quite a quandary. Immediately I was reminded of the grammar school fortune telling game everyone would play with their friends made of folded paper. The way to your fortune was typically colors or numbers or some other creative names to lead you to wealth and fame or unpleasant demise. The reason I referred to this paper throwback as a game is that you were a winner or loser depending on the fortune you selected. There really was no strategy or game play – but there were winners and losers. Granted, the novelty of this game would last about half as long as the paper did. Magic 8-Ball has the same limited game play to it, but it’s still nice to view the comforting the blue haze as long as you haven’s shaken the snot out of it.

  2. Tracy

    Ok, I see the conundrum here, so I consulted the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. The first listing under game is simply ” activity engaged in for diversion or amusement “. It is the third listing that mentions competition. Therefore, my vote is for yes the magic eight ball is a game.

  3. Christina

    I own Inspiralus and have played it many times. Personally, I tend to think of it more as a spiritual tool and most often use it alone and to ask serious questions; however, I have also played it during get-togethers with friends, and in those situations it seems more like a game. Even though the objective is not to win or lose (and so in that sense it is different from a traditional game), when you play it in a group, everyone usually gets involved with the “interpretation” process and tries to figure out the message as it unfolds. Sometimes, it is immediately clear what the game is saying; other times, you have to think a little more.

    So while it is not a competitive game with winners and losers, when you play it in a group, the messages do pique everyone’s curiosity and some get a little competitive during the “interpretation” process. It’s actually a great game to play in a group because it gets everyone laughing!

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