Start Now!

Start Now – Project Dossier

The game I created was based around the opportunistic idea to create an experience that blends a negative short-term outcome with a positive long-term outcome. I wanted it to be able to be played in accordance with the current government guidelines where players still get the social experience of being able to communicate during a live play through.

My inspiration behind the game comes from my own personal appreciation for games that have multiple levels of social interaction; including looking at an individuals’ body language and being able to monitor the group around them, such as the drinking game ‘Buffalo’, where players are to punish those for performing the incorrect action to the group. This could be translated as a game that tries to establish a group mentality based around conforming. As well as also feeding my own intrigue to see if people will make decisions based on their relationships to one another, and from my martial arts instructor who uses small amounts of push ups to attempt to change a persons’ behaviour – similar to how rewarding a dog with a treat for following the instruction given to them.

One of the pieces of feedback I received was that the games theme was unclear and lacked substance however as “interesting things to interrogate, like you see games as being enablers of conversation, and engage through laughter”. Which upon looking into that feedback I believe that the game I’ve provided acts as a conduit for socialising as there is no literal end to the game. It can theoretically keep going until the players reach the decision of “our arms are fatigued now so we can stop playing.”.

Game Mechanics

The game itself can be run in person or over a group video call and played in a circular setting. In person, players sit in a circle whereas over a group video call service such as ‘Zoom’ players mimic the circle by labelling the spaces to the left and the right of their head with the names of the players they would be sitting next to if they were sitting in an actual circle. It also requires players to concentrate on what actions are made by other players.

  • Players sit in a circle or if playing via a group web call mimic that they are sitting in a circle.
  • The aim is to not lose.
  • The game is started by a proactive player pointing to the person to the left or to the right of them while saying “one”.

Text Box: Fig 1: Players indicate with a single hand point to the player to the left or the right signalling which way the count progresses. This is for numbers 1-4, 6-9, 11-14, & 16-20.

Also displaying the way players mimic sitting in a circle via a video call.

  • The player that is pointed to must quickly follow up by either pointing to the person on their left or right and saying the next consecutive number “two”.
  • Text Box: Fig 2: Players indicate with a double directional hand point where the top hand represents the direction the count progresses. This is used on numbers 5 & 15.This continues on until the count reaches 5 then the way a player points to another player to pass on the count is changed to a “double directional point”. The top hand is the hand we consider as the active hand in terms of knowing which way the count was passed.
  • After the count of Five, we resume the normal “single directional point” where a player can only point to either the player on the left or to the player on the right.
  • As the count reaches Ten the “double directional point” becomes the way to pass the count on however the bottom hand is the hand that we look at to determine the direction that the count is passed onwards to.
  • After 10 the count resumes to the normal “single directional point” and then as the count approaches 15, we switch back to the “double directional point” assuming that the top hand direction is the flow of the count. This also happens when we reach 20, we use the “double directional point” assuming that the bottom hand direction is the flow of the count.
  • “Start Now”… This is how the count is finished after 20 and is shown by a player displaying a face down palm directed at the intended player they wish to affect. The player who successfully followed the correct direction of flow has the ability to say “Start now” and force another player to lose that round.

Text Box: Fig 4: Players indicate with a downwards palm gesture directed at the player they wish to affect. This is only done directly after a correct read of the count after 20.

  • The Player who successfully said start now and indicated a loser gets to decide a social behaviour that must be followed until another successful flow of the count happens. For example, players must wink their eye as they point to another player or are not allowed to lean back into their seat while the game is on.

The Rules / Punishments

The rules for ‘Start Now’ are fairly simplistic and as such all punishments are based on being able to provide an immediate correct/appropriate response to the group other.

  1. Players must consecutively count from 1 to 20 while using the multiple hand gestures to the player on their left or their right to indicate who has to count next.
  • Upon reaching what would be 21, players will instead say “Start now.” Directed at the player they wish to affect and be the loser of that round.
  • The player who correctly exclaims “Start now.” decides the loser of that round and will get to decide a behavioural rule until the next event where “Start now.” is allowed exclaimed.
  • If a player breaks the active behavioural rule decided earlier in the game, then they are given a punishment of 5 push ups.
  • The losing player starts the count off for the following round.
  • Players have no more than 2 seconds to correctly pass on the count to the next player.
  • Rule of Incompetence – If a player;         
  1. Takes longer than 2 seconds to pass on the count correctly.
    1. Misreads the count and counts out of turn.
    1. Does not display their hand gestures clearly enough to be translated by the following player.
    1. Says the wrong number/phrase.

then the offender automatically becomes the loser of that round and must start the count for the following round. In other words, learn the rules fast or else you lose.

  • If the round ends be ‘Rule of Incompetence’ then the loser of that round is given a penalty of 5 push ups to be completed at the end of each round before they can begin the count of the next round.
  • If the round ends because a player was affected by the correct use of “Start now.”, then the losing player is issues with 21 push ups to be completed at the end of each round before they can begin the count of the next round.
  1. Rule of Stan Lee – If a player makes one of the four mistakes labelled in the Rule of Incompetence while attempting to say “Start now.”, then they are the loser of that round.
  1. Player must only say “Start now.” and indicate the player they wish to affect by the direction of their hand and eyes. If they are playing on a video call service, then saying the desired losing players’ name after “Start now” will be required.
  1. Every player is allowed to exclaim that themselves or another player made a mistake in the count however this must be done within 5 seconds of the offence and must be considered accurate by remaining peers who choose to have a say in the matter.
  1. If no player notices a miscount or doesn’t publicly acknowledges an offence to any of the aforementioned rules, then a simple “play on” is acceptable, however if the play on happens and then a player states that they shouldn’t have lost later in that same round because a mistake was made earlier that no one acknowledged then that player is given double the punishment for refusing to acknowledge something they noticed earlier.

The games rules can be altered to suit the need of the group. For example, push ups can be substituted in for squats, sit ups, or any other form of physical exercise that won’t take too long to complete and detriment the fast-paced nature of the game. For a group wishing to make it more challenging they can use a different languages’ counting system.


In introducing this game to others, the main hardship was attempting to explain the rules to a group of people. Instead I decided it would be better to sit down with two of my friends and explained it in detail over the course of a few minutes and after about 5 minutes we were fully versed in the rules of the game. Then instead of trying to explain it to a larger group, we asked the larger group to watch us play the game for 3 rounds. Showing a successful run through of the game, an almost successful run through of the game (where the player fails the ‘Rule of Stan Lee’, & where the game ends due to ‘Rule of incompetence’. For the first 5 minutes we kept the pace slowed giving players a larger time to figure out the system and to understand that they aren’t just ‘Waiting for their turn’, they are actively following along with the other players actions as well.

I played this game as well with some of my friends and two younger children (approx. age 8 and 10 yrs old) that managed to learn the game within the space of a train ride from Cronulla to Sutherland. We also managed to make it more interesting by changing the count system to Native Korean counting known as “Hangul Counting”. I also noticed that if the player count is lower than 3 or exceeds 8 people then the fast-paced flow of the game is non-existent. Resulting in less engagement from the players.

Fig 5: A count being passed onto myself by the younger sibling.

Fig 6: A clear mispoint being passed on but a “play on” due to no one having noticed it then.


Potential for future development, it could be turned into an application that has a timer that can be set to go along with which ever time frame the players decided on was appropriate for the group. If it was set to a 3 second time frame then it would play a buzz sound after 3 seconds if it had not heard a count or it would play the same buzz if a player mispronounced the count.

I believe that the strength in this game comes from its malleable rules to suit the situation and has its fast-paced nature. This would make it suitable for teenage and younger adult-based demographics. The lack of material needs also creates easier game play for those committed to following government placed restrictions on socialising. This isn’t necessarily a game that could be sold however at least not in its current state being that there are no pieces except for players using the game via a group video call needing to write the names of players and place them on their left or their right side of the head on the wall behind them.

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