Huddle-Ware Turns iPads into Shared Games

The tablet is coming out of solitary confinement. Contrary to popular notions of one tablet per person, tablets are becoming a shared  group experience – lead by iPads.  Some are calling the phenomena “huddleware” since multiple people huddle around to play a game on the same tablet. Some believe that these games will replace board games as the life of the party, but I’m not so sure.

I’ve tested out a few of these retro-high tech games. They’re intriguing, but still rough…and would benefit from a dose of clever content.


GameChanger from Identity Games is one of the more unique offerings. It’s a physical board game with a built-in iPad dock – the iPad acts like the game’s spinner and diseminator of instructions. The game has interchangeable boards so that you get many game play variations for the price of one. Created in the Netherlands, and designed for kids, GameChanger ($80) comes with two different sets of boards in the pack: The Magic School Bus and Animal Mania.  Four colored cubes that interact with the gameboard and iPad serve as the playing pieces. Spin the spinner by swiping the iPad. Move your pieces and then follow the instructions on your iPad.

The scoop: the board play is a surprisingly clumsy. The iPad kept telling me that I hadn’t moved my piece the correct number of spaces. There’s a “Chutes and Ladders” type feel to the games, but I had trouble determining where the chute was taking me. And before you play, you need to download the free GameChanger App – a a sizable app.

As the company brings out new games and perfects the sensing mechanism of the pieces, the play will improve. Meanwhile, it’s a darned original idea.

Phone Frenzy is a board game that combines the old lifeline from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with the mobile phone. Play requires a phone and a few friends who are willing to get random calls from you asking you to do all sort of mobile phone-based antics. To get started, you choose a card from a deck that asks you to call a friend to the rescue. Friends “on call” might be asked to help you out by singing a song, snapping a photo, or answering silly questions. A team challenge might ask you to finish a song lyric. Showdown questions might ask you each to call a contact and ask them to weigh in on an answer. The game costs $22; the phone bills are your own. And your friends…well, they better like being part of the game, even when they’re not. If not, it’s a quick way to lose them – perhaps another idea for another day. Check out their YouTube demo.

Another shared game, GameTable App, lets you turn your iPad into a very realistic looking board for a good game of Checkers, Go, Chess, or Reversi. A game costs only 99 cents, and you’ll never lose the pieces again.

Toca Tea Party is a clever app from Finland combining some adult-friendly jazz music with a tea party that your kids can set up on the iPad screen. Set places, pour tea, serve cake – this app is best shared with other playmates, and redefines “playing pretend”. It costs $2.99.

For years, using tech meant it was you and the machine – others were not invited to the party. These new group experiences – huddleware- may keep us all a bit warmer this winter.


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