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A More Politically-Correct Version of Hangman?

Thursday, March 8th 2018

I’ve enjoyed being a mentor to new web developers over the past few years. One of the many ways I’ve done this is through running workshops on introductory JavaScript concepts here in Portland.

Right now I'm working on some curriculum where we build very simple games. The goal of one particular lesson I’m working on teaches students how to use arrays through word games—specifically hangman. It’s a lot of fun to make and based on an example I made for a different class a couple years ago.

One thing that’s giving me pause is my concern that the name has a lot of politically-incorrect connotations. They may not be entirely founded, but I understand the perception. For that reason I did a little Googling to see if there were any politically-correct takes on hangman.

Here’s what I found:

  • Snowman: This is kind of a hangman in reverse, where the snowman starts fully assembled and each incorrect guess causes a part of the snowman to fall off. I thought this was pretty clever and cute.

  • Spaceman: Pieces of a spaceship are assembled. When the spaceship is fully formed it “beams” the alien aboard the ship and flies away! This one made me laugh, though if I took this approach I might want to interpret it as the spaceship abducting the stickman. Maybe I’d replace the stickman with Richard Dreyfuss.

  • Probation Offer: Instead of drawing gallows and a hanging stick man you draw a surprisingly friendly looking probation officer sitting in a chair. I laughed.

  • Apple Tree: Draw a tree with ten apples in it. For each incorrect guess you erase one of them. I respect the innocence, but feel like there could be more stakes involved.

  • Parachute Man: Draw a stick person with a parachute. For each incorrect guess, erase one of the strings to the parachute. Drawing water with sharks underneath the parachute person is not required, but something I would probably do.

Here are some of my own:

  • Ants at a Picnic: Draw a picnic spread. For each incorrect guess, add an ant. When there are too many ants, the picnic is ruined and the game is over.

  • Times Up: All of the numbers and front-facing features of a clock are drawn. When the clock is complete… times up! If you want to offer a lot of guesses maybe you can draw an hourglass and keep adding dots of sand at the bottom.

  • Just Desserts: Draw an ice cream dish and start building a sundae. First draw a bowl, add three scoops of ice cream, a cherry, chocolate sauce, maybe a couple bananas and then finally a spoon.

Have your own suggestions?