This is a game predicated on a well-known series of psychology experiments. In 1935, American psychologist John Ridley Stroop published his account of experiments involving colour words printed in colours that differed from those spelled out in the word. So, for example, the word purple was written in red. In one experiment, test subjects were asked to say the word written regardless of the colour of the ink. In another, they were asked to say the colour of the print, ignoring the colour word on the card.
Though Stroop has always been identified with these experiments, and his name has been given to this game, the experiments in fact pre-date his paper. Similar work had been published in Germany in the 1920s and even that built on work carried out in the 19th Century.
But Dr. Stroop’s name brings us back to the game, published by Grand Gamers Guild. Players are racing to rid themselves of their cards. In the first round, if a card is played with the word ‘red’ on it, then players can play any card printed in red. They must say the word on the card they are playing. That word then becomes the descriptor to be matched. It could be a colour but it might be ‘big’ (representing upper case letters), ‘little’ (lower case), ‘solid’ or ‘hollow’ (describing the font), or a number (representing the number of letters in the word). The game is intended to be played fast and furious – like Snap but with the added dimension that players’ brains are having to filter conflicting information.
Just when you think you have got your brain around the dissonances on the cards, Stroop shakes things up again for the second round. Now, the card played has to be one that describes the target card. If the card displays ‘red’ in solid blue lower case letters, then any of ‘blue’, ‘solid’, ‘three’ or ‘little’ would be playable.
The game comes with ‘advanced’ cards that add in ‘forward’ and ‘drawkcab’ versions of the words – just in the extremely unlikely event that you were finding play too easy.
Aside from the cognitive conflict in players’ brains, play in Stroop does present some practical difficulties. Players start with individual draw piles of 15 cards each but these quickly become the player’s hand. Given that the words are printed across the centre of each card, it’s impossible to hold more than four or five cards in a fan: with more, you can’t easily see any of the words. This does rather handicap the game.
If you’ve ever played the German’s children’s game Geistesblitz, you’ll know how disconcerting it can be to process conflicting information at speed. You may also appreciate how pleasing it is when you get it right. Stroop is a very similar game, so you will almost certainly find it either exhilarating or exasperating. This is what is known in Britain as a Marmite game: like the intensely flavoured yeast extract, you’ll either love it or hate it. Stroop isn’t a game where there’s a middle ground. I wonder what the psychologists would say?