Meaning Bee Game

I worked with two computer science professors and an HCI Undergraduate student to create the Meaning Bee, a game that tests players on the meaning of words rather than spelling. 


Literature Research

We began with a literature survey and researched similar games or competitions that already existed. We took a more in-depth look into the spelling bee and geography bee in particular, to get a sense of the format and flow of these kinds of competitions. Several scenarios were generated as potential formats, applications, and environments for the meaning bee game.

The format our meaning bee game will mostly be similar to that of the spelling bee and the geography bee in that participants will be asked questions and they will provide answers to the question. The main aspect that is different is the format that answers will be given; the way our meaning bee distinguishes itself from all similar existing games is that choices are not given. The participant will have to write the answer from scratch. We believe that this way, participants will learn more from the game. In addition, future work of this game can include ways of giving participants more points if they write a more explanatory definition.


As an experiment, we ran a pilot study to see people’s reactions towards the game and what kind of definitions we got. We tested our idea on a total of 11 people, in small groups of 2-3 people. 

Our goal of the experiment was to see if the game makes sense and if people can play it and enjoy it. 
This first prototype of the game took the form of a powerpoint slideshow. In the experiment, Weikun or Gina acted as the moderator and flipped through the slides according to the following procedure.

Insights from Experiment

  • Importance of setting an example: Many players gave definitions that we thought were too vague and generic, and some players gave more lengthy definitions while others opted for fragmented words or phrases. Having a set response format that all players can follow makes judging a lot easier and more fair.

  • Hard versus easy: The “easy” words (i.e, words chosen because they had a greater volume of word senses) were more compelling. Most players could not define the “hard” words that we chose.

  • Fun: Players did have fun playing the game, and further development shows promise for an engaging and competitive experience.

  • Scoring: The major problem point became how to score the players’ responses and give them that result during the game. We determined that having feedback as to which word senses were awarded points gave players opportunity to learn and develop their responses.


From there, we began to visualize the interface of the game through some initial wireframing. We created the wireframes for the single player mode, cooperative mode, and competitive mode, but eventually decided to stick with a simple simple player mode of the game to start with.After finalizing the wireframes, we went through several iterations of the interface design. We mainly focused on designing the interface for the judging process and the accounts page. 

Another main design that we added is the objections page, where the user can object to the judging result if the user thinks that the results were unfair.