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12 Drawbacks / Disadvantages of Playing the Telephone Game (Chinese Whispers)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

children playing chinese whispers cartoon illustration

Everyone has their favorite game. It’s hard to think about a game having drawbacks and disadvantages, but the truth is that each one does. Not everyone feels the same about certain games. If you want to make wise game choices when hosting a gathering where games will be played, it’s important to have a thorough overview of what might be off-putting about them.

Today we’re going to take a look at the disadvantages linked to Chinese Whispers, aka the Telephone game. 

Playing Chinese Whispers is a game that has more than a little fun and time-passing linked to it. For some, it has a few disadvantages too. If you want to understand how a game can have disadvantages, you’re about to find out. 

Below we discuss 12 of the drawbacks and disadvantages that could possibly arise from playing the Telephone game. With a bit of thought and consideration, you may be able to see how these disadvantages can come out when playing the game.

First Things First: The Telephone Game – GamePlay

Before you can understand the possible disadvantages of the Telephone game, you need to understand how the game is played. 

Three or more players are gathered to form a line or a circle. The first player starts the game by coming up with a phrase or message. They whisper the message into the next person’s ear, and then it is passed along to the next player in the same way. 

When the message arrives at the last player, the message is announced to the entire group. Very often, the message that comes out in the end is very different from the message that was first whispered to the second player in the chain. 

As you’ll find out, a lot of the possible disadvantages are linked to the actual gameplay itself. Now that you have a better understanding of how the Telephone game is played, we can move on to the next step; understanding the possible drawbacks and disadvantages.

These are 12 possible disadvantages of playing Chinese Whispers:

1. It’s not mentally/intellectually stimulating.

First and foremost, if you are the type of person who likes to play games that work out the brain, you are not going to get much satisfaction out of Chinese Whispers

The game is fun and requires some skills, of course, but it doesn’t take much thought or strategy to make the game possible. Because of this, those who like mental and intellectual stimulation may quickly lose interest in the game and want to move on to something a little more challenging. 

2. There’s an opportunity for unfair play. 

Not everyone enjoys playing the Telephone game because some of the players might exclude others, get frustrated, or try to rush the game. Unfair play makes the game unpleasant for some.

3. Some players can get bored.

While playing the Telephone game is fun and can be a great way to pass the time for both kids and adults, it can also get a bit boring. It’s not uncommon for players to get bored of playing round after round.

4. It can take a really long time to play just one round if it’s a big group.

One of the downsides of playing in a very big group of people is that the message can take a long time to make it to the end of the line. By the time you have played 2 rounds, people might have lost interest, got bored, or want to abandon the game for something more stimulating. 

5. The game excludes people who cannot hear well.

If you are looking for a game that also includes people with physical disabilities, the Telephone game is possibly not that game. If you have anyone playing who is deaf or who struggles to hear clearly, the Telephone game is going to be impossible for them to enjoy. 

male with big red beard trying to hear something

6. A player can end up feeling like a failure if they don’t hear or understand the message.

The Telephone game doesn’t cater to sensitive players. If someone is not in a good place in their life and gets the message wrong or doesn’t understand it, it can leave them feeling like a failure. Players who end up feeling bad won’t have particularly positive feelings towards the game.

7. It can create a level of mistrust between players.

In a game of Telephone, some players can start to mistrust others. You may suspect the person ahead of you changing the message or purposefully telling the wrong phrase/message so that the final result is different. 

8. Players often lose interest quickly (the gameplay is monotonous).

As is the case with most games that aren’t physically or mentally challenging, players can lose interest in playing, as it can become quite monotonous.

So, If you would like to entertain a group of children or adults for a long time, playing the Telephone game might not be enough. You might find it to be quite a disadvantage if you’re scrambling for ideas for another game while your guests start to get distracted or seem like they’re not having fun. 

9. Many think it is a game just for kids.

If you are hoping to get adults involved in a game of Telephone, you might struggle to do so. Many adults played Telephone as a kid and probably believe that is a game for kids. Ironically, the Telephone game is played as part of team-building exercises for business or corporate teams.

If you are planning to use the Telephone game as a form of entertainment for adults, you might want to have a few backup games to play if/when they get a bit bored or want more of a mental and physical challenge. 

10. Some players can get frustrated or angry.

Even if you are really calm in games and don’t anger easily, other people are not quite the same. While there doesn’t seem to be much to get upset about, some people can get frustrated or impatient, having to wait for their turn or having to try to understand what someone is whispering when it’s difficult.

woman screaming out

It can be quite a drawback to the other players if some players can’t keep their cool and ruin the game. 

11. The game cannot be played with just two players.

If you are trying to spend some time with just one other person, you can’t play the Telephone Game. This game requires at least three people to play, but even with 3 players, it’s not going to be that much fun. 

12. Some people cheat and purposefully change the message.

One of the disadvantages is that the object of the game is to try to ensure that the message makes it to the end unchanged. Some players work really hard to ensure that they listen carefully and pass the message along clearly. 

Then you have people who purposefully pass on the wrong message along to make the game more “fun”. Those who have been playing the game correctly and trying hard can feel cheated and unhappy that others aren’t playing by the rules. This happens often, especially between kids. 

In closing

As you can tell by the above-mentioned disadvantages, some people might not look forward to a round of the Telephone game as much as you do. If you find someone who mentions disliking the game, now you have some understanding of why.

JC Franco

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.