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Pictionary: 17 Interesting And Fun Facts You Should Know! (History, Trivia,…)

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

Pictionary is an engaging game that causes much laughter. Who knew that drawing a dog in less than a minute could be so stressful? There is a myriad of interesting facts surrounding the game of Pictionary. We’ve identified 17 of them for you. Here they are:

1. Pictionary got its name from combining two words.

The term “Pictionary” came about by combining two words, Picture and Dictionary. The inventor of this game, Rob Angel, got his inspiration from a Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary he kept on his nightstand. He used this dictionary to find words for the game. He told his friends that “Picture + Dictionary = Pictionary,” and that name stuck. 

2. A waiter invented the game.

Rob Angel had just finished graduating and was unsure of what he wanted to do at the time. He moved in with some buddies and began waiting tables in his hometown, Spokane, Washington. He would use his dictionary to find words and sketch them for party-goers. 

3. Pictionary was designed and developed in an apartment.

Angel had asked some of his friends to come alongside him and help, but they had declined the offer. It was Angel’s uncle who loaned him $35 000 to start up his game. 

Angel, Everson and Langston started up Angel Games Inc., where Angel’s apartment would then serve as the ‘Pictionary Headquarters’ for developing the game and packaging it. After tedious effort and design delays, Angel Games finally launched the game on 1 June 1985.

4. Trivial Pursuit ignited the idea for Pictionary as a board game.

When Rob Angel’s mother bought him the Trivial Pursuit game, a board game that tests a person’s ability to answer broad knowledge and culture questions using cards and moving pieces, it sparked Pictionary’s idea as a board game of his own.

5. The first game cards were sorted by hand and not a machine.

Due to the printing company’s failure to sort through the first 500,000 game cards produced, Angel and his partners had to manually do it a week before the Launch. It took them 16 hours a day for six days to complete the task.

6. Due to the low inventory of the game, people got into fistfights.

The demand for Pictionary reached its peak in the year 1988 when store merchandise was diminishing. This shortage prompted one fistfight over the last copy of the game while a buyer tried to pluck another copy of the game from a shopping cart.

7. There are five categories within the game.

The traditional game of Pictionary uses five categories, namely:

  • People/Place/Animal – Can you draw a bear, a mouse, Abraham Lincoln? 
  • Action – Drawing verbs can be tricky. It is a good idea to use lines to indicate movement.
  • Object – These are things we can see/touch and range from basic, like a banana, to more challenging concepts to illustrate, like salary.
  • The challenge – words/phrases considered problematic to draw. Challenges include illustrating abstract concepts like “zombie apocalypse.”
  • All Play – Here, a drawer is designated from all teams to compete for the round.

8. Actions are considered the most challenging words to draw.

Most people find it challenging to illustrate verbs. What would you sketch if someone asked you to represent a word like “discuss” in under one minute? 

Even though actions are considered challenging, there are strategies that you can use to make it easier. Consider providing homophones for actions. For example, draw clues for a “leaf” if someone gave you the word “leave.”

9. You don’t need to be skilled at drawing to play the game.

The best part of Pictionary is that you don’t need to have any drawing skills to play the game. As it turns out, the worse you are, the better. Pictionary can cause much laughter and entertainment, especially when drawings don’t look like anything the drawer intended. 

Illustrations can be hilarious, but as long as you get your point across, you can guide your teammates to a win.

10. Players may not use words, numbers, or gestures.

Players may not use words, numbers, or gestures. Some players like to include dashes to represent the number of letters within a term/phrase like players do in a game of Hangman. Drawing these dashes is a form of cheating and is not allowed. Players can also add penalties for those who break the rules.

11. The sand-timer in a game of Pictionary is one minute.

Although Pictionary’s timer is one minute, players give their teammates about five seconds to visualize what they want to draw. We provide our teammates only one minute to encourage speed in guessing – heightening entertainment and laughter.

12. Pictionary has inspired game shows.

Like many board games before, people considered and adopted Pictionary for game show purposes where celebrities would play against contestants just four years after launching one of the world’s best-selling board games.

13. You can now play Pictionary as a one-player game.

Today, even just one person can play the game against artificial intelligence. Developers designed AI bots to track a user’s drawing and identify the picture they form. AI bots, in turn, can draw pictures and allow users to guess their drawings.  

14. We can play Pictionary in the air.

Did you know players can design their sketches in the air? Pictionary Air allows users to draw in the air through a stylus and have their drawings appear on a television screen or monitor, adding a new dimension to the game. Sketches can turn out to be hilarious when lines and shapes don’t appear in their intended position.

15. Pictionary has inspired multiple spin-offs.

Because Pictionary is a charades-inspired game that combines sketching, teamwork, and guessing in a race against time, many people have developed an abundance of derivatives, ranging from Pictionary variations to other similarly structured games. Some of these games include but are not limited to:

  • Telestrations
  • Junior Pictionary
  • Back Seat Drawing
  • Pictionary Frame Game and many more.

16. Rob Angel sold Pictionary to Mattel in 2001.

Angel and his partners grew the company for 17 years. Angel, 42, at the time, who was married with children, along with his partners (Everson and Langston), felt they were getting older and decided they needed to spend more time with their families. 

Rob and his partners decided to sell the game. After several weeks of negotiating, Mattel decided to buy Pictionary for $29 million.

17. At that time, Pictionary had sold more than 38 million copies in 60 countries.

Popular sitcoms like “The Simpsons,” “Friends,” and “The Facts of Life” licensed the game. Even though a toy giant did not design the game, but rather a young waiter from Seattle with no ‘toy experience’ but simply a big idea; Pictionary had become one of the world’s best-selling board games. 


Pictionary and its spin-off games are designed and intended to give players endless competitive and creative fun. You now know some more intriguing facts surrounding the game of Pictionary. Enjoy the game!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

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.