Project Portfolio

Dan Maynes Aminzade


Actuated Workbench
Audience Interaction
You're in Control
Edible User Interfaces


Carnegie Mellon


Disney Imagineering


Unsafe Search
Music Visualization
Taboo Database


Pepsi Database
Love Calculator


RCA Lyra
Stone Cold


SURG Proposals
Female Pop Singers
Satan Baby
Wesley Willis

Taboo Database


Taboo, the Game
of Unspeakable Fun.

One of my favorite pastimes over winter break is to play Taboo, a popular board game from Milton Bradley.  Billed as "The Game of Unspeakable Fun", Taboo is a spoken word game that involves trying to get your team to guess a secret word without using any of five clue words specified as "taboo".  How, for example, would you describe the word kitten without using the words meow, cat, purr, furry, or animal?  As a player gives clues, he is constantly monitored by a member of the opposing team; if he makes any mistakes, he is unceremoniously "buzzed" and a point is deducted from his team's score.
There are many ways to succeed in Taboo.  Hand gestures, sound effects, and "sounds like" clues are prohibited, but  legal clues can consist of suggestive sentences, song lyrics, fill-in-the-blanks phrases, or even one-word hints.  Here's an example: How would you suggest the word diamond to your team if you couldn't say baseball, carats, ring, jewel, or engagement?  Here are some possibilities:
  • "They're forever..."

  • "Hope is a huge one..."

  • "The World Series is played here..."

  • "Some are found in the rough..."


"Rolex makes gold ones..."

Sara's clue for "Paul Revere":
"It's the GUY!  The GUY!"

My friends and I play Taboo a lot.  Our games extend late into the night and often consume the entire deck of 504 cards.  You might say that we have evolved Taboo playing to an art form.  If I say aquatic animal, my teammates won't say fish, they'll say barracuda.  Why?  Because they know that there is no fish card, but there is a card with the word barracuda.

Most people accuse us of memorizing the cards, which isn't really fair.  We don't try to memorize the cards; we've just played so frequently that we start to remember them.  The effective result is that we've established clues for nearly every card.  If there were a professional Taboo tournament, I think that my friends and I would be serious contenders for the world championship title.  If I say film, my teammates will immediately name Citizen Kane, Alien, and Blade in rapid succession, since those are the only three film titles contained in the Taboo deck.  Mention anything to do with Russia, and they'll spout off Sputnik, Red Square, and Glasnost -- the only three Taboo cards  related to this subject.  Playing Taboo at this level of expertise makes for some interesting games; the problem is that nobody wants to play with us anymore.  One night we gave our opponents a 100-point handicap -- and then lost by only one point.

Blackjack dealers derive almost no thrill from a game of blackjack.  They've memorized the best course of action for every possible hand, so what is a game of skill for many has become for them a game of chance.  The same could be said of us and Taboo.  Once you're familiar with all of the cards, the game play becomes somewhat mechanical.

That's why we need your help.  I've created a system that allows you to easily create new Taboo cards for us to use.  Click here to give it a try.