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Internet heroes: 

Play Judgey, the web game that asks you to judge books by their covers


Play judgey, but beware – it might just judge you back.

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is one of those idioms that everyone is told at some point in their life, but yet nobody really adheres to. Sure, it’s a useful moral lesson to live your life by, but applied literally to books – who really has the time?

But what if there was a way to see how your book judgements measure against consensus opinion? Enter Judgey, a new web game that actually encourages you to judge books by their covers, and then compares them with the average ratings from the Goodreads database. Once you’re done, the website turns the tables on you, analyzing your performance and letting you know just how judgey you are.

How did we do? Well, it turns out we’re pretty damn judgey. Slightly perturbed, we caught up with the game’s creators Dean Casalena and Nate Gagnon to find out more.

What gave you the idea to build the website?

Nate: I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but it’s been in my Ideas notebook since February of 2014. Mostly, it just came out of the fact that there’s this huge dataset out there – book ratings – and the question of whether we could do something fun with them.

What has the reaction been like so far? Has anything surprised you?

Dean: The reaction has been overwhelming. We built the site knowing it would just be something funny – taking the phrase “judge a book by its cover” literally. But we’ve had some serious people laugh along, like Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler, who sent his congratulations, and a whole bunch of public libraries around the country.

N: We couldn’t be more stoked. Lots of positive feedback. Lots of bookworms seem to be super excited too, so that’s cool and all of it is a bit surprising. The internet is weird, man. You never know what it’s going to like and what it isn’t. That’s what’s so great about it.

Do you consider yourselves Judgey?

N: I didn’t. But according to this game/these book covers? I absolutely am.

D: I think we’re all judgey – humans need to be able to make decisions quickly based on incomplete information. But we also need to know how often our assessments are going to be wrong – and how harmful it can be to jump to conclusions – particularly about people.

We couldn’t resist judging the Justin Bieber biography. That was a trap, right?

D: How did you judge it? I gave it 5 stars.

Ha! Hmm, let’s just say ‘less than 5-stars’.

N: There are a couple of those land mines in there – the Bieber one, the Miley one, there’s even a Dustin Diamond book just to really throw you off.


Sorry Dave, it’s a nice cover, but we’ve heard this one’s a snooze.

When’s the last time you were totally wrong about a book based on its cover?

N: Well I read Dave Eggers’ The Circle. Really clean, nice cover. Cool design. Bold color. Great author. Total snoozer of a book though.

What else did you consider when choosing books for the game? Or were they selected more randomly?

N: Well, in all honesty, it was about trying to get a good diversity of ratings. It was realllllly hard to find badly-rated books on Goodreads…go figure.

D: We’ll be changing up the covers in the game from time to time if people keep playing. Like Nate says, the hardest thing has been finding books on Goodreads with a particularly low, or particularly high rating. They mostly tend to be between 3 and 4 stars. Rarely does everyone agree that a book is brilliant, or that a book sucks. So the ratings often average out to something in the middle.

What do you usually look for on a book cover?

N: That’s a tough question. Personally, I tend to avoid books where the author’s name is bigger than the book’s title itself.

D: A little sticker that says “best seller”, or the title matching one a friend has recommended.

What are you reading at the moment? What’s the cover like?

N: I just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. It was awesome. And the cover is pretty good too.

D: Drive by Daniel H. Pink. The cover is non-descript – just some word-art. The “i” in DRiVE is lowercase. I don’t know why.

Who are your own internet heroes? 

D: Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) on Twitter, Randall Munroe of, Nathan Barnatt and his dance videos like “Sick Cat Dance“, Dom Mazzetti of Bro Science.

N: Oh man, I’m all over the place on this. Definitely the peeps over at Other Studio – they did the Judgey logo for us and they’re awesome.

To play Judgey, visit the website. Nate and Dean are also on Twitter here and here

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