26 January 2012

Candy Land, the Drinking Game

For Christmas, the Doozer got his very first board game. Board games, actually. Got one from us, and one from each set of grandparents. We’d seen a few and just couldn’t decide, so opted for a selection of games, rather than just a single one. We went with the perennial favorite, Candy Land, obviously. Also, Chutes and Ladders, the one with Marvel superheroes on it (the same guys that decorate the kid’s underwear and that he is mildly obsessed with).

This is a bizarre development. When I was a kid, these two games existed in one version: Regular. Original. Now, you can get just about every variation of each imaginable. Dora the Explorer. Winnie the Pooh. Disney Princesses. Seal Team Six. Fox News Edition.

Okay, so those don't actually exist. Yet. So, we instituted game night in our house. A new ritual to go along with family movie night. The final game we picked up for him was one we found most intriguing: Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It! game.

Since he’s a fan of the Saturday morning cartoon Busytown Mysteries, and several of the author’s tomes, we figured this game would be right up his alley. And it’s interesting. The way it’s structured, all the players work together. As a team. It's not a competition.

But yes, Candy Land remains as cutthroat and ruthless as you remember. And kids learn fast. They don’t like to lose. It’s kind of amazing how quickly this instinct kicks in. Sure, for one or even two losses, the kid is gracious and even congratulatory to his opponent (the wife or me). But then he realizes it’s not quite as fun to lose. And so then he wants to keep playing, until he reaches the end of the board himself. We explain to him that it doesn’t work that way.

“I don’t like this game,” he replies.

But then, surprise surprise, we play again. And again. And again.

Soon, he starts playing on his own. Regularly. Is this what Bobby Fischer was like? Playing chess all by himself, figuring out the angles? Although, with Candy Land, there really is no strategy, no way to improve. The game is completely random. And so simple (ages three and up) that it soon becomes somewhat mind-numbingly boring to the adult participants. I won’t puncture his ambition by telling him that he won’t get better with practice, that this particular game doesn’t quite work that way. It keeps him busy, I suppose.

But then again, losing is good. Losing is important. He needs to learn the world is crappy like that. There’s no way around it. Better start learning now. Of course, during one marathon session of games, I ended up cheating. I slipped a picture card to the top of the deck that vaulted the kid toward the end of the board. So I did it in his favor. I'd won several times in a row and felt like he needed a win. Plus, this would allow the game to speed to its conclusion. Probably because I wanted to stop playing and watch American Pickers or something.

Then he became obsessed with the Busytown game. The board is six feet and really detailed (like any Richard Scarry depiction of Busytown). I suppose I should appreciate the curiosity and investigative instincts. Wait until you see Where’s Waldo, that shit’ll blow your mind. Anyway, the point of the game is to advance all the way through Busytown before Pig Will and Pig Won't eat all the food at Picnic Island. (Trust me, it makes sense in context.) So, the spinner has eight options: 1, 2, 3, or 4 moves, two chances for the pigs to eat, and two chances to solve a Goldbug Mystery. This is where you search the board for items like ice cream cones or ladders.

And this swiftly became his first choice, always. So much so that he will keep spinning (if we don’t catch him and tell him to stop) until it lands on where he wants.

If it’s on the line between solving the mystery and something else, he will look up, his face hopeful, imploring, to ask, “Goldbug mystery?” Yes, fine, Goldbug mystery. He is very keen on finding things. Then quickly loses interest. And it's back to Candy Land. Which he can apparently play for hours. And it’s really not that kind of game. It's not like it's Trivial Pursuit. Or Dungeons and Dragons. (Not that I've ever played that.) So to make it interesting . . .

Introducing: the kids’ board game drinking game. No, really. It's simple. Here's what you do. You take a drink:

When you get a double move in Candy Land . . . or a single move . . . when the kid asks detailed (yet inane) questions about the characters on the board . . . when he suddenly decides you should start over because you’ve used up all the picture cards . . . when the kid sprawls on the board and knocks all the playing pieces from their spaces . . . when you win and crush your kid’s spirit just a little bit more . . . when he vehemently contests your win . . . when the kid says he doesn’t like this game anymore . . . when the kid says he doesn't like you anymore . . .

Now . . . I'm a little tipsy. Okay. Perhaps I should wrap things up here.

Don't judge me.

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