Sunday, October 16, 2011

Children's Games and Grown-Ups Who Play Them




We have entered the years where our kids enjoy playing games.

This is a super fun stage. You get to take a break from thinking up different sounding voices and accents for 37 different stuffed animals as you play pretend and instead explain the rules to games such as Memory or Uno or Go Fish.

There is one game that is especially popular with young children. It is a classic. If you're a parent of a child older than two, chances are good that you own this game. It has entertained countless kids throughout the years.

Entertained the kids. Tortured the grown ups.

I am speaking, of course, of the one and only "Candyland Game". You've heard of it. These are the playing pieces.

They look so harmless. What a fun little game. Gingerbread men traveling through different candy lands!

You soon find out these gingerbread men are conniving little demons, hell bent on making you crazy.

Basically, the game goes like this: Put your little guy at start, draw a card which will have a certain colored square on it, and move your guy down the trail until you get to the box that's the same color as your card. The winner reaches the king's candy land first.

Sounds easy enough, right?

What the directions don't tell you is that this game can be a teensy bit frustrating when your opponent, decked out in dress-up clothes complete with puffed sleeves (in true Anne of Green Gables style) is convinced she knows all her colors but in reality couldn't tell orange from purple if it had a labeled sign on it (remember she can't read).
What it also fails to tell you is that it can potentially go on for HOURS if you draw a card that sends you back to different areas you've already passed. You can be two moves away from winning the entire game, only to draw a card which sends you back nearly to the beginning. It is infuriating.

At least with Monopoly, there's a little strategy involved with your buying and selling.

This game is totally random, totally unpredictable, and nothing short of stacking the deck will ensure the game ends in a timely manner.

Kids LOVE this. They love that parents have absolutely no advantage despite their superior cognitive development. Everybody's on an equal playing field here.

All starts out well. You're teaching colors, feeling good about spending time (and educational time at that) with the kids. You're laughing and having a great evening together (NOT watching t.v.).

And then, you begin to realize this game may be more than you bargained for.

First, you get into a slight disagreement with a 3-yr-old over game piece placement on the board. She is under the distinct impression that she can pretty much move her guy wherever she wants, whenever she wants. You calmly try to explain it to her and she totally disregards your opinion.

The slight disagreement on piece placement continues here and there throughout the course of the game. You remember why you don't love playing board games with 3-yr-olds.

Next, your opponent will continually declare that she has won the game even though she's had to move back to within two spaces of the starting point. She will repeatedly show her frustration when you sadly have to inform her that she is mistaken.

You will soon find you are an immoral, unethical liar because you will let her believe she has won the game and congratulate her on her hard earned victory, thus securing your escape from the game.

You will also quickly discover that you are a big, fat cheater. Whether it's YOUR guy or hers, one of those gingerbread men is going to reach the finish line. You'll begin strategically placing the cards in the deck so that the necessary colors will manage to be chosen at just the right time.

You will take full advantage of the fact that your opponent is three and therefore too naive to pay attention to your obvious cheating techniques.

You'll realize you've been playing this wretched game for two hours and both of you are still stuck on the spot which requires you stay there til the correct color is drawn.

After two or three more genuine tries at drawing the correct card, you'll be cheating again to keep the game moving. Three-year-olds don't take kindly to not being able to move their gingerbread man around the board. They're also not super patient when you try to explain why they must stay there.

And so, weary and stuffed full of candy, your gingerbread man will either emerge victorious or sadly straggling behind his opponent.

You'll remember to put this game in the back of the game closet where it will be difficult to find.

You'll agree when your child says, "I love that game! Can we play again tomorrow?" As you smile and nod you'll be thankful for the fact that most days she cannot remember her birthday, so forget remembering to request this game again.

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