Monday, January 31, 2011

10 Games

I have a brother.  My only sibling in fact.  He was the younger making me the eldest.  We grew up in a house of traditional games.  When I say traditional I mean there were certain family games we played and that was pretty much it.  With the advent of computers gaming became more prevalent and yet less personal.  This persists today.  Games on computers and to a lesser extent consoles are a single player experience.  In my own family we have a couple of games that we don't mind playing, but by and large we are not a game playing family.  My brother in contrast has a game collection that would make Milton Bradley green with envy. 

This list is dedicated to him and his family.  These are the games I remember from my youth, it is not by any means all of them.  I will probably make a part 2 to this list because as I write it, I recall the other games we played.  I don't think I've played one of them in over 10 years with the exception of electronic versions.

10 - Sorry - I'll say sorry.  There was nothing to say BUT sorry about this hopped up version of Parcheesi.  Except you got to say 'SORRY' in a very obnoxious ironic voice as you put your opponent's pawns back home.  This game is very similar to Trouble (with pop-o-matic) but not quite as gimmicky.  Get your pawns home.  Funny thing, that's the point of 80% of games made around or before 1970.  Get your pawns home.  Sorry used a deck of cards instead of the standard dice.  That part was clever.  Unfortunately those cards would soon be so well known that everyone knew when you got the 4 spaces back card because it had that one bend in the corner.  4 players, but usually 3.  2 was not really much fun, but it was tried.

9 - Gnip Gnop - This game is a soft spot in my heart because it's what we started calling Egg-Nog.  The game involved a longish clear housing that held 6 ping pong balls and 3 large buttons on each side.  the object was to smack your buttons sending your pingpong balls through hoops in the middle of the game to your opponents side.  When you see the commercial, you'll get the idea.  The problem is, commercials of games like this are like watching Kung Fu movies that make you think fighting is a ballet of sorts.  You think the game is going to be fairly slow paced and well organized, but it just turns into a frenzy of pounding buttons until you break one.  Then the game is over.  You could salvage the pingpong balls at least.  Rats.

8 - Mousetrap - This game was based on the ever famous Rube Goldberg devices.  The idea to 'build a better mousetrap' that sprung up before world war 1.  The phrase itself is credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but he never actually wrote it.  He wrote something similar and that was close enough.  I could only hope one of my quotes becomes similarly famous.  This game involved putting together the pieces of a mousetrap that would then be sprung to catch the mice.  This game, unlike the others, was rarely played and was only put together for the gimmick.  Just because you put it together didn't mean it was going to work right.  there were a LOT of moving parts.  Lots of things to lose but really a terrific game to get you building your own mousetraps.

7 - Dark Tower - This game in it's entirety goes for over 100$ on ebay.  It was a marvel that was played on a board with an electronic tower.  The tower would tell you the outcome of your moves based on what you keyed into the bubble pad.  This was one of the more jealous moments I had as a youth as this game was given to my Brother.  Yes I got to play it, but I wanted badly to be it's master.  It was the DARK TOWER.  You can play this game online with all the original noises.  without the electronic features, the game was ok, but with the COMPUTER brain, it was amazing.

6 - Battleship - YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP!  Every kid that got battleship would loudly proclaim those words if his battleship was sunk the first time they got to play just so they could do it like the TV commercial.  Seems like war like games were the cool ones to have.  After all, there was the cold war and all the prior world wars and conflicts,  so what better way to play sea wolf than to hide your ships and try to sink those of your opponent?  This one could be duplicated on any kind of graph paper, but the real ships and the little pegs were the only way to play it.  Everyone tries the strategy of putting all your ships together to confuse your opponent.  That's a bad strategy.  Don't do it.  You'll lose.  Really.

5 - Life - The game of life was the first attempt to describe how life might be to a kid.  You start out either going to college or going straight to your career and then you navigate through an interesting field of paths and spaces simulating several of life's maladies.  Each turn was a spin of a brightly colored wheel.  You got kids and a spouse and you drove your car throughout life where you ended up in millionaire acres or the poor house.  There wasn't much strategy here except you could place side bets with your money on the wheel and win extra cash.  If you were falling behind, this was a good way to make sure you fell even further behind.  Are we learning anything yet?

4 - Monopoly - The Depression era grand daddy of them all!  Monopoly.  Or as I called it Monotony (I actually think my parents coined that phrase along with many others).  The object was to become as similar to Donald Trump as humanly possible such that by the end of the game the two of you are indistinguishable.  Buy and sell, go to jail (white collar crimes of course) and free parking.  We played this game a LOT.  Not sure why, I guess it must have been fun, but it was a long drawn out game.  For those of you that don't know it, the properties in monopoly are named after actual streets in Atlantic City.  You can visit them all.  I'm not sure I'd recommend it, Atlantic City is a hole, unless you are staying only in a casino.  Then it's still a hole, but everything is temperature controlled.
3 - Chess - We had chess boards.  I liked to look at chess pieces.  There was a special wooden chess set that we used to play with that was hand built.  For a while I liked chess.  Then I found out that it was such an organized event of a game that there were people that had entire strategies beginning to end planned.  My brain was not capable or interested in this kind of memorization.  I had a hard enough time with the 7's times tables.  I played from time to time.  But I lost more often than not.  I'm not a particularly gracious loser.  So I don't bother with this game anymore.  Because I'm really not good at it at all.

2 - Magnavox Odyssey- Wait a minute Mark, why is this thing here.  We excluded video games right?  Yes we did, but this was the Magnavox Odyssey.  This game system tried desperately to merge traditional board games and video displays that would turn your expensive console TV into a piece of furniture with a cabinet that had no real purpose.  You see, that game would burn images into the TV so fast that you could see the little Pong (came MUCH later) dot burned into the phosphors in the screen.  The game wasn't a game so much as it was 2 paddles 3 dots tall and a 'ball' 1 dot.  The 'graphics' were static video overlays that you unrolled and placed onto the screen.  Classic.  The Odyssey game in question was called BRAIN WAVE.  It was a very difficult game to understand but it was a part of a magical Christmas in Arkansas that I still remember fondly to this day.  Most of the game was played on the board with some aspects played on the tv with boxy controllers that looked like miniature toasters.  It was a great game.

1 - Memory - I think as a family we played this game more than any other.  Acquired during the same magical Christmas in Arkansas, simple blue cards that had pairs of pictures were put face down on the table and in turn you open 2 cards to see if you have a match.  If not, then the next player opens two cards and tries for a match.  If you got a match, you get another turn.  Sounds boring, but it was not.  it was a great game. During the many plays of the game we ended up making nick names for all of the cards because they had no captions.  Runaway Girl comes to mind.  Mom was the best at this game.

This post meant a lot to me.  I hope it was entertaining.  Tell your friends!


Michael said...

Ah the memories. I still have our original memory set amidst the games in the basement. We found another set just like it at a garage sale, which was good, because it meant we could finally put in the match to the owls, who were alone in the universe for so many years.

The list was great, and I'm touched by the dedication.

swampthings said...

"Everyone tries the strategy of putting all your ships together to confuse your opponent. That's a bad strategy. Don't do it. You'll lose. Really."

Awesome post!