by Hannah Binder
Point Blank Perspective is a blog addressing common places, events, and experiences that we encounter in life. These are described in a column-style with a blunt and one hundred percent upfront attitude.
There’s a certain meditative quality to the start of family game night that deceives us into thinking that it will be a calm, contained source of fun for the whole family to enjoy. Even the advertisements of families on the boxes look collected, completely in control of all the fun they’re having while seated around a Sorry! board. The preparation process doesn’t help in convincing us that this peaceful night in will be anything otherwise. Assembling the assorted pieces of each game, even if it is just shuffling the tile cards in Candy Land, certainly brings my blood pressure to a place that must be pretty close to ‘finding my center’. It’s downright empowering, dealing out the initial financial holdings of each player in Monopoly like some 1%er trying to pacify family members for missing birthdays and holidays and the niece’s last dance recital with monetary substance.
Unfortunately, the health benefits come to an abrupt halt when I announce, immersed in my yogi-like state, ‘alright, it’s time to play!’.
Gathered around a coffee table stained and saturated with positive memories, or in a circle on the floor by the fire, maybe even at the kitchen table–which I advise against, due to the chance of being reminded 3 times a day of the irreparable game night emotional scarring–my closest friends and family and I embody the human equivalent of sitting ducks until the shotgun arrives and our fate is sealed.
I mean the dice of course.
The first few roles are just priming the shotgun, loading it, surveying and evaluating before the kills begin.
When I was younger I thought that my family was especially competitive, but I came to find that this was not the case. Family game night is a modern version of the Olympics for the American family. And I wish I was referring to the athletic media extravaganza Olympic Games that we watch today. It’s a watered-down version compared to the barbaric traditions that started it all. How else would you describe playing Monopoly with a CFO who proves his employment status by bankrupting his three small children? Or being the banker when you’re only five and are still learning how to count but your older brother, who mastered his basic arithmetic skills years ago, is impatiently awaiting his payment for Park Place, thank you very much. The pressure is crippling.
I once believed that the type of game could ensure your emotional safety on these treacherous of family nights. However, during a most recent experience, I was educated with contradicting information.
If you look at an old box of Yahtzee, (yellow, not red) it will read in sensible lettering ‘The FUN game that makes thinking…fun!’ with the last word in a more zany font, possibly to appeal to the kids, possibly to mislead optimistic adults. After years of developing a certain callousness towards Monopoly, I do my best not to discriminate against other games. I consider myself a studious, intelligent woman and for these reasons greeted my first game of Yahtzee with the kind of naïveté that, deep down, I knew I’d regret. For one, Yahtzee has five dice, not two, increasing my chances of confusion, failure, and evident frustration. In other words, there were three extra rounds for the shotgun pointed at me at the beginning of the game when I was still perched innocently at the pond’s edge, enjoying the spring day.
Secondly, an adequate explanation of the rules could easily have been given if a suitable teacher was present. In my case, there was no such person available. My dad handles numbers and phone calls and often negotiates with people overseas regarding business deals. All of these interactions involve two businessmen (or women) that have obtained degrees in talking numbers, how to compete while wearing a tie, and manipulating situations while holding four other calls and reading a spreadsheet.
I possess none of these skills.
I’m in college for Creative Writing, but I’d imagine that if I embarked on the same education track without knowing a word of English, my confusion would have mirrored that found during the Yahtzee explanation.
Maybe if the rules hadn’t been worded and reworded–as if frustration was the goal so that my mental stability might be clouded before the first roll of the dice–in a hundred different ways, some contradicting the explanation that came before it, I might have been a little more successful. But after nearly half an hour of ‘teaching’, which felt more like driving around a roundabout with twenty different exit signs, all in a language you can’t understand, it was collectively decided (my vote was not included) that we should ‘give it a shot’ and during this ‘shot’ (need I remind you of the sitting duck metaphor?) I would ‘figure it out’.
I did not.
Even Yahtzee, a game of nothing but counting, when you break it down to the bare bones, is blown completely out of proportion on family game night. I have to wonder if there’s something those cardboard boxes are soaked in before distribution, some drug that induces a highly competitive and ruthless state upon opening. Maybe a hallucinogen that makes the most susceptible individuals believe that their gruesome cackles and jabs at other teammates, who really just wanted to go to bed and not be bothered with all of these competitive shenanigans, don’t sound nearly as inconsiderate and obnoxious as they do.
Otherwise it’s just plain rude and I’d like to think that most people aren’t so self centered. I have to believe that, otherwise I’d never be able to look at a deck of cards or a di again.
Maybe now, with the help of adult juices left unnamed and players closer to your age, it’s a less painful process. But that doesn’t stop me from twitching ever so slightly at the sight of a Monopoly board.