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Scene and Heard: Gaming recalls fond memories

Analise Lipari | Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Maybe you were a Candy Land junkie, always searching for that elusive Queen Frostine card that would carry you to the top. Maybe you got your kicks by playing Chutes and Ladders – even if you didn’t realize that a “chute” and a “slide” were the same thing until years later. Or maybe you even played Hungry Hungry Hippos until every hungry hippopotamus had had his or her fill of those white, marble-like thingies.

Regardless of the particulars, each of us goes into nostalgia mode when someone sparks a conversation about childhood board games. Some of them may have been based on a particular television show or movie, while others have concepts so zany – I’m looking at you, Crackers in My Bed – that they have to be seen in game board form to be believed. Either way, mention even one game you played in your youth and undoubtedly your friends will chime in with their top three, five or even 10 games they played back in the day.

There’s something about the board games of the eighties and nineties that helped make our collective childhood as great as it was. Mousetrap was huge when I was in kindergarten, and few accomplishments I gain nowadays feel quite as gratifying as watching Mousetrap’s Rube Goldberg-style contraption actually trap my opponent’s plastic mouse. Another favorite in our house was Pen the Pig, a game whose object was, shockingly enough, just that. You and your fellow five year-olds used little white fences to try and trap your pigs – which came in designer colors like hot pink and lime green – faster than your opponents. Sometimes playing “farmhouse” with the colorful critters took precedence over finishing the pig-penning process, but I digress.

Someone’s favorite childhood board game can say a lot about who he or she is as a person. If you loved to play Sorry as a kid, maybe your vindictive streak runs a little too strong for your mild-mannered peers. If you liked playing the Game of Life the best, you’re too serious for your own good. If, like me, you played Hungry Hungry Hippos while your baby sister was asleep because she was born three days before your fifth birthday – and had the nerve to arrive home on said birthday – and all you wanted to do was torture both her and your parents with the loudest birthday present ever, well, then maybe you should just relax.

Other games were more frustrating, less fun or even boring. Clue was and is a popular game in my family, but strategizing against full-grown adults at the age of ten was usually an unsuccessful venture, even if you’d learned to sleuth up a storm by watching old school Mary Kate and Ashley videos. I was never a big fan of Battleship, either, unless I added my own sound effects every time someone sunk my aircraft carrier. And even if Dane Cook has preceded me, I believe that Monopoly should be the only form of torture allowed by the Geneva Convention, since one game could last as long as a prisoner’s internment.

Thankfully though, this isn’t the majority; games are meant to be fun, and they’re still pretty awesome. There’s a reason why TV networks air those “Family Night” board game commercials – rolling the dice across a game board takes you back to one of the best times of your life. Try playing Connect Four again and see if you can stop your old competitive side from rearing its head. Or start a game of Candy Land in your 24-hour space and count how many people walk by and say, “Aw, man, I love that game!” Like anything else from childhood, these games make up a small piece of who we are, and occasionally returning to them as we grow older just makes you feel good. In these crazy times, I’ll take Pretty Pretty Princess, Trouble and even Hungry Hungry Hippos over joining the “real world” any day.