I have never been a player of social games in this silly go-round called Life. I've no time for it, not where real people are concerned. I do, however, enjoy the other kind of games--those using boards and counters. I guess that's how I found myself embroiled in a cut-throat game of Life last night.
You remember the game Life, right? Big four-square board with a track as complex as two snakes fighting, little hard plastic cars and pink and blue pegs, the white wheel with it's plastic clicker, the houses. I cannot count the number of hours I spent lying on the floor with my brother and cousins, clutching a sweaty handful of cash and insurance cards, hoping like nobody's business that the next spin would earn me some sort of advance instead of another setback. Many was the winter afternoon I spent spinning that little clackety white wheel.
And so it was no great surprise that last night found me sitting indian-fashion on the floor, clutching a handful of play money in one sweaty hand, guiding a little red plastic car around a twisty board. The thing was, it wasn't Life. I mean, it was, but it was different. You know the process--Parker Bros. or whichever company makes your favourite board game decides that the old style is too stodgy, too dated, and therefore needs updating. Suddenly your beloved Snakes and Ladders is Chutes And Ladders, or you're bombarded by LSU-opoly, or San Fransisco-opoly, or you find that Risk no longer has the wonderful little cannons and horses figures but these strange, characterless widgets for counters.
I can well remember many afternoons playing Monopoly with my grandmother, who lived next door. My brother and I would square off against her, and even cheating we'd get our clocks cleaned. A card table, a musty, cozy old house, and the board set out in the middle, littered in green and red wooden houses, surrounded by a pewter boot, a battleship, and a tophat. Or Parcheesi, with it's flower-pattern route, littered with turned wood counters stained beatiful dark colours.
What's that you say? Pewter? Wood? A battleship?
Old stuff, you see. Things change. The center cannot hold, and some rough creature slouches....nevermind.
Life brought it back to me. So did all those other games. My grandmother's Monopoly set held a battleship as one of the tokens, since that set was likely enough still new in the late 40's. Her Parcheesi set was, I guarantee, from the late 30's. And Life changed on me. The little cars you recall from your childhood? They're little plastic minivans now. No kidding. And some of the events on the board have changed for the modern--"Invest in dot coms," "Buy a home gym" and "Divorced! Pay opposite player alimony." Okay, so that last one hasn't appeared yet, but I won't be surprised. The other two certainly did, and a lot more to boot. The little plastic pegs haven't changed, although they seem to have shoulders now. The plastic embankments and houses have changed, though. Remember trying to fold the board up so that everything would sit right? The wheel, the houses, all were permament parts of the board. Now they've got a tiny lip on one side to hold them in place while play commences, but once you're finished they simply fall out of the board again.
I don't know if it's good or bad that things change. I do know that they do, irregardless of what we want. Personally, I kind of miss steaming around a Monopoly board in my destroyer, or admiring the grain pattern under the red stain of my Parcheesi 'man' as he languishes at Home, eagerly awaiting that 5 on the die to get out on the track.
Not to mention holding a deck of Rook cards.