I have to ask: What is the point of playing a board game when you can’t screw someone over? Is not the purpose of a game (whether life or Life) to win with as great a margin as possible? If I learned anything growing up in a chronically miserable and highly competitive family, it was this: If you don’t screw them over, then you’ll get screwed over. Play the game until they run to their bedroom sobbing.
I’ve played several games of Monopoly, tittering like a smug bastard every time someone lands on my hoteled Park Place and watching their hard-won and carefully accumulated savings go into my prodigious coffers just after they’ve mortgaged all their properties. In an instant, my opponents are down to nothing. But, so as not to completely humilate them (well, this is a bit of a lie, but at least the sentiment exists), I’m taking every property they own with the exception of the purple ghettos of Mediterranenan and Baltic Avenues, the latter involving a measly maximum rent of $450 with a hotel. In the rare moments in which I land upon Baltic Avenue, I observe my opponent’s eyes light up, collecting the $450 like a transient huddling over an unexpected yet meager fire.
I’ve also enjoyed invading multiple continents when playing Risk, strong-arming my way across the globe only after I’ve suggested to the other players that I am their friend and that I would never ever consider taking Brazil to complete my acquisition of South America. I suppose this is the closest that one can come to living out the Hitler-Stalin Pact.
Of course, since I play these board games to win, I’ve lost a few friends who didn’t understand the objectives. I’ve seen boards flipped over just before my final moment of conquest. I’ve had people not speak to me for weeks, telling me that if I’m going to play a board game that way, then I’m likely to stab them in the back during a birthday party or sleep with their girlfriends. I should point out that violence is not within my nature, but I argue that if the object of the game is to win, then what crime have I committed exactly? I’m only abiding by the game designer’s wishes. I’m only playing by the rules.
With these sentiments in mind, I sat down this afternoon to play the UnGame. My participants were a sixty-year old schizophrenic, a man whose wife had moved out with their children leaving only a note reading I WASTED THIRTEEN YEARS OF MY LIFE WITH YOU NOW I’M GOING TO FUCK ANYTHING THAT MOVES, and a teenage lesbian who had been forced into the hospital by her parents, insisting that the doctors could “make her normal,” whatever the hell that meant.
In other words, I was assured an almost complete and total victory. But au contraire. Much as one would expect from the rosy and desperate title, The UnGame challenges the traditional object by creating an entirely new goal: everyone wins! In other words, the UnGame challenges what is likely a healthy outlet for surviving in a ruthless capitalistic system and replaces it with some Kommisariat-style form of socialism. I expected all of us to be hauled away to the quiet room and shot sequentially with ruthless Soviet efficiency.
Alas, the executions didn’t happen. But bad feelings did. The man spurned by his late-blooming virago began to tell us all along that he had been an ass man and that his estranged wife wasn’t interested in sodomy. We shifted in our seats as he confessed these needlessly intimate details. The teenage lesbian, in particular, thought this was a hoot. The schizophrenic thought that he was talking about the gas man and began shrieking at the top of his lungs about a gas leak that the bastards upstairs had failed to tell us about.
I hope we don’t play the UnGame again. I don’t recommend it. Because without that pivotal conquest component, how can one enjoy one’s self? It’s miserable listening to the problems of the world. But perhaps that was the whole point of introducing the game. Never mind that the U.S.S.R. was a failed experiment at this sort of forced socialism.
© 2005, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.