Do we ever set aside our childhood games?
Should we? I don't think so. Some of the most endearing people in life are those who are still in touch with the child within, the people who say, "Let's play" and "What if?"
Games are great preparation for life. Cards nurture maths and exercise memory, the dictionary game flexes the imagination, and competitive sport wraps up life in a microcosm – its best and its worst. On the other hand, war is rugby taken to the extreme and lying is a kind of storytelling.
Banking, real estate and the sharemarket are pure monopoly. The board game of the same name nurtures our desire to acquire things and to compete for them.
There is usually at least one player who arranges his or her money in neat piles and has another $1000 hidden beneath the board or under a cushion.
The opportunists may help themselves to the bank or the housing stock when no-one is looking, while the fascists, who may become politicians in later life, re-interpret the rules, impose them on others and scream, "Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to jail".
Monopoly often brought out the anarchist in me. After several board-throwing incidents, no-one in our family wanted to play.
I used what was left as an accessory in tutorials about media law, and spent many happy hours doctoring and mutilating the monopoly into a board game that students could use for revision.
What I found most interesting was that my mutant Monopoly turned a reasonably dry subject into an interactive session that was a tutor's dream. Students who had previously appeared to be napping in class perked up at the sight of a game, any game, even one so lame as mine.
Wrong answers resulted in jail, naturally, with freedom granted when three questions were answered correctly. There were chocolates on Free Parking. The favourite piles were Chance, and Community Chest.
Which brings me to gambling. Whether you buy raffle and lottery tickets or place a bet on a horse race or sports event, gambling's positive aspect represents the optimist in us all. When you are placing bets, there is some thought involved, and thinking can be a game like any other.
The pleasure of horse racing begins with the names of the animals themselves – consider Man on the Moon, Lost in the Moment or Smiling Shard – and continues with consideration of the colour of the horse, the hue of the silks, the mythology of the jockeys and the owners.
Actual form comes well down the list of particulars with which I concern myself, which will give you a good indication of my results. I like race books, and the fluttering conviviality of race enthusiasts, and I am fascinated by the contrast of tiny jockeys exhibiting huge courage atop their horses on the track.
The funniest game I've played is binocular soccer, which, to my knowledge, evolved in Japan, but has been successfully imported and staged at Lake Ohau Lodge.
It is similar to traditional soccer except for one, crucial, difference: the players wear binoculars strapped on the wrong way around so that everything appears much further away than it actually is. This creates an altered state in the players that makes kicking the ball very difficult.
Binocular soccer shows how life evolves, how unrelated things can make a surprisingly successful combination. Somebody asked "What if?" and "Why not?"
As the Earth turns us towards winter and the television schedule programmers unpack more reality television, I suggest binocular table tennis or euchre as potential additions to indoor games.
- © Fairfax NZ News