My son has been staying with us this week, getting away from his isolated college apartment for a bit to enjoy better cooking and some human contact. Twice this week we plowed into our stash of board games and had ourselves some old-fashioned family quality time. While we were immersing ourselves in other, tinier worlds and their simpler structures of governance, obviously we couldn’t know this would end up an atrocious week for American civilization beyond our cozy, secluded walls.
So while social media has been a battleground with various sides taking turns determining their final analysis of why there are bullet-based deaths, here we were, our hardy trio immersed in the worlds of Star Wars Monopoly — buying space properties, earning space credits, building space houses and space hotels (called “settlements” and “cities” in this licensed version), gouging our space opponents for space rent in hopes of proving who would be the greatest space landlord of all time. The important takeaway from this experience is, of course, I won as everyone predicted. I wouldn’t even call what I do a “strategy”, but it seems to work against my wife and son every time. In the world of Star Wars Monopoly, I’m an emperor who’s tough with his subjects but fairly benign, as space authority figures go. At least, I think I’m benign, considering we stayed on affable speaking terms after the final tallies.
Not every game is my personal domain. Many moons ago we acquired an alt-version of Parker Brothers’ famous Sorry based on Dreamworks’ Madagascar that replaces the bland, interchangeable pawns with the animal avatars of Stiller, Schwimmer, Rock, Bonnie Hunt, and the various penguin-voice guys. In a game where cunning and chicanery are often no match for simplified gamesmanship or sheer luck, I can get beaten as easily as any kindergarten kid. Kudos to Anne for winning that face-off and keeping me humble, though I insist for the record that the final, luckiest card she drew from the deck was flat-out unfair. But we had fun together regardless of who came out ahead.
Sorry Madagascar has its own opportunities for conflict that can get ugly if players aren’t equipped to keep things in perspective. Beyond the winding paths and the cards that determine everyone’s fate, ultimately all players are on the same board, agreeing to the same rules laid down from above by the original makers, getting along on a certain level even when two players disagree with each other. You’re all working from the same rule book. As soon as someone decides their own made-up rules are better and refuses to cooperate, game night goes off the rails and leaves everyone some combination of bitter and bored. No pun intended.
The Goldens have bounced back and forth between other activities this week — both Addams Family movies, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, a bit of Arkham Origins (which he finished months ago and then lent to me), and just some hanging around and chatting and chatting and chatting. We try to keep the lines of communication open while he’s up at his place, but our conversations expand exponentially in person. Thankfully we’re not too old or stodgy for our college kid yet, and we’re grateful that we can still talk openly, compare notes, keep on the same page about a lot of other things despite little negotiable differences in interests or politics or temperaments or whatever.
This renewed family synergy should hopefully come in handy over the next week as we venture forth on our annual vacation, for which we’ll be flying instead of road-tripping for once, and for which my son will be tagging along with us after a two-road-trip hiatus. I’m aware that a large demonstration took place Thursday night down the street from the hotel where we’ll be staying. We’ve also been made aware that, thanks to internecine squabbles among assorted government sects, neighborhood safety levels in recent years had already dipped a tad even before July 2016 launched its campaign to become Worst Month of the Year. I can’t help noticing our friends and family have been replacing their usual well-wishing “Have fun!” with the less encouraging “Be safe!” as if we’re going on a mission trip into darkest corners instead of on a fun family getaway.
Wherever our journey takes us over the next several days, here’s hoping our encounters are filled more with folks willing to share the Start-to-Finish path in peace than with folks who want to kick over the board, crumple up the rules, lose the pieces, snap the rubber bands, and stuff all the play money into their own pockets. Selfish, bullying players are the worst like that.