The worst party game ever created is of course Cards Against Humanity. Making racist, sexist, and transphobic jokes, even from a supposed ironic distance, is gross enough. But Cards Against Humanity goes a step further, requiring players to make somebody else’s prefabricated racist, sexist, and transphobic jokes. It’s like listening to an acquaintance recite lines from old episodes of Family Guy. I’d rather do anything else. Except maybe watch Family Guy.
Another game I dislike is Taboo, where you’re timed on how quickly you can get your teammates to say the word printed at the top of a little card, only you can’t say the word itself or five other related words listed beneath it. So, for example, you might be attempting to describe an umbrella without using parasol, rain, beach, dry, or wet.
I am not really the think-before-you-speak type, so when it’s my turn to give clues I tend to blurt out one of the taboo words before I can come up with suitable synonyms. And then an opposing team member who’s hovering over my shoulder will press the button on the most obnoxious battery-powered buzzer devised for a game since Operation (Cavity Sam can keep that charley horse in his leg permanently for all I care).
A game that’s similar to Taboo but better is Catch Phrase. With that one, the only word the clue giver is forbidden to say is the word that the team is trying to guess, and nobody from the opposing team watches over you with an infuriating buzzer.
That’s not to suggest that Catch Phrase can’t stir up some game-night controversy now and then. One time at a family gathering, for instance, my mother became downright exasperated with a teammate—my husband, Frank—because he had never in his citified life heard of a gopher. Or maybe he just blanked, because I know for a fact he has seen Caddyshack, in which a destructive, indestructible gopher figures in Bill Murray’s scenes. We’ve watched the movie together.
At any rate, there are plenty of words that would strike Frank as ultra-familiar yet be unknown to my mother—words such as adobo or two-flat or poppers. But that’s not my point. My point is that party games divide us while purporting to bring us together.
In fact, we should all throw out the copy of Taboo that every household in America has for some reason, and instead of playing party games we should have friends over for show-tunes karaoke, which requires neither scorekeeping nor buzzers. Not to mention that my interpretation of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” absolutely kills.
While we’re on the subject, I’m not wild about board games, either. I resent how much relies on chance, and I’m too lazy to develop skill or strategy. As a matter of fact, that sentence sums up my feelings on life in general.
A board game is an exercise in voluntary frustration even if you win, and I don’t see the fun in that. My idea of a good time would never involve uncooperative dice, lose-a-turn cards, exorbitant Monopoly rents, or a tray of Scrabble tiles suitable only for spelling words in Klingon.
When I was a little kid, I once became so aggravated by my older sister sending my token back to home base during a round of Sorry!—it was like the 10th time she had done it, displaying none of the regret promised on the packaging, I might add—that I threw the entire board to the floor, sending multicolored pieces flying.
My methods were regrettable, but my judgment was sound.