Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fun for All Ages

When we were waiting to ride Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin at Disney World, I was surprised to see that the people behind us in line were a couple who appeared to be in their late sixties. They didn't have any children or grandchildren with them. It was just the two of them waiting in line to vanquish space villains. The description of the ride is, "Evil Emperor Zurg is stealing batteries from helpless toys to power a new weapon of destruction. As a Junior Space Ranger, it's up to you to maneuver an XP-37 star cruiser through the neon-lit Gamma Quadrant and fire lasers from an on board cannon to stop him and score points." Nothing in the description is meant to appeal to people over age ten. But, yet there were grandma and grandpa doing finger stretches so they'd be ready for an alien take down.

Aaaaah! The Lights!
So, I decided to write a blog post about adults who play children's games and I was going to let loose with some sarcastic, smart-ass comments about old people waiting in a twenty minute line with a bunch of families to play a game targeted at preschool and elementary school aged kids. But, in my first Google images search for "old people playing games" I saw this picture:

Wii players in a nursing home. 
and my heart grew three sizes. Then I thought that maybe I could stop being judgmental and critical for a minute and figure out if this is really something to disparage, or just something that I might not "get," but that is fundamentally fine and makes people happy. 

As I continued to research game playing still quietly hoping to gather ammunition for my manifesto, I kept coming up with evidence to support game-playing into adulthood. But at least if I can't be sarcastic, I can be ironic, and ironically, there is really nothing funny about playing games. The great philosopher Plato observed that "you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." Playing relieves stress and allows you to relax while it also may help develop your creativity and problem-solving skills. Why do you think the guys on thirtysomething who ran the ad agency had all those toys in their office?

I never watched this show, but he was great in "The West Wing."
While "thirtysomething" was on in 1987, I was busy watching "The Cosby Show" or something else that didn't involve adults having mid-life crises. However, I do remember seeing the advertising office where Timothy Busfield (above) and that dark-haired actor who reminds me of Tim Daly but is not Tim Daly worked and thinking it looked really fun to be an ad executive. So I became a lawyer. Instead of basketballs and hoops, we had lots of paper and garbage cans. I guess that lawyers don't need games in their offices because precious little in legal work requires creative whimsy.

Law students, however, haven't had all their creativity stifled, so they can still come up with innovative drinking games in which the ultimate prize is bestowing a middle name on a classmate. Or this game that I stumbled upon amidst the streusel recipes on Pinterest:

Why doesn't Laskin get his name censored? We don't care if he gets tackled?
I think this is one game that shouldn't be continued past law school because I could see it being not so funny and possibly illegal to play in, say, Washington, D.C. while working at, say, the White House. Secret Service guys are like airport security and even the security at Disney World in that hilarious jokes about bombs and weapons are not funny to them and can lead to pat downs or "vacations" to Guantanamo Bay. 

A recent example of adults playing games is the group of ten men described in this Wall Street Journal article who have been locked in a competitive game of tag for 23 years. It's not just tag, either. I found this blog post written by a guy who formed a group of adults who play four square once a week. He discusses the attraction of the game, "For my friend and me, our playfulness had always been close to the surface, but as we aged, we had to stamp it down for fear of not being taken seriously. It had made us isolate ourselves, but on this night, we found that it connected us with the people around us. It was like magic." I think that might be a smidgen overwrought. I don't know that a love of four square is grounds for self-imposed social isolation. I mean, have you seen any episodes of "My Strange Addiction?" There's a lady who licks her pet cat and a couple who give themselves multiple coffee enemas each day. Four square fandom has nothing on that.

Nathaniel has a sexual relationship with his 1998 Chevy Monte Carlo.
He is also attracted to four-wheelers, jet skis, and airplanes. I just don't...
Okay, so Strange Addiction people, you all need to get help because while I have come around to accepting that adults playing games is a good idea, I will never think that licking your cat is a good idea because, objectively, it is not a good idea. 

My guess is that many people have the same initial reaction as I did to adults playing games, because  "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" with Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller works on the assumption that there's something that we find intrinsically silly about adults getting really serious about a game of dodgeball. As an aside, did you all know or remember that Lance Armstrong had a cameo in "Dodgeball?"

Uh, Vince? Dude, that's my falsified urine sample you're about to drink.
However, it seems like rather than people watching "Dodgeball" and being grateful that they weren't the ones taking the shots, the movie spurred the creation of dodgeball leagues across the country. I like that Washington Post article because it mentions that Montgomery County, Maryland banned dodgeball in its schools. I went to 6th grade in Montgomery County and we played bombardment (which is pretty much identical to dodgeball) in P.E.

Kickball is another playground sport that has enjoyed a recent renaissance among adults. Atlanta has a kickball league that promises, "Best Parties. Best Games. Best Friends." Kickball is rung or two up on the ladder from dodgeball, because kickball lacks the sadistic elements of dodgeball which allow children to fully comprehend the tenants of natural selection without knowing a thing about Charles Darwin. I loved playing kickball when I was a kid. The rules are easy to understand and it requires no eye-hand coordination, which was perfect for me. However, even if I were single and looking for some way to meet people, I do not think that I would join a kickball league because I don't think that I would like the people who enjoy kickball enough to join a kickball league. I realize that this makes no logical sense, but I also expect that many of you know what I mean.

Speaking of the hierarchy of games, it confounds me a bit that team sports like kickball and dodgeball are somehow less cool or at least more open to ridicule than softball or touch football. I suppose that softball and touch football require more skill than the other games. Also, you never saw a picture of the Kennedys playing a cutthroat game of kickball at Hyannis Port. If kickball and dodgeball leagues really wanted a p.r. boost, they'd pay that Kennedy kid who was dating Taylor Swift to endorse their sports as Hipster touch football for a new generation of Kennedys.

Dang it! Hipster kickball is already a thing. All the good ideas are taken.
 So let me know what you all think. Should we just leave the playground games and amusement park rides to the kids, or is this good clean fun for all ages? Or, for a totally different perspective, is playing these games an example of elitism and possibly racism? Who would think that thinking about games would be so much work. I've got to go scare up some of my mom friends for a quick game of double-dutch so I can relax.


  1. Four square is a popular and competitive game at a local summer camp (name w/held for fear that my kids won't get in this summer). We taped off a court in our backyard. Boy have the rules changed and become more complicated since I was a kid. At some point I became "the butler." That meant I had to go get all the balls that went out of bounds. Not sure how I was relegated to that position, but my four square days were soon over.

    What about corn hole? Most adults we know can get hooked on that game.

    1. Ha! I don't think I've ever actually played four square, but I can't imagine that the standard rules involve a butler. Oh yes, corn hole. I had to leave the K at Supper Club because he got so involved in a game. But, that seems like something you'd mostly play at events involving alcohol.

  2. All ages for sure! (Says the wife of the guy who rode Magic Kingdom rides by himself until midnight!) Games keep the mind, body and spirit young. Great exercise and stress relief. And we all need to lighten up a bit (literally and figuratively)!

    P.S. Playing Wii is now huge in retirement homes and senior centers. It is a fun, safe way for seniors to stay active. I think it's great!

    1. That whole kid-swap thing at Disney is a good example of parents who want to ride the rides more than the kids. If you have a baby, one parent holds the baby, while the other parent rides, then picks up a pass so that the other parent can ride without standing in line again.

      I wonder if the number of elderly people playing Wii will lead to a decrease in kids playing it because if old people like it, it must be uncool.

  3. Corn hole is huge here in Chicago. Strange indeed. (Says the woman who flies all over running races...to each her own)

    I saw that Strange Addiction episode for about 5 minutes before I had to change the channel to Keep Up with the Kardashians. It was so so so wrong.

    1. Our Ohio friends introduced us to corn hole. I think it's best played while drinking and I tried to stay away from drinking games because you are mostly playing them to get drunk and the game is just a creative way of getting to that point.

      I watched one where a lady ate paper and one with a lady who slept with her hairdryer. WTF? I'm not creative enough to come up with these addictions.

    2. The lady who ate dry wall was really really sad, too. It is like watching a car accident site. I only watch TV at the gym and that channel always seems to be on!

  4. 1. Love the Thirtysomething reference. I used to watch it when I was not yet 20. Guess I'd be watching Fiftysomething now, if there was such a thing. Groan.

    2. The Dodgeball caption is brilliant!

    3. I've never been much of a game player - prefer to be in the audience - but I enjoy attending casual sporting events in which my husband or friends are playing. One recent summer, there were a few parents & kids kickball games at Westchester that were a lot of fun. I'm not so excited by competitive, strict-rule-following games - though that may be a personality defect of mine.

    1. Is Parenthood the new thirtysomething? Maybe. There is a show called fiftysomething. It also goes by it's other name, the nightly news.

      I had forgotten when I wrote that caption that there's that whole joke in Dodgeball about the guy who drinks his own urine.

      Kickball at Westchester? I'm in!