Category Archives: Bad Games People Still Play

Bad Games People Still Play: I-Spy

I spy with my little eye, something that is boring. Give up? It’s I-Spy, the crap game that kids play when they’re bored and want to annoy their parents. Why do people play I-Spy? And is there some kernel of fun within it that can be salvaged?

Well, there is something fun about having a secret. I-Spy gives the spy a little secret to keep for a few seconds. More importantly, the other player must guess and conjecture as to what’s been spied. Meaning that for the game to be played, someone must act interested in your ephemeral secret. Fun for the person with the secret, but boring for the guesser, who usually only wants find the object so it will be their turn.

The I-Spy books, however, were a marked improvement over the repetitive Where's Waldo series.

The I-Spy books, however, were a marked improvement over the repetitive Where’s Waldo series.

Now games like this, where players take turns being the one who has fun, are obviously not ideal. But it is common symptom of guessing games. 20 Questions sometimes has this problem too; people seem to prefer having a secret to trying to uncover one. But is there some way we can tweak I-Spy so that both players can have fun simultaneously? Continue reading


Bad Games People Still Play: One Word Stories

It’s the Late-Nineties. Autumn. The whole family is home, dinner having just ended. There’s a big storm tonight. Rain pounds on the roof, wind whips tree branches against the windows. The power goes out.


You have no cell phones. No lap-tops. No Nintendo DS, no PSP. It’s black for a long time. Your eyes have finally adjusted when a candle is lit. It’s set on the dining room table, light scarcely reaching the kitchen. The room is thick with unfamiliar shadows, and the rain keeps on. The family gathers back around the table, around the communal light. It’s too dark to read or draw, so what do you do? Sit and play ‘One Word Stories”.


This is a go-to game for many people and families. And it can be fun, for sure. It’s not a bad game outright, but I still put it in my ‘Bad Games People Still Play’ series, because it could be a lot more fun. Continue reading

Bad Games People Still Play: Truth or Dare

“Truth or Dare.”


“How come you never pick Dare?”

“Because if I pick Dare I will either be actually dared to do something, or be dared to answer a particular question truthfully. Essentially by picking Dare you’re allowing your darer to pick either Truth or Dare for you, depending on their motive. ”

The first problem with Truth or Dare, is that after playing once or twice, nobody picks Dare. Both because of smart-ass dares like mentioned above, and because anytime an actual dare is made it’s intended to be as dangerous or embarrassing as can be, while still remaining within the realm of possibility. The intent of a dare is seldom for group amusement, rather they seem to focus on forcing players to either lose their pride (backing down) or their dignity (performing a humiliating dare).

And let's not forget the havoc which may be wreaked by a triple-dog dare.

And let’s not forget the havoc which may be wreaked by a triple-dog dare.

Granted, for the purposes of hormonal-ravaged teens, the game may be well suited. Probing for crushes and making your friends look like morons or cowards probably serves some purpose in the social growth of an individual. But can Truth or Dare be salvaged for those of us without middle-school secrets or cracking voices? Continue reading

Bad Games People Still Play: Risk

Risk is another one of the board game classics for people too afraid to try new things. The game is overly long, tedious to play, and far too luck-dependent for a putative strategy game. It also gives an advantage to eliminating players, which means people will be killed early and excluded from most of the game. How is that fun?

Worse still, having more territories means gaining more reinforcements, and having more reinforcements means you can more easily capture territories – resulting in a feedback loop. Whoever’s feedback loop spirals out of control first typically wins the game. Unfortunately you can always see this coming 5-10 turns away, so there isn’t even a climatic feel to the endgame. The winner being known in advance deflates any suspense that might have built.

Well, at least they haven't flipped the board.

Well, at least they haven’t flipped the board… yet.

 But without continuing in too much detail about the shortcomings of Risk, I’d like to highlight a major source for many of the game’s problems. Continue reading

Bad Games People Still Play: Monopoly

“Too technical, too complicated, took too long to play”
-Parker Brothers on Monopoly, 1934 

Most people will admit that Monopoly is not fun. Everyone has been in that monopoly game that went too long, but no one wanted to back down. Property changed hands, prison terms were served, arguments erupted, and friendships were rapidly eroding. By hour 6 no one was smiling. The banker was accused of embezzlement and people were coming up with new combinations of curse words to describe the dice.

Eventually only two players remained, the rest of the party having exited the room to escape the bad mojo. No fun was being had, but still these two grizzled tycoons played on. With bags under eyes and stubble on chin, they orbited their thimble and iron about the board meaninglessly. While fortunes peaked and dipped, their faces remained impassive, drained of emotion. Then something in one of them snaps, and the market crashes. By market I mean the game board, and by crashes I mean is flipped. This is what happens when you play Monopoly. And yet, the game remains popular.

How games of Monopoly end.

How games of Monopoly end.

Continue reading

Bad Games People Still Play: Telephone

Telephone, or Chinese Whispers, is a simple, and very popular game for kids. Cellobone, or Chinese whimpers, Lisa Thimble, and very popular gamer orchids. But if you’ve ever tried playing Telephone past the age of 12, you’ll know that it just doesn’t work anymore.

People either hear the message perfectly, and pass it along, or they hear the message perfectly, and then try to corrupt it in some ‘hilarious’ way. Usually by changing a few words to ‘poop’, or by outright substitution with their own message.

And you can’t really blame the corrupters. Without them the message wouldn’t change at all, which doesn’t make the game much fun. But rather than jury-rigging the verdict, could the game itself be tinkered with? How do you make telephone fun again?

Side question: Will the game still be called Telephone in 50 years when we're all speaking via microchips in our brains?

Side question: Will the game still be called Telephone in 50 years when we’re all speaking via microchips in our brains?

One of the problems with Telephone is that it is too easy to hear and understand people. You could play with crackers in your mouth, speak quickly or only in Bane impersonations, but there’s another bigger problem, which is that people seldom mishear words as other sillier words. Instead they hear garbled syllables, nothing distinct enough to repeat.

If the parts of the message are not understood, they are either dropped or they are `fixed` to maintain a sensical message. This does alter the original sentence, but does not produce a string of random English words in strange syntax. Seldom do you get the phonetically-similar gibberish that people find so funny. Telephone needs bigger changes than just disguising your voice. Continue reading