Category Archives: Risk and Reward

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


Sex, Mortality and Jenga

Sex, Mortality and Jenga.

Many people have noted my disdain for classic board games. And while it’s true that I loathe Risk, Clue and Monopoly, one classic I’m all for is the madcap blocktastic game of Jenga. If you’re unfamiliar, the game is simple enough to explain. You have a tower made up of layers of bricks. The bricks have a length-width ratio of 3:1, so that 3 laying length to length to length make a perfect square. Layers are stacked with the bricks running one way, then the other, to form a sort of weave.

Players take turns removing a block and placing it on top of the tower. This placement continues the tower’s construction, so that it grows higher and higher as the game goes on. Eventually the loss of the lower bricks and the strain of the ever-rising summit cause the tower to collapse. Whoever made the building collapse is the loser. If you demand a winner, you can eliminate the loser from each round until only a winner remains, though less competitive circles are usually happy to just have one person lose and start again.

So what’s fun about building a tower over and over, only to watch it fall? Sisyphus was sentenced to something similar, and it was considered an eternal torture. Well, to quote Albert Camus: “The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Though he was talking finding meaning in a godless universe, and not playing Jenga, I think it still applies. Besides, imagine how much happier Sisyphus would have been stacking wooden blocks with his damned pals Tantalus and Prometheus instead of lugging that boulder.

Pictured: Jenga Prototype, circa 500 BC

Pictured: Jenga Prototype, circa 500 BC

Continue reading

Hand Games and Mind Games

“Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”

How would do you settle an arbitrary debate if there are no coins on hand to flip, and no straws nearby to pick? Most people will opt for Rock-Paper-Scissors. It’s quick, requires no special equipment and pretty much everyone knows how to play.

It’s not the perfect decision making game though. Since ties can occur, the game can end up taking longer than needed (though it does add tension when multiple ties occur in a row). Worse still, many people feel the need to play “best-two-out-of-three”, as though this somehow makes the random-decision-making more fair.

Hmmm... how about best 17 out of 33?

Hmmm… how about best 17 out of 33?

Consider instead the game of Odds and Evens. The two players first chose if they will be representing odd numbers or even ones. Then, like rock-paper-scissors, players count to three and ‘throw their hand’. Instead of three options, there are only two: your hand with one finger extended, or with two fingers extended.

The total number of fingers extended is tallied up, and if the tally comes out to an even number, the ‘even player’ wins, and likewise for the ‘odd player’ should an odd number of fingers be thrown. Both odd and even numbers have equal chances of occurring, and there can be no ties.

But while being less than ideal for making a decision, playing Rock-Paper-Scissors does have its own appeal. Continue reading