Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Games and Puzzles

Well, it's official. I am addicted to Miriam's family history blogging/journaling prompts over at AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants. This week, what with the cold weather (our official low yesterday as -4 degrees Farenheit), she asks us to write about the games and puzzles we remember from our past in Week Twenty-Eight: Games and Puzzles.

Did you have a regular game night or family night?

We did not have a "regular" night per se. But if we had people over for games it was usually on a Saturday night. Of course, during the holidays we always had people over and always had some game going.

What games (board, card, dice, or acting out) did your family enjoy? Was there a favorite you played time after time?

Trivial Pursuit was the most popular when it came out in the late 1980s. As was Yahtzee. Monopoly was relegated more to the kids and usually ended with someone discontent and flipping the game board with all its cards and pieces up in the air and walking off in a huff. Good times.

Did your family have a family or game room? What was it like? What kind of game equipment did it have (foosball, pool table, etc.)?
No room for a game room in a 2-bedroom 1,000 sq. ft. home. If the adults were involved, games were played on the dining room table. If not, the kids played on the living room floor.

Do you have any funny stories or a particular memory (good or bad) that stands out of game-playing time?

Well besides the night of my birth with its poker game, my fondest memory is of the Saturday night pinochle games my mother would host. The "usual suspects" as she called them were friends of the family, a mother-daughter team, who I thought were absolutely hilarious. The older women we called "Aunt Iva" even though she wasn't our aunt.

Aunt Iva played what my mother called "cut-throat" pinochle - this was where she could have all her tricks together and dump them out all at once. And she always did this with a long Virginia Slims bobbing up and down in her lips as she talked. If we were at her house, she had her parrot on her shoulder at the same time!

What's the first game you remember playing?

Probably Monopoly - that really is my earliest memory. Maybe Go Fish. Of course, the ubiquitous 52 Pickup was always fun!

Were there any games you disliked? Why?

I didn't care for canasta or pinochle or bridge. The "team" games never interested me - I preferred to fly solo.

Were there any games that were not allowed to be played? Why?

Just the game of "doctor." 'Nuf said.

Did your parents have a regular night when they would play games or cards with friends or extended family?

Yes - Saturday nights.

Did you ever have game nights with groups, clubs, or neighbors on a regular basis?

Right now the current game we play with our close friends about once a month is Farkle. It is a game with six dice and involves rolling only 1s and 5s which represent 100 points and 50 points respectively. There are also combos (3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, etc.) which score much higher. The fun part is the ability to stop, take your points and pass the dice that did not roll as 1s or 5s to the next person - and if they keep rolling 1s and 5s they can keep building on your points. Usually I make a great homemade meal (it was pasta and bolognese sauce with tiramisu for dessert this past Saturday night), and there is much wine involved.

Was game playing associated with certain annual events, like holidays, birthdays, or vacation times?

Mostly holidays and some beach vacations when we would rent a house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for a week.

What kinds of snacks and beverages were enjoyed during game playing?

I loved, and still love, bridge mix. My mother made the Chex Mix before you could conveniently buy it pre-made. Nuts. And cocktails like Tequila Sunrise and Harvey Wallbanger. The children did not partake of the cocktails.

Were there prizes awarded to game winners or even to losers? What kinds? Did everyone chip in towards purchasing the prizes?

No prizes. Just the satisfaction of knowing that you kicked someone's butt and were quite vociferous about it. That then led to an anticipated grudge match the following week.

Did your family or you ever do jigsaw puzzles? What's the largest--in terms of number of puzzle pieces--jigsaw puzzle you've completed?

We never did jigsaw puzzles but our neighbors Grace and Ralph always had one set up on a large board in the living room. Especially in the winter, if you went for a visit, you could always just fiddle with the pieces. I have become addicted to the Jigsaw Detective game on Pogo. It isn't a free but with my subscription I can solve very complex jigsaw puzzles. Very neat.

What did you do with completed puzzles? Did you display them or simply put them away?

Never had them in the house. Usually our neighbors would just put it back in the box to be completed some other year. Or they would swap puzzles with friends which I thought was a good idea.

What about puzzles such as crosswords, cryptograms, or others found in puzzle books? Are you a Sudoku fiend?

I have always been a crossword puzzle fanatic. In high school, I was able to get the New York Times delivered to my homeroom for a very low price at a student rate. So we had about five of us who would start the puzzle in morning homeroom, in pen of course, and see who could complete it by the afternoon homeroom.

I still do them as well as other puzzzles. This is part of my process of keeping my mind sharp given my families tendency to have Alzheimer's Disease at an early age.

Did you ever go to an arcade and play pinball machines or other arcade-style games? Or did you ever shoot pool?

Arcades were for ne'er-do-wells and ruffians according to my mother. Only if someone had a machine in their basement did we play. Still, it was seen as a "vice machine."

Do you remember seeing your first video game, either in an arcade or on a television (Pong, Atari or early Nintendo games)?

My brother and I received Pong from Santa one year and we practically wet our pants! If you've seen that television commercial with the little boy going crazy over what Santa brought him - that was me.

What kinds of video games did you like to play, if any? Do you play any now (gaming station or handheld)?

Video gaming is the work of the devil if you ask me. I just think it compounds our "Couch Potato Nation" problem. But I do hold out hope for the Wii - from what I understand it is very popular with senior citizens due to its physical component. I hear that even Queen Elizabeth II owns a Wii.

What was your first computer game? Do you ever play computer games now, either on your computer or online?

I used to play games like Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake etc. but I realized I was just squandering my time. It was great for hand-eye coordination but it did nothing for my mind. So I then picked up many of the fun games at Pogo.

What about the present? Does your family or do you personally play games or do puzzles? Do you participate in game nights with others, such as poker or Bunco?

We have our monthly Farkle night in Chicago. One concept found around Chicago is the idea of board games at a bar. Guthrie's Tavern near Wrigley Field is the most prominent and it is a hot spot for Euchre.

Here are some other game ideas to write about: lawn games (horseshoes, croquet, badminton); kid games (marbles, jacks); betting, casino games, and bingo; party games (pinata, pin the tail on the donkey), etc.

I will confess that I've been known to wager on a card game or two while in the great state of Nevada. Now you all know part of my fascination with Reno! I usually play Blackjack and Let It Ride. Blackjack is a game of partial skill and I usually do quite well. I will also put a coin or two into a slot machine. I once won $8,000 on a machine just as I was leaving to go to the airport. Whoo hoo!

What do you know about your parents', grandparents', or perhaps even great-grandparents' game playing? Do you remember them saying anything about games they played when they were young?

I don't remember my grand-parents or great-grandparents playing games at all. Just my parents.

Do you have any photos of either your present or your childhood families playing games? What about ancestral photos?

No - I really should break out the digital camera next month during a Farkle session. Especially after the wine has been flowing.

Photo: "Dogs Do Play Poker" by Julie & Timo on Flickr.

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